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Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

I would love to be able to say that Doodlecat is all my own work, but it isn’t. Much of the outdoors content is courtesy of the splendid people who participate in the annual TGO Challenge (there is a section entirely devoted to this unique event) and many others.

To help in tracking down that elusive morsel on Doodlecat, the search facility under the title bar above is tailored to help you find it, either on this home page (Doodlecat's Blog) all the rest of the site (Main Site) or – if all else fails - the internet!

So have a rummage around the old cat basket and enjoy your time with us!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Beast of Gévaudan

Our holiday home near Saugues
Our holiday home near Saugues
We are frequent visitors to France, but September saw our first visit to the Haute-Loire, and we looked forward to a relaxing holiday amongst the forests, pastures and ancient granite that long extinct volcanoes have left behind. The house we had rented was a curious place, built on the site of a medieval watch tower. Half hewn into solid granite rocks, with barred windows below and sturdy oak doors, it really did look as though it was designed to keep something out. And indeed it was, for it was built at a time when terror stalked the land. From a passing curiosity about the history of our holiday home we found ourselves on the trail of a mass murderer.

This is the true story of a gigantic beast that slaughtered women and children in what was then the old province of Gévaudan, and it all began just a few miles from our gite.

Early in June 1764, a woman was looking after a herd of oxen near the village of Langogne, when she was attacked by a gigantic beast. Her terrified dogs ran off, but fortunately the oxen grouped together and drove the animal away. The woman was not badly hurt, but she came back to Langogne very shaken with her clothes in tatters. Her description of the huge beast was dismissed as the imaginings of someone who had been badly frightened – post traumatic stress in modern parlance. It was only a wolf … maybe a rabid wolf … said the villagers, not that unusual. The story was soon forgotten.

contemporary illustration of beast eating victim
But a few weeks later the Beast re-appeared. On June 30, at Saint-Etienne-de-Ludgares, it made its first kill and devoured a 14 year old girl; on August 8th it attacked a girl from Puy-Laurent and ripped her apart.

The death toll mounted. Three 15-year-old boys, a woman from Arzenc, a little girl from Thorts and a shepherd from Chaudeyrac were all found dead, their bodies terribly mutilated and barely recognisable. In September, a girl from Rocles, a man from Choisniet and a woman from Apcher disappeared. Only partial remains and shreds of clothing were found, scattered across the countryside.

The attacks continued into the autumn. On October 8th, a young man from Pouget met the Beast in an orchard and it slashed his scalp and his chest. Two days later a 13-year-old child had his scalp ripped off. On October 19th a 20-year-old woman was found horribly torn to pieces near Saint-Alban. According to the local press, the Beast “drank her blood and ate her guts”.

The slaughter was to continue for three more years, with almost 100 victims dead, mostly women and children, and many maimed. Sometimes the beast was actually shot, but got up again to charge at its tormentors. Sometimes it was beaten off by its intended victims but eventually it always succeeded in making a grisly kill.

Record of death in parish of Hubacs
Entry in parish record of Hubacs. Translation: On 1st July 1764, Jeane Boule was buried without the final sacrements, having been killed by the Beast. Present Joseph Vigier and Jean Reboul.

The sensational story gripped the nation as newspapers reported the killings, with lurid illustrations adding colour to the reports. Such tales spread terror. Throughout Gévaudan work in the fields was abandoned, streets deserted; people never went out alone and unarmed. Finally the army was called in, with a troop of dragoons under Captain Duhamel making daily excursions. Hundreds of local men, armed with shotguns, scythes, spears, and sticks joined the chase. As soon as the Beast was reported, they would hunt it down. Criers brought out the peasants from the villages; brave men got organized and scoured the snow covered countryside.
 newspaper illustration of farmer and wife beating off beast

All in vain. Duhamel killed one exceptionally large wolf, but despite his claims it was not the beast. The killings continued unabated.

