Apr 8
Ben Ledi Revisited
icon1 Paul | icon4 04 8th, 2017| icon34 Comments »

Just over eight years ago The Biggly Boy experienced his very first hillwalk: Ben Ledi. He made a ton of noise on the way up, a ton-and-a-half of noise on the way down, and we never got so see any views because the summit was in cloud. We revisited Ben Ledi last weekend, and I’m happy to say that things went very differently, in all respects.

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Ben Ledi is one of Scotland’s most popular hills, and if you’re going up it and don’t like crowds, you’d better get an early start; we started so early we actually left home the previous day. I parked up the Beaglemobile below the mountain just before midnight on Saturday, with the intention of snatching a few short hours of sleep before heading to the summit on Sunday morning in time for sunrise. Ordinarily something like this wouldn’t make me the least bit apprehensive, but Susan had a big gym session the next day and wanted maximum rest before it so it was going to be me and two naughty Beagles alone in the van overnight, with no responsible adult to guide us.

Things didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. Some other people had also parked up, presumably planning the same thing, and the best spot I could find was right by a really big puddle. I reversed in, hoping to make my exit the next morning as easy as possible, but this put the puddle right by the van’s sliding side door. Ever since we got the van, Susan’s been thinking up ways to keep Beanie & Biggles from bolting out of the door the instant it opens; as it turned out, that muddy but not particularly deep puddle worked really well. Neither of our two pups was at all keen about stepping down out of the van into the murky, wet brownness below for a leg stretch and piddle. I actually had to lift Beanie over it, and Biggles only jumped out after a lot of encouragement and an excited countdown.

Back in the van I put the lights on and served up a late snack for myself, and two cow ears for my furry companions. Biggles finished his lug in record time, but still not quite fast enough to grab a piece of my pork pie before I’d consumed it; after all these years with Beanie & Biggles to copy I’ve become quite good at speed-swallowing, though I do still chew things a bit first, so haven’t quite achieved Beagle mastery level yet.

I checked my watch and realised that I only had at most three and a half hours of sleep ahead of me. It was time for bed! I pulled the rear seat out into it’s sleeping configuration and now, without Susan to hold the pups, I had to play several rounds of “transplant the Bigglet” as I struggled to get the bedding into place without any furry lumps underneath it. Oddly Beanie seemed quite content to sleep on the drivers seat, but I called her into bed with me and Biggles to maximise warmth. We all slept remarkably well – there was only minimal fidgeting and bed-hogging, but when the alarm went off I awoke to an atmosphere thick with fart gas. It was arranged in layers – a stack of three distinct aromas – one of which was presumably my own contribution, fueled by that pork pie. It made that first lung full of clean, cold air all the sweeter as we exited the van.

The path up Ben Ledi is the best I’ve ever seen; clear and easy to follow, relatively bog-free and very well maintained. Unfortunately, maintenance was ongoing at one short section we encountered. The path suddenly turned into deep, sticky mud with a JCB digger somehow floating on top of it. I didn’t float of course, and neither did  Biggles; I had to carry him through it, keeping one hand free to use the side of the digger for purchase. Had we been going up in daylight I might have seen the little diversion that bypassed all that boot-swallowing muck..

Despite that small hiccup we made it to the summit in plenty of time for sunrise, but to my surprise we discovered that someone had beaten us to it! A hardy fellow had actually spent the whole night up there in his tent, and he hadn’t had two furry hot water bottles to keep him warm. Beanie greeted him by doing a particularly frantic version of the biscuit-summoning dance, while Biggles gave him a stern woofing. I tried to have a conversation with him in between Biggles’ outbursts, but my mouth was malfunctioning from the cold and everything came out a bit like John Hurt in The Elephant Man. I suspect the guy thought we’d all just escaped from a local care home, because he packed up and headed off down the mountain in short order, leaving us alone on the summit.

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Although Ben Ledi has a summit cairn and trig point, its most natural focal point is the large metal cross sited just a little way down from the highest point. This is a memorial to Sgt Harry Lawrie who died while on duty with the Killin Mountain Rescue team in 1987. It turns out that early April is an ideal time of year for a visit because the sun lines up spectacularly with the cross just a little after sunrise.

Ben Ledi - Lawrie Memorial [5D4_1393]

We walked on past the summit to see what views lay beyond. There’s an alternative route down the mountain from here that passes through “Stank Glen”, however it’s not particularly easy to follow and since we’d already experienced “Stank Van” we just turned around and went back the way we’d come.

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Things got warmer as the sun rose and our height reduced. We paused at a particularly nice spot for a couple more cow ears and a slug of water before continuing on.

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The closer we got to the bottom, the more people we encountered starting out on their own journey up Ben Ledi. The car park was beyond full by the time Biggles had announced breakfast to everyone, eaten it, and been safely zipped back up in his travel crate along with Beanie for the journey home. It took nearly twenty minutes of queueing to get back out of the car park, with some new arrivals having to reverse back round a tight bend and over a bridge to let us out. If you ever get a chance to visit Ben Ledi, remember this: go early, really early, and always park facing out. And of course, take plenty of cow ears and a can of Chappie!

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Mar 5

Do you ever have moments when you’ve done something so utterly brilliant that you need to have an immediate show-and-tell moment with your nearest and dearest? Biggles does.

