Adventures in Ardgartan – May 2018

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What d’you know? This year, we’ve actually had a holiday!

We didn’t go that far away, just an hour or so by car to a Forest Holidays site at Ardgartan. It’s set in a forest (of course!) by Loch Long and it is a beautiful place.

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The Forest Retreat

We went with our good friend, Ally, who’s been on a few holidays with us in the past, and we stayed in one of the cabins there. It was VERY nice…

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Our cabin for 5 days, with enclosed deck…

view from window

…and its own hot tub

The views from the site were lovely. Right by the loch, of course, and set in the Arrochar Alps, a quirky set of knarly hills. One of them is called The Cobbler, because it looks like a cobbler at his last.

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Evening walk with The Cobbler in view

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… and right beside the loch

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It’s fur friendly and I was even allowed in the cafe when it was their Quiz Night. It wasn’t just a place for people and dogs to stay, though. They had a hotel for bugs too!

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Even the bugs have a place to stay πŸ™‚

There was a forest-and-river walk right from the site, and that’s my very very favourite kind of walk, so that’s where me and @HeatherAlex went every day for our morning walk.

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at the river

Time for a refreshing slurp…

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It wasn’t just river and trees and bluebells though. We found some unexpected things there too…

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Someone’s built a shelter (so of course I went in it)

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…but this one was too tiny for me!

There were several ways to go in the woods, some paths went by the river, some were proper roads (with cars sometimes) and one went by the loch. I really liked the walk by the loch, but I did NOT like the bridge we had to cross at the end. It had gaps in it and was high up above the river and I could see through it under my paws! I lay down and even had to be carried a couple of times.

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The very scary bridge…

But I’m happy to say that I crossed it all by myself at a proper walking speed by the end of the week πŸ™‚

The weather was pretty good (dare I say, a bit TOO hot for a black dog like me at times), and we went off on walks every day.

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One day, we were going up The Cobbler path, but the plan was to cut across at a dam, with me paddling in the water if I wanted to, and then come back along the Cowal Way through the trees. But that was a VERY hot day. The path was hot. My paws were hot. I was hot. So I sat on my bottom (that was hot too) and refused to move.

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Sorry, I’m not walking today…

pathway home

…so we headed home to the cabin

Did I mention that the cabin had a hot tub? The people LOVED that (especially Ally, who was very sensible and did not come on that hot hot walk).

I wasn’t allowed in it. Which I didn’t mind (it would have been too hot!). What I minded was that the people had nibbles and fizz while lying in the tub, and I only got thrown an odd crumb or two.

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Dozing while waiting…

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…it was very boring once the nibbles were finished

The next day we went on a longer drive to visit two different forest walks. It was still quite warm but we were in the woods most of the time so it was not nearly as bad and I enjoyed that day a lot.

On the way, we went over a road pass called the “Rest and Be Thankful”.

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@HeatherAlex and her family visited here a long LONG time ago.

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A visit in the 1960s…

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…and in 2018

Our first walk was at Glenbranter. We were hoping to see the falls, but the path was closed as the bridge had been damaged, so we had to shorten this walk a bit.

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A walk in the trees…

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….and by the river

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…with an owl sitting patiently for us

On the way to our next walk, she couldn’t resist a photo of Loch Eck – well, it IS quite beautiful, so I don’t blame her.

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Our last walk of the holiday was at Puck’s Glen. We’d heard that this was a special place from a friend of @HeatherAlex, and he wasn’t wrong – it is very special. And cool – in every sense of the word!

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Another of those bridges…!

ItΒ  had waterfalls around every corner, as far as I could see.

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Lots of places for me to explore…

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This rock had trees growing all over it…

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It was a lovely walk to end our holiday. I think we will probably visit again!

 

 

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A walk at the wind “farm”

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Back in April, we went (with our friends Morna & Finzi) to visit our nearest wind farm as there are lots of tracks there to walk on in between the windmills.

Now I have to be honest and say that @HeatherAlex is not a huge fan of so-called wind farms. In fact, she prefers to call them “wind factories” as she says they are more industrial than pastoral (I’m not sure about all these long words so I hope I’ve spelled them properly!). And that they are not always good for wild land or for wild birds, even if they do provide electricity for all sorts of things. So I have decided not to worry about all that*, but just to tell you about our walk instead.

It’s called Whitelee Windfarm and it’s south of Glasgow with views over the Clyde.

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A gen-yoo-ine windmill blade…it’s HUGE!

There are loads and LOADS of windmills everywhere you look…

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There are lots of tracks between them too

These windmills are very tall. And they are very noisy too – I wasn’t expecting that.

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You can see some of the tracks from the highest point, Blackwood Hill:

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And there’s a nice view of Arran too:

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After we’d been for our walk, we went for tea and cake at the cafe. We dogs are allowed in the outside seating area – good job it wasn’t raining (although it was a wee bit chilly, it has to be said).

There’s a picture frame for the windmills there too, which seemed a bit odd:

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Not sure why you need a picture frame??