Winter passed into spring. The discredited Duhamel and his soldiers were replaced by a professional hunter from Normandy called Denneval, who had pledged that he would return with the body of the beast within a few weeks. He laid careful plans, reconnoitred the country, took statements from survivors and measurements on the attack sites to ascertain the true size of the animal. In the end he had no more success than Duhamel. As the gravestones and parish records bear testament, the spring of 1765 saw the slaughter rise to its peak.

This was a challenge, not only to the local authorities, but the national government. France has always been a somewhat loose association of independently minded regions, and the state has to prove its value to them if it is to retain its grip on power. There was also the reputation of France to consider. The story had been picked up by a London newspaper, which cast a satirical eye on the story, reporting that a French army of 120 000 men had been defeated by this fierce animal and that after eating 25 000 cavalrymen and the whole artillery it had been brought down by a tabby cat when it tried to eat her kittens.

Now the honour of France was at stake!

woman attacked by the Beast
And so it was that the King took an interest, and a reward of over 9,000 livres was promised. Unsurprisingly this brought about some truly outlandish schemes, my personal favourite being a vast doomsday machine made up of 30 shotguns that would be triggered by ropes attached to a tethered calf – the theory being that its struggles as the beast approached would set off all the guns in one murderous broadside. However, the King was not impressed by the inventors’ enthusiasm and ordered a court official, his hunting companion and “Porte Arquebus” Francois Antoine de Bauterne, to go immediately to Gévaudan. and to bring the monster’s corpse to Versailles. At last the people could take heart. By the command of the King of France, the Beast would die!

Unfortunately the Beast didn’t oblige.

Antoine had little experience of tracking and hunting wolves in hard mountain country. The skills of the royal huntsman, honed in the forests of the Loire were of no use here. He organized traditional beats to flush out his quarry, but had not the faintest glimpse of a wolf. The peasants mocked his efforts and complained that he and his entourage were just as ineffective as all the others, and far more expensive too. After three months of trial and error, and no kills, Antoine suddenly changed tack and left for a wood near Chazes, despite the fact that in this part of the Auvergne the beast had never been seen and no attacks had ever been reported. However, many wolves were known to be in that area. On 21st September, he was lying in wait and saw a large animal, with its mouth wide-open and bloodshot eyes. No doubt about it - it was the Beast! Antoine fired; the Beast fell. It got up again but a second shot brought it down, dead.

The Beast weighed 100 pounds, was 5 feet 8 inches long, and had enormous teeth and huge feet. It was a wolf, a large one, but an ordinary wolf all the same. It was carried in triumph to Saugues where the surgeon carried out a post-mortem examination. Several children who had seen the Beast declared  (under some pressure from Antoine) that they recognised it. Minutes were written and Mr de Ballainvilliers, the Intendant of Auvergne, wrote to His Majesty thanking him for saving the people of Gévaudan. The corpse of the Beast was stuffed and sent to Fontainebleau, where the king joked with his courtiers about the superstition of simple peasants, which had transformed an ordinary wolf into an apocalyptic beast.

Stuffed wolf shown to King
The wolf killed by Antoine de Bauterne is shown to the King

It was a good day for Antoine. He was awarded the Grand-Croix of the Order of Saint-Louis and received a pension of one thousand livres. His son obtained a cavalry company and made a fortune by exhibiting the Beast in Paris. Ten years later, it was still being shown in country fairs.

At last France could sleep easily - the Beast was dead.

But far from Fontainebleau and Versailles, deep in the countryside of Gevaudan, there was scepticism. The people it had attacked knew exactly what a wolf looked like, and their descriptions were of a very different creature, "a beast with a huge head, reddish sides, with a black band along the back, a very bushy tail, thick legs with large claws."

In order to obey the King, said the sceptics, Antoine had killed a beast, but it was not the Beast. Antoine’s “Beast” had been killed far from its usual haunts in a forest where wolves were certain to be found. Fortunately for Antoine, they said, the killings appear to have stopped, but this is just a pause. Maybe it’s somewhere else where the summer weather makes hunting easy, but it will return for easier prey when winter comes.