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He was so pleased with his latest project that he just had to show me. He tried scampering past me a few times but I was too buried in work to react, so he did the one thing that’s guaranteed to get my attention: he banged on the kitchen baby gate. Experience has taught me that it’s always easier to respond to this signal than to clean up the floor after ignoring it, so I left my desk and reported to Mr Biggles. On my arrival it was immediately obvious this wasn’t a request for the outside loo; he was looking at me not at the gate, and was wagging furiously.

For a moment I had no idea what it was all about, and then I saw my thermal running gloves, or rather what was left of them. They’d been due for a wash; dried sweat blended with chicken juice from several weeks of beach runs had left them smelling so strongly that even my nose noticed, but instead I’d just hung them up on a peg in the utility room to air a bit. “One more run this week, then I’ll wash ’em” I’d thought. Well, certainly there was no point in washing them now – the thumbs and first two fingers of each glove had gone completely. This was an unusually high degree of modification for The Bigglet, but presumably the rancid whiffs had inspired him to go further than usual, producing what he clearly considered to be his best ever work.

I looked at the gloves, and then looked at him. He was so pleased with himself I couldn’t possibly tell him off, though I may have said “Oh Biggles!!!” a couple of times under my breath. In the end I just did what he’s trained me to do: I picked them up and swapped them for a biccie. Yep, The Biggly Boy chewed the fingers off my best running gloves, and I paid him for his efforts. That’s how it works in our house.

At least Biggles and his smaller big sister Beanie were almost perfectly behaved on our weekend trip to Loch Doon. I say “almost perfectly behaved” because they felt the need to woof at other people when we parked up by the Roundhouse Cafe to go up Glessel Hill. They also woofed when they saw some sheep, and they woofed at me when I ate a sandwich without sharing. And Beanie rolled in some poo, and left a small bum-print on my t-shirt when we were sitting in the van before heading home. But apart from that, they were as well behaved as Beagles can be :)

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Biggles poses heriocally on the Glessel Hill cairn..

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..while Beanie licks up the bird poo

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Of course a Beagle can’t live on bird poo alone..

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Loch Doon from Glessel Hill

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For some reason the hill fort on the Ness Glen walk also caused a bit of woofing

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Loch Doon Castle later in the day

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The castle interior let us get our paws nice and muddy before going back to the van

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Sunset in the castle before the journey home

Jan 21
Scallywags!
icon1 Paul | icon4 01 21st, 2017| icon32 Comments »

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It seems that our Beagles have thoroughly embraced the tradition of the New Year’s resolution. Beanie’s pledge was apparently to play more tug games, and thus far she’s been doing a great job of sticking to it. She’s always enjoyed a good tug when invited, but over the last couple of weeks she’s been initiating play sessions herself by grabbing a toy, dropping it at my feet and making very purposeful eye contact. If I fail to respond in a timely manner, indignant howling ensues.

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I know that standard training advice says that it should always be the human who decides when a game kicks off, but I’m having a hard time sticking to that rule because a tug session with the Beanster is really, really nice. If I get down on all fours with her I can pull her close and get something approaching a cuddle. It doesn’t last for long of course, but that’s about as good as things get in the Beaniverse – unless she’s scared that is, or I’ve spilled hot chocolate down my t-shirt.

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If I had to guess Biggles’ resolution, it would simply be this: “Get more things”. It almost goes without saying that socks rank high on his list of qualifying “things”; his sock acquisition rate for January 2017 has already smashed all previous records. Just the other day he got four in the space of a couple of hours, and successfully swapped them all for treats and chews. Filled with pride from this achievement, my little boy was quite a handful on his evening walk. He spotted a Golden Retriever frolicking on a patch of grass across the road, locked eyes with him, and squatted down for a huge but well-formed dump on the pavement. It wasn’t just a poo, it was a statement, and Biggles wasn’t the least bit surprised when I started loading it into a poo bag; as the holder of the new world sock trading record, of course his poo was going to be a keeper!

I held my bag of brown gold under a streetlight for a moment in the hope of identifying a foreign body emerging from one of the logs. After a couple of seconds I realized it was the remains of a little plastic dipping pot that Biggles had snaffled two nights previously; lined with chilli sauce, it had been hot and spicy enough to make him cough, but just like everything else it had eventually succumbed to the awesome processing power of my boy’s gut. Buoyed further by my satisfaction with his output, Biggles unleashed a biblical woofing on the Retriever, causing the owner to quickly put him on lead and steer a wide path round us. The Bigglet was truly having a Conan The Barbarian moment: “Woof at your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their owners”.

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A distinctly less “Conan” moment occurred early one morning when Susan opened the crates. Disturbed by the sound of the crate latches but still not properly awake, I slipped into my well-practised morning routine: shuffle over to make a Biggles-sized space at the edge of the bed, wait for a paw on my arm, then lift the covers and issue the “Go on, get in” command. The paw signal didn’t come however; instead I heard a thump on the floor followed by a series of grunting noises. Even in my partially conscious state I was able to recognise the sound of a roll in progress, and  slipped back into a light sleep while waiting for it to finish. The next thing I remember wasn’t a paw on my arm, but Susan laughing and saying “Paul, you’ve got to look at this!”

I sat up, struggled to open my eyes, and there at the base of the bed was Biggles, standing motionless the way he does when he’s got himself into trouble and needs help. I rubbed my eyes to get better vision, and finally saw the cause of Biggles’ predicament. He was wearing Susan’s knickers. I have absoutely no idea how he’d managed to get himself into them, but there they were, stretched across the back of his shoulders like a mishapen rucksack. Susan extricated him and he crawled into bed with me as normal, but he was a little subdued for the rest of the day :)

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