Brown Muir

I managed to carve out a few hours off after completing all my duties so I was able to make the most of another beautiful sunny day of the Indian summer we have now in Scotland. My choice was a simple hill south off Elgin, some 20-minute drive from my home. The best view of it is from the A96 just after leaving Elgin southbound; it lies on the right hand side and is topped with a relay station. But the best view isn’t the best starting point – it would be too long a walk.

Teinland Wood car park was in my view a much better choice. It’s located by the B9103, a mile north from its junction with the B9015 (the Mosstodloch – Rothes road). From there I walked up the gentle incline along the wide forest track. After less than a mile I took a turn left onto a similarly wide forest track to turn right half a mile later onto narrower track gently climbing through the woods. At the end of that path, about a mile or so later I turned left and followed the track onwards and upwards all the way to another one, less well maintained, less used forest track with a signpost announcing entering Findlay’s Seat Reserve standing on the left hand side. That track took me to a patch of fenced woodland, though the fence was in a rather dire condition and falling or fallen apart because of its age.

I took a narrow path along that fence and about 10 minutes later I reached a wide forest track built – I guess – not so long ago for timber transportation. I followed it southwards for a few minutes towards a rather sharp leftward bend, with a clearance to the right and a wall of trees in front of me. There I left the track and went through the trees. The first couple of dozen yards was hard as the trees were close to each other with their branches and twigs blocking my way. After that it opened up a bit; I still had to pay attention to avoid impaling myself or my eyes. A few minutes later I came out of the woods and the last obstacle to tackle before reaching the moorland was a barbed wire fence. Thanks to the length of my legs it was relatively simple.

The open moorland stood between me and the top of the hill, marked by the elements of the relay station visible in the distance. Going through the moorland turned out to be the most exhausting part of the entire walk. The vegetation was collapsing under foot, making each step hard work. The collapse was up to knee-deep, and my knees are quite high above the ground. It was like walking through deep fresh snow, or even worse as my ankles were going down at every possible and impossible angles. The progress I was making was painfully slow. Eventually I reached the relay station, tackling two more rusted and partially collapsed wired fences. I sat down by the triangulation point with the feeling of well-deserved rest.

After the break and lunch I headed down along the service track in the opposite direction I’d come from. About 500 yards or so later I left it behind turning right into the moorland to assess the landscape and find the best route home. I saw a kind of ridge going down towards a group of trees. That was my choice. Initially it was pretty easy as the vegetation was short and the ground pretty solid. But it was gradually, almost imperceptibly changing for the worse; the vegetation got taller and the ground got softer and softer. ‘Suddenly’ it was like the repetition of my earlier struggle. To make it worse there were pretty wide boggy ditches crossing my route. After an exhausting walk I arrived at the edge of a deep gorge with steep banks covered with thorn bushes, or in one word: impassable. Unfortunately, the gorge went exactly across my planned route. I had to walk along it to find my way. I thought I found one so I went down to the bottom. It was relatively easy, but then I realised the way out of it wasn’t there. I decided to move upstream looking for the way out on the other side. It wasn’t the wisest idea; I had to walk through tall grass, brushing past thorn bushes and thistles, trying to avoid getting into the stream flowing stealthily underneath. The air was very hot and still, almost suffocating. After a while that felt like eternity I found a patch of the bank without thorn bushes and managed to get out. On top I had to stay for a couple of minutes catching my breath.

The point of getting back on the solid forest track loomed in the distance; only a patch of moorland remained to cover. However, after just a few steps I realised it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. As before the vegetation was giving in under my feet, and then I had to cross a huge field of tall grass; in fact, reaching well above my waist, it was the tallest grass I’d ever come across in Scotland in such quantities. After that there was another patch of soft vegetation… I got really exhausted, physically and mentally when I faced two final obstacles: a barbed wire fence and gorge, both cutting across my way. Thankfully, both were relatively easy to go through and a few minutes later I reached the forest track that took me back to my car.