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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, April 29, 2010

Majority Rule

I don't often touch on things political, but the recent election coverage reminded me of this splendid observation on the nature of democracy by Piet Hein.


His party was the Brotherhood of Brothers,
and there were more of them than of the others.
That is, they constituted that minority
which formed the greater part of the majority.

Within the party, he was of the faction
that was supported by the greater fraction.
And in each group, within each group, he sought
the group that could command the most support.

The final group had finally elected
a triumvirate whom they all respected.
Now, of these three, two had final word,
because the two could overrule the third.
One of these two was relatively weak,
so one alone stood at the final peak.

He was: THE GREATER NUMBER of the pair
which formed the most part of the three that were
elected by the most of those whose boast
it was to represent the most of the most
of most of most of the entire state --
or of the most of it at any rate.

He never gave himself a moment's slumber
but sought the welfare of the greater number.
And all people, everywhere they went,
knew to their cost exactly what it meant
to be dictated to by the majority.
But that meant nothing, - they were the minority.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Primus windshield

Last week I bought this wee bit of kit from Bob & Rose at Backpackinglight. Tested over this weekend in the Lakes, I can say that it works a treat, and when not in use it clips, inverted, over the canister, so it takes up no more room in your pack. In fact, many pots and kettles will still allow the canister to be stowed inside with the windshield fitted over it. Perfick!

And to make the stove much more stable, for the past couple of years I have been using the Primus canister foot - a sort of fold-up tripod that clips on to most sizes of canister.

The saving on gas, time and the added safety and stability are well worth the very small weight penalty. 60g for the wind shield, 23g for the canister feet. You can buy them both from Backpackinglight


Doodlecat Archive

Just when I thought that the changeover to this new 'News' page had gone perfectly, I found that none of the archive links in Older Posts (on the left hand side of this page) were working

That bug is sorted out now, and all the archived posts are available again. Thanks to those who reported the problem.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The 2010 Daunder

It was a thoroughly splendid affair, with a fine route and finer company. As readers of Mike Knipe's report will have noted, speed is absolutely not of the essence in this enterprise. Pleasant walking, fine views and any opportunity for a quiet snooze or a drink and a bit of a natter are the main ingredients. Plus a test and review of the kit, a gentle stretch of the sinews and a check that liver and kidneys are up to the rigours of the two weeks in May that are the TGO Challenge.

I'm delighted to report that all came through with flying colours on a thoroughly convivial daunder.

Words cannot describe ... so here are some pictures (you can click on any picture for a bigger view if you wish). The map is courtesy of daunderer in chief, Alan Sloman.

The route for the 2010 Daunder

Assembling at Gt Langdale campsite,   Lunch in Langdale Combe,   Heading to Stakes Pass

 Campsite at Stonethwaite

Getting dressed after a night at the inn proves a challenge

Dock Tarn,      Alan approaches Dock Tarn,      John Jocys on Low Saddle

The team on High Raise,   Gerry takes our photo,   Alan takes in the view from Sergeant Man

Last night - party at Shirl's place

Sunday was not quite as sunny as promised by the met men - Stickle Tarn

So we staggered down the dreadful path to the New Hotel, ambled back to the Old Dungeon Ghyll for lunch, and then we all went home. 

Tired, yes. 

Happy, for sure.

Thanks to all the daunderers for a great weekend!!

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


David Hobbs fords River Esk near Slight Side
My old friend and mentor in all things walkery, Alan Sloman, has reminded me in his recent post that this weekend is the weekend of the annual pre Challenge Daunder. Eeek! Must get food, gas, er ... kit ... oh, and tell wife that I won't be around for shopping at the weekend ;-)

For anyone puzzled by the concept of a pre-walk walk, the general idea is to eliminate the complacency of the winter months, when we imagine great deeds in the following spring, oblivious to expanding waistlines and diminishing fitness. This delivers a cold dose of harsh reality as plump bodies pampered by Christmas excess and soft living are suddenly exposed to the rigours of walking with full backpacking kit - and up hills too! Plus it allows the discovery of lost kit and malfunctioning stoves etc before the Challenge, rather than on a windswept night in Knoydart with another two weeks walking to go.

Sometimes, as in the picture taken on a Lakeland daunder, it rains a bit - and sometimes it rains a lot! That river is usually easily fordable. But mostly we have had generally good weather and a thoroughly splendid time.

This photo gallery gives a flavour of the pre Challenge Daunder, back in the days when we could still get a bunch of reasonably priced sleeper tickets. These days we tend to drive up to the Lakes.

Essential training on all fronts (yes, there will be the odd libation).

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Blue door, what’s that secret you’re hiding…?