Beast abducts two children
That prophesy was fulfilled all too soon. As the autumn of 1765 drew into winter the carnage began again. A young girl was killed in the village of Marcillac, then a woman in Sulianges – just her two severed hands were found. From 1st January 1766, it was seen almost every day. In one notable attack two little girls in Lèbre were playing in front of their house when the Beast came and pounced on one of them and grabbed her in its fangs. The other girl jumped on the back of the Beast, held on tightly and was carried off. Her screams of terror alerted the villagers … too late. The head of the first child was ripped off already; the face of the other little girl was torn to shreds.

beast eating a womanThe people of Gévaudan begged the Intendant of the province for help, but their pleas were, of course, ignored. The Intendant did not want to lose face, and indeed his position or his liberty. Versailles had closed the case. To suggest that the Beast was still alive was to challenge the King or at least insinuate he had been cheated by M. Antoine. The Beast was dead. M. Antoine had killed it, and that was that.

But the inconvenient truth was that the Beast was still eating people, and something had to be done. So it was that on 19 June 1767 the Marquis of Apcher, one of the lords of Gévaudan., organized a beat. One of the hunters was Jean Chastel. He was about 60 years old, born in the parish of Besseyres-Sainte-Marie. He was a solid and religious man, well known to be a skilled hunter.

According to his own account, Jean Chastel was positioned outside Sogne-d’Auvert, near the town of Saugues. He was armed with his shotgun, loaded with two consecrated bullets. He was saying his prayers when he looked up and saw the Beast -  “the real one”. Calmly, he closed his prayer book, put it in his pocket, took off his glasses and put them in a case:

“The Beast does not move; it waits. I shoulder my weapon, shoot; the Beast stands still. At the sound of the shot, the dogs run up, knock it down and rip it up. It is dead.”

Its body was loaded on a horse and carried to the chateau at Besques where it was examined. It was indeed “The Beast”.  It was not a wolf. Its feet, its ears, the hugeness of its mouth indicated a monster of unknown origin; in its stomach was the shoulder of a young girl, probably one that had been devoured two days before in Pébrac.

The corpse of the Beast was exhibited around the province, then it was put in a box and Jean Chastel set off for Versailles with his prize. There numerous academics would determine what kind of animal it could be - and Mr Antoine would be exposed as a fraud who had tried to cheat the King. Chastel had never believed Antoine’s claim, and had been an open critic of him during his time in Gévaudan, resulting in Antoine ordering his temporary imprisonment. Chastel had a score to settle with M. Antoine.

Unfortunately, the trip took place in the heat of August. By the time he reached Versailles the Beast was in such a state of putrefaction that the stench was unbearable; it was buried before anyone could examine it.  Alas, the burial site is lost, so even today we will never know exactly what the Beast of Gevaudan was.

Nevertheless Chastel was introduced to the King who was greatly amused by this taciturn peasant and his belated claim to the reward. The King made fun of him, and poor Chastel had to endure the mockery of the courtiers too. He was sure that he was the victim of a court intrigue instigated by Antoine, who, after all, had much to lose if the King took Chastel seriously. But what could he do? Alone and far from home he did not invite further humiliation by protesting his innocence. He made his obeisances to the King  and returned to Gévaudan,where the killings had stopped for good.

This time the Beast really was dead.

view of Besseyres-Sainte-Marie today
Jean Chastel would recognise this view - Besseyres-Sainte-Marie today

The Gévaudan. was less ungrateful than Versailles. The Receiver-General granted him an award of seventy-two livres and Jean Chastel became a hero. Everyone in the region knows his name, and even a century and a half later a local writer devoted an epic poem of 360 pages to him. His name is on many of the memorials of the Beast and its victims, and a bronze plaque in his honour stands outside his village.

And that, it might seem, is the end of the story – but not quite … questions remain …

Sign at Besseyres-Sainte-Marie saying home of Jean Chastel
Sign at Besseyres-Sainte-Marie
Was the ending of this story perhaps the beginning of the werewolf myths? Or were they already so deeply embodied in folklore that the Beast was created as a convenient cover for a murderer?

