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Doodlecat's Homepage

Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

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!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Round The Devils Punchbowl

I went for a wee trip to one of my favourite places yesterday, the Isle of Arran. The walking on Arran is fantastic with wonderful compact hills, gripy rock and scrambley ridges and with the exception of the "tourist path" up Goatfell it tends to be quiet. I took the bus from the boat to the village of Sannox and then ascended Cioch na h-Oighe.

The ascent involves numerous short sections of easy scrambling on the way to the rocky summit. I love being on these hills on my own, there is a sense of solitude and remoteness while at the same time I can see the town of West Kilbride on the mainland where I live. It was one of those beautiful days we get this time of year, cool and bright with enough of a breeze to keep the midges away. The only problem with the conditions was as it was a Northern slope and the night had been cold the rock was freezing on the hands. From the summit there is a fun scramble along a short rocky ridge round the top of Coire na Ciche otherwise known as the Devils Punchbowl.
Then it was a wander along a broad ridge to North Goatfell and a final scramble to the summit of Goatfell. It was here I encountered my first other walkers of the day, all 12 of them. The "tourist path" gave an easy descent and then it was a short walk to Brodick for a few pints before the boat back to the mainland.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Cautionary tale.

Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir(with tooth) and Bruach na Frithe
First I must appologise for being unable to contribute to the important discussion on 18th century Knitting patterns and their relevance to the rap scene of today despite originating near the Cotswolds, one of the great sheep areas, nor can I help with sloe gin recipes although I have disposed of a few pink ones in my time.

I can however relate an unfortunate event that happened to me while on a stravaig in the Cullin hills, even though I didn't know about it until afterwards. I arrived at Sligachan early one Saturday morning a few months ago and parked by the Mountain Rescue Hut near a couple of guys who were also in the process of setting out for the day, a friendly 'hello' and a 'lovely day' saw us all off towards the hills. I had no definite plan other than camping near Camasunary that night but as it was a beautiful morning I thought a top or two wouldn't be out of the question and so plodded up to Bruach na Frithe in the sunshine where I met them again. The illogical route from here was over Am Basteir and Sgurr nan Gillean before descending by the Allt a'Ghlais-choire to the River Sligachan and on to the coast, so, having no sense, I went that way. After scrambling up the Basteir Tooth from the Lota Corrie side a rather awkward gulley, which forced me to remember long forgotten climbing skills, took me to the top of Am Basteir (graded V Diff as I found out afterwards!). A descent of the east ridge and I met the car-park guys again at the bealach, they had come round the base of the North Face and were preparing to go up the east ridge before following my route up Sgurr nan Gillean. The cloud had been building all day and when I reached the top the rain started and made the bits of basalt very slippery on the way down but after a good soaking it eased to occasional showers on the walk to Camasunary where there was enough wind by the beach to keep the midges at bay and make a very pleasant pitch for the night.

Camp by the beach
The cloud was obscuring the hills the next morning so, while tempted to go up Bla Bheinn, I took the sensible option and wandered back to Sligachan along the path thinking maybe I would have lunch at the hotel. When I arrived back at the car there was a parking ticket stuck to the window!! I spent some time muttering to myself along the lines of 'how the b***** h*** can I get a ticket for parking beside the road here' and nearly stuffed it into my pocket before deciding to read it: 'Concern has been expressed for your welfare, please contact Portree Police Tel...'. WHAT THE **!*? It seems that my car-park aquaintances had been late off the hill and seen my car still there, assuming I had been on a day walk they had contacted mountain rescue, the police had checked later, and as the car was still there, had traced my home address, sent the local police round, after midnight to terrify the wife, only to be told that I had planned to be out overnight. I was not popular when I got home.

The way it appeared I'm sure it was not wrong to contact mountain rescue, sensible people don't backpack over the Culin hills! So the moral of this story is what? Never park your car when anyone can see you; Tell everyone you see the full details of what you are doing; Inform the police everytime you leave your car overnight; Leave a note in the window informing thieves/vandals how long the vehicle will be unattended. Or just say 'sod it' and carry on as normal hoping that the same set of coincidences will not happen again.

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It’s a wet afternoon here in (usually) sunny Suffolk, and the rain is lashing against the window – but do I care? No.

Just got back from a cracking little walk around Lavenham with Miss Whiplash, and we both noticed that after hanging around in the wings, autumn has suddenly taken centre stage – temperature 10 degrees, sharp squally showers, the odd glimpse of sun and rainbows, acorns and cob nuts crunching underfoot. The fields are all ploughed now, some harrowed, and we saw one chap out drilling winter wheat. Yes, summer is well and truly over, and we’re plunging towards the darkest, gloomiest months of the year. Well, maybe not so gloomy…

There’s something else – the hedgerows are absolutely laden with great things, so we’ve come back with our sacks laden with hedgerow goodies. A bag of blackberries (for sorbets and blackberry & apple pies) and crab apples (for herb jellies). Ripe sloes are hanging off the blackthorns, so it’s also time to get the sloe gin under way for next year.

Here’s our recipe for sloe gin. If you don’t like gin, don’t worry, the process completely transforms it. Sloes will be around for the next month, and some people reckon that they’re best after the first frost. (if you think the same, just pop them in the freezer overnight. We never bother, and the gin comes out just fine). The main thing is to make sure that you have nice plump sloes that give when gently squeezed.