It’s almost the end of the TGO Challenge, and after swapping tales and enjoying the convivial atmosphere at Tarfside, you face the steady plod to Edzell (and the joys of the Tuck Inn) and then maybe take the path alongside the post office to find the ‘Shakkin’ Brig’ and eventually the long road to North Water Bridge Campsite.

So far, so familiar, and if you’ve done this a couple of times before ... so boring!

Here’s a detour from the familiar trade route, offering stunning riverside scenery, woods and wildlife – and no cow dung! Plus its all quite hidden away from the trudging column of footsore (and probably headsore) Tarfside wayfarers.

salmon sculpture on ruined bridge pierAnd it begins for us at the ‘Rocks of  Solitude’.

It was the name that attracted me – Rocks of Solitude. So a few years ago I diverted from the usual Challenge route on the track west of the river and crossed the bridge at NO574753 and hopped up onto the road. About 3k down the road there is a sign to the ‘Rocks of Solitude’ and, as you descend to the river, an information board which gives no real hint of the delights to follow.

The beautifully constructed path, hacked out of the rock by napoleonic prisoners of war, generally keeps above the river gorge; there are smaller paths down to fishing beats, but the main path is pretty obvious. The woods above teem with wildlife and birdsong, the North Esk crashes wildly through the rocks below. This is a salmon river, and its value to Victorian and Edwardian sportsmen is marked by the salmon sculpture on the rather beautiful ruined bridge.

It’s just over 2.6k before the path leads you to a blue door set in a wall. It’s a little low door – rather hobbit like. You pop out through the blue door and suddenly you find yourself back in the real world – on the B966 at Gannochy Bridge with cars whizzing past.

Roger Boston and Alan Sloman enjoy an ice cream in Edzell
But although the main highlights are over, the walk continues in a pleasant enough fashion. Cross the bridge and take the path on the opposite bank which leads all the way to Edzell and the Shakkin’ Brig, threading through beech woods with fields to the right and the river surging along its rocky bed below on the left. Walk past the wobbly suspension bridge and bear right to emerge in Edzell high street next to the post office. Then turn right to amble down to a well earned bite and cuppa (or even an ice cream) at the Tuck Inn.

This delightful little diversion adds about 1k at most to the ‘conventional’ route. I enjoyed it – hope you do too!

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Gearing up

It happens every April. I think I've got everything I need, and then something happens to suggest otherwise. this time it was the ill fated Peebes to Moffat walk , and the experience of sleeping on compacted snow. Frankly, the 11 year old 3/4 Thermarest was a tad inadequate for my old bones - cold tootsies and an achy hip by morning that even whisky induced anaethesia couldn't entirely hold at bay.

So on a shopping expedition yesterday afternoon in search of Miss W's "summer shoes", I strayed into Cotswold and enquired if they stocked the Thermarest Neoair. A young chap produced one (ready inflated) and invited me to try it out ... bliss ... sold... my credit card floated out of my wallet.

I guiltily drifted out onto the street where Miss W strolled up and said, "I've got my shoes, but they were a bit over budget".

Phew - I might get away with this after all!

"Don't worry about it", said I magnaminously.

She spotted the bag.

"What's that?"

"Er ... it's a mattress"

"I see, I've been skimping on shoes and you've just spent - well?"

"You just said that you hadn't skimped on the shoes!" (Touchez!) " Tell you what, I won't ask about the shoes, and you don't ask about the mattress."

"Alright - deal"

Arriving home, Miss W tried out the Neoair. "What do you think?" (silence) "I said, what do you think?"


Nuff said Lovely piece of kit - and 90 odd grammes saved too!


Updating Google Reader

I've had a few requests for some instructions on how to redirect Google Reader to look at the new blog address.

I wasn't too sure myself, so I tried this method, which works and is dead easy.

1) Copy this link:   http://www.blog.doodlecat.com/feeds/posts/default
2) Open Google Reader
3) Delete the existing 'Doodlecat Blog' (if you already subscribe)
4) Click on "Add a Subscription"
5) Paste the link into the search box and click "Add"

That's it - all done. (to delete the old Doodlecat Blog on the list - just click "manage subscriptions" at the bottom left of the page and then you will be able to select and 'unsubscribe' the old feed).

Don't ask me about any other feed wotsits, 'cos I don't know!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at http://www.blog.doodlecat.com/, which is where you should be right now!
If you're at the old page, you will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ice Cold in Peebles

The video clip in the previous post was rather closer to the truth than I had anticipated. After a magnificent Friday evening in Moffat we met Mike Knipe and his mate, Tony Bennett, on Saturday morning and trundled over to Peebles in the Knipemobile for the trek back. This was to be a high level walk planned by Mike as a two and a half day daunder over magnificent walking country.