As well as being, notionally, an innkeeper, Chastel was a hunter and poacher who kept dogs and other beasts at his home. He was well acquainted with the habits of the wolves in the area and continually criticised the rather inept beats organised by the King’s appointed hunter, Francois Antoine. This annoyed Antoine so much that he had Chastel arrested and imprisoned at Saugues with the instruction that he should not be released until well after Antoine and his retinue had returned to Paris.

Bronze plaque to Jean Chastel
Chastel's plaque at Besseyres-Sainte-Marie
And here’s the thing. During Chastel’s imprisonment, the killings by the Beast ceased. And Chastel’s account of how he killed it seems just a little odd. The Beast apparently waited calmly whilst he completed his prayer, put away his glasses, raised his gun and fired. Not the actions of the Beast as described by everyone else that encountered it. Could it be that it knew Chastel? Could it be that it actually belonged to him? The rumours go that Chastel himself had bred a dreadful hybrid of mastiff and wolf and used it to kill and devour in order to cover and distract attention from his own depraved, sexually motivated killings. If true, then far from being a hero, Chastel was one of history’s most notorious serial killers.

It has also been suggested that he began his crimes before the arrival of the Beast, and that the threat of discovery led to its creation - trained to attack and eat human flesh to cover Chastel’s own murders. The rape, killing and mutilation of young women being masked by subsequent attacks, where he simply released his beast to attack men, boys and girls. Then he would commit the next rape and murder, followed by more Beast killings.

But where is the evidence? The cessation of killing whilst Chastel was locked up could be mere co-incidence. Although a part-time inn keeper, Chastel was not a sociable man. By all accounts he was a bit of a loner, a known poacher and not one to have many close friends. Such introverts tend to attract the worst kind of gossip – especially if they gain some sort of fame.
Chastel became very religious after the Beast was killed – almost mystic in his religious fervour, and even more withdrawn. This too has been painted as an indicator of guilt. However, if the rumours had begun during his lifetime, had he found himself not only humiliated at court, but suspected of being a murderer rather than a saviour, then becoming withdrawn and turning to religion is not so strange; perfectly understandable in fact. In any event, whatever the doubts about his story, the Beast was indeed dead, and today his home village celebrates his memory both on the village sign, and with his magnificent bronze plaque.

 Few of its victims were wealthy enough  to have tombstones to record their fate, and for the most part their names now only exist in dusty parish records. Some brave survivors have their courage celebrated in statues and sculptures, but for the most part it is the Beast that is remembered. When children in the Gévaudan misbehave, you might still hear the threat, "Si tu se tiens mal, la Bête te mangera!"

Statues of beast and peasants at Malzieu
The town of Malzieu has these sculptures showing a local farmer and his wife chasing off the Beast

statue of beast and shepherdess fighting at Auvers
The courage of a shepherdess, Marie-Jean Valet who fought off the Beast, is commemorated in the village of Auvers

Today the paths across these granite uplands and cool forests make for wonderful walking, offering wild raspberries and myrtles in the woods, and stunning views across wide valleys. Wolves can be seen too, but only in zoological parks and reserves. The countryside is tamer now than in Chastel’s time. We can safely follow the red and white paint marks of the Grande Routes or the yellow ‘balisage’ of the local paths. But in the quietest parts of the forest you just might fancy that you hear the soft padding of an unseen presence and somehow feel that nearby something is breathing, and watching you. Then you realise that the waymarks have changed to ... large purple pawprints.

These mark the “Traces de la Bête”, and show that you are following in the bloody steps of the Beast of Gevaudan.

waymark showing purple paw print

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Blogroll anyone?

Apologies to all those who have Doodlecat blogrolled on their sites and wonder why I no longer display any links to their posts. It's not something you said, honestly!

Up in the top right hand corner of this page there used to be a wee blogroll that constantly changed to show the 5 latest posts from my Google Reader RSS subscriptions. It was a doddle to set up. Google Reader automatically generated a neat piece of code that I simply had to paste into a div and add a dash of CSS to make it blend into the page's design.