Fresh Sloes 450g
White sugar 112g
Gin 75cl

If you have a litre of gin then use proportions as below:

1 litre gin
150 grams sugar
600 grams sloes

Stalk, wash and dry the fruit with an old clean tea-towel (old because the fruit stains everything) or kitchen roll

Prick the fruit all over with a thick needle (this is the tedious bit – put on some good music) and put the pricked fruit in a large Kilner jar or similar wide necked container. However, a friend assures me that if you have deep frozen the sloes for a day or two the skins will have split or been stretched enough for you to skip this bit. I've tried it, but I reckon pricking the fruit produces a slightly better result.

Put the sugar in the jar and pour on the gin – stir to dissolve and distribute the sugar, fit the lid and store in a dark cupboard for three months, giving the jar a gentle shake every day for the first week (to make sure all the sugar is dissolved) then every week.

Gradually the gin will turn deep red.

Strain off into small, clean bottles and seal well. Store in the dark (preserves the colour) for a few more months while the sloe gin matures.

Believe me, it’s worth the wait!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Snoop Doggy Dog

Monsieur Lambert has perhaps unwittingly invited a number of disparate souls to contribute to his otherwise excellent website.

Oh dear; I was one of them and it's late on Friday night and there has been an excellent night at the Axe & Compass to contend with, but here goes...

Suffolk has, in its former glory days (ie, before the rise of Ipswich Town FC) been the centre of the Sheep Industry that founded the halcyon days of the Great British Empire. The Wool Trade created wealth beyond imagination for a few fortunate souls in the early 18th Century that had the foresight and imagination to invest in knitting patterns and their relation to the future music publications of Snoop Doggy Dog. The Luddites of the time (the Cotterills and others yet to be shamed) were ambivalent to the need and desires of the Modern East Anglians and suffered as a consequence. They were banished to the outermost limits of Gaeldom.

In the same vein, tonight, in the confines of the 'Axe,' we were treated and delighted with tales of trans-humance farming and the post glacial retreats of the Nordic influxes on the habitation patterns of Hemingford Abbots, (an Anti Nuclear Village) and its effect on the brewing industry of Southwold and Bury St Edmunds.

We were forcibly reminded that Hemingford Abbots is officially a region of deprivation: It lacks the necessary modern social requirements of a modern transport infrastructure, (bus routes) schools (both infant and junior), shopping facilities and social centres that are the modern pre-requisites of a thriving rural community.

The Village Hall does not host classes in modern Latvian or Lithuanian dialects and so we are being offered European Grants and Central Funding (the capitals are important here) for the acquisition of peripatetic teachers. One candidate has recently come forward to offer his services in Iberian Studies, having become available from a London based sports academy and the relevant Village Hall Sub-committee are looking into his credentials for the post. The ladies of the committee are of the view that he has a boyish smile and good fashion sense and as such , the Special One is currently top of their list.

Nigel (the Landlord) is currently unavailable for comment as he can't be arsed to serve his customers. He has left a fat girl and a fat boy in charge of the asylum.

Nothing new there then....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New this week

If you haven't already caught up with Roger Boston's epic TGO 2007, the link is now on the TGO page, or go to it here. Well worth a read, and some excellent pictures.

Plus photos of 2006 Challenge (Plockton to Catterline) in the Gallery, and a link to Theo's 2007 photos.

More later, right now I must get those invitations out!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Geograph - a great idea?

Well, my application for next year's TGO Challenge is in the post. Risking life and limb (but mainly my liver) I have applied with my old mate Alan Sloman. We won't know whether our application is successful for a few weeks, but we've already started dusting off the maps of Scotland to start planning possible routes.

Now, we're both fairly experienced, and used to looking at an OS map to work out out what we think the ground will be like, but from time to time we get a surprise. Then last year fellow challenger, Roger Boston posted a message about Geograph

Geograph is a site dedicated to photographing every 1 km OS square - and already they have an impressive collection. All you have to do is type in a grid reference for any square (not within the square, but the square itself, so a typical reference might be NN3345). If there are pictures, you can view them, complete with a little excerpt from the OS map showing exactly where the photo was taken.

I think it's a great research tool, although some people reckon that this sort of thing takes away the element of adventure from backpacking in unfamiliar territory. Personally I'd disagree - this is more like a series of trailers for a show, just showing enough to whet your appetite, without giving too much away. So I hope that it will encourage people to strike out a bit more.

Which is probably how I found myself in all those bogs....... Seriously, though, it's worth a look. And who better to fill in some of the blank squares than a challenger?

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

This week on Doodlecat

Coming up later this week we have Jean Turner's 2007 Challenge account - with pictures. Jean chose a route from the most southerly start point (Ardrishaig) to Rattray Head, way up north. Walking, sailing (yes, sailing!) and ending with a sprint finish.

Plus, the first invitations will be going out to guest contributors for the site - yes, that's what this 'bloggy' bit of the site is for. It's to allow a range of people, most of whom do not have a presence on the net, to post here as and when they want - and, of course, using good ol' Blogger, they will be able to post from anywhere in the world! So look forward to some alternative opinions, news and chat later on in the month.

Oh, and just in case you forgot...TGO...out Thursday...with the Challenge application form!