Map of the route
The planned route - click for enlarged views
On arrival at Peebles we were met by Humphrey Weightman who provided us with some of his special turkish coffee whilst we acclimatised in the Bridge Inn - and then it was time for a quick butty and on to the hill.

Alan wading through deep snowProgress was fine along the old drovers' road, then we were in a bit of snow - nothing much though. We met a couple coming down. "Lots of snow up there lads" said the man. He and his wife were wearing ordinary shoes, so I guessed that his idea of "lots" might be different from ours.

Wrong. Alan was the first to plunge through the snow up to his knees, and shortly we were all ploughing through it, occasionally diverting onto stretches where the wind had scoured the snow off the heather.

Despite the heavy going, the views were superb - and all the better for the snow which transformed the hills into a magnificent winter landscape. The great thing about fine scenery, apart from the aesthetic qualities, is that it provides the perfect excuse for stopping for a breather under the pretext of 'taking in the view'. I took in the view quite a few times.

Mike KnipeBut progress was slow, and it soon became obvious that we were not going to cover the planned eight miles this afternoon, so around 6.30 we searched out some (not ideal) pitches for the night. As darkness fell the sunset lit up distant snow covered hills, and the lights of Peebles twinkled far below. We settled down for a crisp sub zero night.

In the morning it was obvious that the tops were going to be out of the question, as we had foolishly omitted snowshoes and skis from our spring kit list, so alternative plans were made to drop down to lower level and join the Southern Upland Way to Tibbie Shiels Inn. This was accomplished without mishap, and there we were met by David Albon and Ian Shiel who had given David a lift, and who gave us all a lift by distributing some bottles of great scottish real ales (thanks again Ian. McEwan's Champion 7.3% - and very drinkable!). There was also a bottle of 'Black Douglas'. Coincidentally we had walked through a glen which Mike said was one of the lairs of the Douglas's, where cattle that had been liberated from their english owners were kept. There were cattle. There was a house. Mike contemplated knocking on the door and asking if we could have them back, but there didn't seem to be anyone at home. This was possibly a Good Thing.

From Tibbie Shiels to Moffat is a 22 mile trek. We decided on an early start - up at 5.30 to be on our way by 7.00am. During the night, though, the still cold clear conditions gave way to tent rattling wind and shrapnel-like volleys of rain, eventually settling into a a steady, depressing downpour that seemed (and indeed was) set for the rest of the day. So we had breakfast in the Inn, packed up and used a local cab to go and retrieve the Knipemobile. Then we all went home.

 Here are a few more pictures:
Alan Mike and Tony heading uphill
Heading for the first camp

Tony Bennet with view of snow covered hills
Tony contemplates the next snowfield.
 Drifted snow blocks the path
The way ahead - my, that looks deep!

Three walkers descend through snow filled forest
Down through the forest

Despite the early bail out, it was a great walk, and the Sunday plunge across deep snow and down through silent, snow filled forest, was terrific fun enjoyed by all - especially by my 'mates' when I managed to plummet through the crust into a 4 foot deep hole. Oh how they laughed.

Ha ha.

It really was a pretty good walk in the end, if somewhat shorter than planned; although poor David Albon joined us at just the wrong time and didn't get a walk at all! Still, at least he could relax from his weekend labours with a night in an excellent little inn.

Next time, and there will be a next time, we'll do the whole thing!


Thursday, April 1, 2010


Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours y-ronne
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open yë
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

Well, it is April, and I am off on a sort of pilgrimage, but contrary to doom-mongering global warming theorists, it seems that the climate was a little kinder in Chaucer's day. It's almost two years since I last did the TGO Challenge - a combination of ill health and sloth has kept me away from long distance walks of late - so the chance to stretch the sinews and fettle the kit with a 'real walk' prior to our traditional Daunder seemed a great idea. Especially in the gentle spring month of April.

Except we're off to the Borders, under the guidance of Mike Knipe, for a wee walk from Peebles to Moffat (and some of the party are walking back again). It's been snowing for the past two days, with gale force winds. No "shoures sote" for us, just wind blown, skin flailing, sleet and snow. Thankfully for me and Al, it's just one way for us, as it's Miss W's birthday on Tuesday, an event that I miss at my peril.

Would I rather stay at home? Not sure about that. There are "jobs that need doing". The cat (Doodlecat) has just been roundly berated by Miss W for "lolling around" and his piteous mewing as he tried to clamber into my rucksack to come with me seems to indicate that the rigours of home life over a Bank Holiday might involve more effort and hard work than trekking over the snowy wastes of Galloway.

So the pilgrimage it is. Tales will be told ...

And two of the storytellers are Mike Knipe and Alan Sloman, and of course Doodlecat will be reporting on the weekend too.

In the meantime, here is a video clip that I think captures the spirit of the expedition.

Happy Easter!!!