This worked a treat. Whenever a new post appeared on any blog that I subscribed to, it instantly appeared at the top of the blogroll, and the older ones moved down. Simples!

However, with the unnecessary demise of the excellent Google Reader, my blogroll disappeared too. Why did they do this to a service with millions of users? Probably it just wasn't new & sexy enough for ambitious Google wannabes to take on. After all, if you want to be a rising star, you have to be associated with the new cutting edge exciting stuff. So Reader was shunted into the sidings whilst the people who could/should have kept it running went off to join the Gingerbread and Jelly Bean feast in the boss's office.

Were I using blogger simply as blogger there would be no problem - just plug in a ready made widget. Doodlecat, however, is hand crafted, and this blog has been built and styled to blend seamlessly with the rest of the Doodlecat pages. Although it uses Blogger's engine for posts, the CSS and template design is my own.

So this is a plea for help. If anyone knows of an RSS reader that supplies a piece of html/javascript to do the same thing, or has any other suggestion, such as to how to incorporate and style a standard widget, I'd be glad to hear it.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Paramo's Five Star Customer Service

In May I was attacked by a herd of Ents - well that's how it felt as we pushed through ever denser pine trees with ever sharper branches. It wasn't just my temper that was getting frayed, though. After finally breaking free from the flesh tearing tangle of branch and twig I discovered a minor disaster.

Cut hands and faces quickly heal, but the deep rip in the shoulder of my beloved Paramo Velez smock would not. Repair or replace? After all, I bought it in 2007, so it was almost six years old. The smart deep black of the fabric had faded to a charcoal grey and, even with meticulous cleaning, each re-proofing seemed slightly less effective than the last. Was it time to part with an old friend (and around £170!)?

Surely not. It had seen me through another TGO Challenge as dry and comfortable as always  - and Paramo make a great deal of their green credentials (repairs, recycling etc). So I decided to give the repair service a try, and packed it off to the service centre in Wadhurst.

I quickly got a letter quoting £38 for the repair, inclusive of return postage. The waiting period was six weeks, which seemed rather a long time, but as I never use it in the summer that didn't bother me too much.

The Velez came back last week and I am delighted with the result - a jacket that performs virtually "as new" for just £38. Not only has the damaged shoulder panel been replaced with new fabric, but, no doubt because the jacket has faded, the other shoulder panel has been replaced too, so that it matches. The stitching is neat and the professional clean and reproof has made the jacket repel water just like new.

close-up of repair to shoulder
New shoulder panel - note water beading

I wholeheartedly recommend Paramo's repair service. Like my old gran's broom, which had both head and handle replaced many times over the years, this jacket could last forever!

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Augustus Carp Esq. - review

Augustus Carp - the book illustration
We have all come across him – or at least his descendants. Augustus Carp is a monster: an arrogant, self-righteous (and self-serving) prig, misogynist and crashing bore. Believing himself to be the epitome of a Christian (or “Xtian”) gentleman, Augustus cheerfully ignores the caution “let him that is without sin cast the first stone” for in his eyes he IS without sin. He takes malicious pleasure in exposing and punishing those who fail to measure up to his own exacting standards – especially if he gains personal advantage as a result.

A monster, but what a comic creation he is.

Augustus displays a stunning lack of insight that leads to hilarious encounters as he constantly misinterprets the reactions of others to his pompous outpourings. His encounters with Mrs Lorton are especially enjoyable as her stifled laughter is interpreted as emotional sobs of remorse.

Both he and his father are steeped in the deadly sins that they affect to condemn. They are martyrs to gastric problems and chronic flatulence as a result of their gluttony.  There is not one ounce of charity in Augustus’ soul, but avarice, pride, sloth and envy abound in this “really good man”.

As you laugh (and laugh you will) you also long for him to get his comeuppance. He does, deliciously, but there is a sting in the tail as Augustus is reborn to plague the next generation.

I’ve just re-read it for the third time and still find myself snorting with laughter. Beg, steal, borrow (or even buy!) this book. Almost 90 years old and still, in my opinion, a masterpiece.

Augustus Carp, Esq. Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man. by Sir Henry Howarth Bashford


Monday, January 28, 2013

A Perambulation in the Picos

It's January - lurching damply into February. Let's face it - it's a bloody miserable time of year. Short days, and what daylight there is has so far been mostly filled with brass monkey frost, snow or grey persistent rain. The flower decked footpaths of summer have become slithering death traps made of slurried mud and dog muck.

How does one escape the midwinter blues, especially after enduring  the Christmas burden of being nice to people that you spend the rest of the year avoiding? Well, how about revisiting your last summer jaunt? I've been doing just that, and my current liferaft is to sip a warming Rioja and drift back to Spain, in September ....

Quite why the Picos de Europa are not overrun with brits is a bit of a mystery, considering how easily accessible they are to the economy traveller - in fact not much more expensive to get there from southern englandshire than it is to the highlands of Scotland.

David crossing a steep arete
David crossing a steep arete
At the beginning of September we (brother-in-law David & I) took a Tuesday Ryanair flight to Santander where we picked up a hire car to drive to the Casa Cipriano in Sotres for the start of our walk the following day. We did a three day loop from Sotres, taking in the refuge under the Picu Urriellu (Naranjo de Bulnes) where we spent a convivial evening,  followed by a night interrupted by various climbers who had under-estimated the time that climbing Urriellu would actually take (they descended by head torch late at night). Then we went off on less frequented paths through some of the most spectacular limestone country that I have ever seen.

Phil climbing rocky path
More upwardness
A long trip on unfamiliar ground brings home the importance of careful navigation, and day two brought this point to the fore - twice!  Observe the picture of me to the right. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you will see that I have a hydration tube clipped to the rucksack chest strap. This is an Osprey Hydraform and very good it is too - but there is a trap for the unwary in its cunning design. The tube attaches, not with a clip, but with powerful magnets on both the valve and the strap. This makes stowing the tube and valve very easy indeed. Put ir vaguely in the right area and it snaps smartly into place. So stow it before you use your compass and keep the compass well away!  My oh-so- careful compass bearing was just slightly off. Alright, a lot off. Fortunately before we had not gone too far before we noticed that the sun was in the wrong place!
The other more general navigational point to note in the Picos is that whilst the main paths are waymarked, the maps of the area aren't exactly OS standard, and less frequented routes across bare rock and scree are not always that obvious on the ground. After lunch on day two we strayed off piste following a line of small cairns through a ravine. Unbeknownst to us, this was parallel to our intended route (which had no waymarks). The cairns led down a steep scree filled valley and after about 1k we realised that we were slowly turning away from the correct bearing. The map was consulted. Damn - we had come down the wrong ravine. We were just 500 meteres off course, but it was a hell of scramble to get back. The well defined path with the cairns was not on the map at all!

David admires view of mountainsBut that was no problem. We knew where we were. We knew where we wanted to go. Indeed we could see where we wanted to go. So off we trotted. It was just the unforeseen (and unmarked) ravines, bottomless potholes and sharp boot shredding rocks in between that made our progress slower than a three legged tortoise with arthritis. And to make the afternoon just perfect, on the last scramble I dropped a walking pole which bounced, teetered and plummeted down a pot hole. I could hear it rattle and chink ever more faintly for a good 30 seconds or so. 

Fortunately just as we approached yet another impassable chasm we came across a shepherd bringing his flock of milking ewes to a new pasture, and he pointed out a faint trail that put us back on track with minimal effort. Frankly, after an afternoon's floundering, that was bit of a relief - and the evening beers when we finally ambled into Bulnes after a long day were very welcome indeed!
view of Naranjo de Bulnes rock face
Naranjo de Bulnes

But that bit of excitement aside, we had a superb trip. Blue skies, comfortable temperatures and as for the scenery - well it's just fantastic. An evening high in the Picos is sublime. Clear sky and stars above, a blanket of cloud below and just a few chamois for company ... well, and Dave of course.

Plus, as I mentioned right at the start, it's so cheap to get there. Here are the base costs (we put both rucksacks into one carrier - so only one luggage charge for two). Some sample prices:
  •  Return flights Stansted/ Santander: £91.98 pp. inc luggage.
  • Car Hire: £55.38 plus fuel. We reserved a wee microcar, but actually got a very presentable Renault Clio. 
  • Hotel in Sotres: about £45pp inc dinner and drinks.
Not bad eh? And here are a few more pictures to tempt you. Early September seems the ideal time to me - the crowds have gone, and midweek you can pretty much have the place to yourself once away from the pinch points near the refuges and the odd village (not many of those - and those you do find are largely abandoned).

Yellow wild flowers
Wayside flowers

Climbers high on the Naranjo de Bulnes
Insane danglers on the Naranjo de Bulnes - look at the guy top left! (click to enlarge)

two figures look out over cloud inversion
A young couple enjoy a moment of solitude

David on peak above cloud with chamois nearby
David meets some chamois (reminds me - must wash the car)

David using rope on steep rocks
A handy rope

Shepherd's guard dog
The shepherd's guard dog
Bridge in abandoned village
Bridge in abandoned village

View from front of funicular under mountain at Bulnes
On the funicular below the mountain from Bulnes to Poncebos

Our next September jaunt is already in the planning stage - the Mercantour National Park in the Alpes Maritimes - as my french is rather better than my Spanish, we may get to have a wider choice of menu - although one can grow to like the various chorizo and sheeps cheeses, a little variety goes a long way. 

Toodle pip for now :-)

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

A change of direction

It's quite a few years since Doodlecat struggled into life, initially as a vehicle for the publication of people's accounts of adventures on the TGO Challenge, and to increase interest in that superb event and its sponsors. There comes a time when you can have too much of a good thing, and unlike 2005, so many people now have blogs and social media that good stuff is published everywhere. With the refinement of search engines like Google, this information is dead easy to find. So I'm sorry to say that there will be no 2012 accounts or new links published on Doodlecat this year, nor any other year for the foreseeable future.

I had intended to discontinue publication of TGO stories three years ago, but was persuaded to continue. However, now it is obvious that there really is no need for it any more. The more popular stories will remain on the page of course (they are very popular from October to February ... for some reason). The early accounts especially give an insight into the history of the event, and it is interesting to compare "then" with "now" over some thirty years. I am very grateful to all the contributors.

Thanks are also due for the occasional guest contributions to the blog, especially from Michael Gray. Again the original concept has been overtaken by events. Originally not many people had blogs, or wanted one, so the idea was to have a pool of contributors with access to the Doodlecat blog giving a stream of differing opinion, trip reports and so-on. However, technology improves almost by the day, and before long, clunky blogging software became much more user friendly. Dedicated writers started their own blogs, and for the more sociable and laconic writer, Twitter and Facebook came on the scene.

So the original reasons for creating Doodlecat have finally become redundant.

And my level of interest in reading and writing about outdoor stuff has waned somewhat too. However well crafted, there is only so much travelogue that a body can read.

Doodlecat will no longer be an outdoors website (although some outdoorsy content will be included of course - watch out for the Picos de Europa in the autumn). In the main, though, another sort of rambling will be appearing here, and the site will have a bit of an overhaul over the coming months.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TGO Challenge Live!

The TGO Challenge is now in full swing. Of course many of us cannot participate this year, either because of other priorities, we didn't get selected, or we didn't apply. Oh, but we're curious, aren't we? Even if we're just thinking about giving it a go for the first time next year?

Thanks to the excellent chaps at Adventure Trading Post, suppliers of the Spot emergency locator,  a baker's dozen of this years contingent can be tracked live as they progress across the wilds of Scotland. Here is today's map.

Map showing 'Spot' users on the TGO Challenge 2012 May 13th

Biology students will notice the unfortunate resemblance to spermatozoa rushing to fertilise the Montrose egg, for that is where they will all end up - eventually. In the meantime it's quite good fun to follow their sometimes eccentric progress by opening the map here.

These are just a dozen or so out of three hundred. Good luck to all of you - hope you have a fantastic time!