Overall, it was good to go and explore it, but it wasn’t the best walk we’ve been on. The tracks are quite hard and not great for playing Fetch with my ball. And the ground in between the tracks is very rough and bumpy, and definitely not very suitable for smaller dogs like me to run around in. And when we went up the hill, I had to be on the lead in case I chased after the sheep there. So – all in all – I’m glad I got to see the big windmills (and have some crisps that fell on the ground at the cafe) but I’m not sure I’ll be barking to go back there any time soon. I prefer forests and rivers!

* If you are interested in what people think about wind factories, there’s lots on the internet (for example, from the John Muir Trust which argues for keeping them out of wild land so that it stays wild).

Summer strolls in 2017

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Time to catch up on some of my walks this past few months. I keep meaning to write about them as soon as I get home, but I usually end up zzzz’ing on the bed!

We’ve not been away for a proper holiday this year. Now that we’ve got Poggle, we’ve been to more agility shows with her and heading off again seems like a bit too much hard work. Maybe in the off-season…

But of course we have still been going for walks, visiting our local parks and some favourite spots. So here are some moments from the last few months.

We were at Mugdock recently and discovered that there’s a new village or two being built there. One of them is right by the castle…

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Not quite finished yet…

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Still needs a roof…

And there were some more going to be built, it seems…

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Bits for building

Seems it is all to do with building a set for a film about Robert the Bruce, including two villages and stables and stuff. It’s quite exciting to see it being built, even if they have closed off some of our paths. (They were not supposed to close them so we’ve written to the council about that, but so far they haven’t replied!)

Sad news from Pollok Park though. Some vandals set fire to the Pollok Beech and it has been very badly damaged. The park rangers aren’t sure that they will be able to save it 😦 I’d like to bite the ankles of those stupid vandals! #grrrrrr

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The remains of the Pollok Beech 😦

We go to Pollok several times a week, and we did (amazingly) have the occasional sunny day πŸ™‚

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Phew, it’s hot work chasing my ball!

I go for walks with my pals Murphy (round the corner) and Finzi (round a different corner). Me ‘n’ Murphy mostly go to Pollok Park cos he really really doesn’t like being driven in a car. He makes a LOT of noise! But Finzi doesn’t mind the car so we go to further away places, like the Loch Ard forest.

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There are a lots of steps on that hill!

In September, we took Poggle down south to visit @HeatherAlex’s family, partly because we needed to stay at a campsite for her sister’s Big Birthday (I’m not allowed to say how old she is, but it rhymes with “mixty” πŸ˜‰ )

One small snag with driving a motorhome is finding places where you can take her. Lots of our usual walking spots in Berkshire & Surrey have height restrictions at the parking entrances and so we couldn’t go there 😦  But I’m happy to say that The Lookout near Bracknell takes coaches so we fitted nicely in the coach parking area! The Lookout is set in Swinley Forest which is part of the Crown Estate.

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Poggle at the Lookout

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Walking the forest tracks

Our morning walks were on the nearby golf course and we didn’t have to drive there, which is nice. There are squirrels and deer there but no ducks, sadly.

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That deer needed to be chased, right?

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No ducks to bark at 😦

At the weekend, we headed a bit north for the birthday dinner and we stayed at a nice campsite, the Fir Tree Caravan Site near Banbury. They have a big field for walking us dogs and you can also head out into bigger walks, but we were only there one night so I didn’t get much chance to explore.

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Lovely evening – Poggle is the small grey blob behind the lake…

And – coming up to date – last week me ‘n’ Finzi headed over Stirling way to climb Lewis Hill at North Third reservoir. We had a lovely walk – I love walking through woods, and there’s a great view from the top of the hill. We were lucky to get there before the rain set in. Which it did. Very heavily!

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Shame you have to have rain to have a rainbow!

We did get very wet! But then it all cleared up and the sun came out, and we all dried off nicely.

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We were up there!

Well, we were drying off till us dogs decided to go for a paddle (me) and a swim (Finzi). Still, it was a lovely walk and we both slept all the way home!

That’s it for just now, hopefully I’ll persuade my typist to do a few more posts soon.

UPDATE: We went back to Mugdock today and the Castle Village is definitely taking shape:

Mind you, not all of them have back walls, just the front! And over the hill, there are more huts now:

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More huts and an enclosure…

UPDATE 2:

They’ve been busy at the Castle Village in Mugdock – filming starts soon!

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Agility with Poggle

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All last year, when we went to agility shows, we went for day trips. Most shows were at least an hour’s drive away. So that meant getting up REALLY early because the first classes are often around 8.15 or 8.30 and @HeatherAlex has to go walk the course before I get to run around it, and of course I have to have a toilet break before my run (cos if you “eliminate” – how posh – in the ring, you are eliminated from the class!).

This year, she decided that we would camp. I was thinking maybe a tent? I know she has one because she used to camp a lot when she was bagging the Munros. But I also wondered if she was a bit past that now, cos that was a long time ago! Turns out I was right. We have a tent on wheels!

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She’s called Poggle, and I’ve told you a bit about her before. Now we use Poggle to go to agility shows, and we can go a bit further afield now that we go on the Friday before the show starts (they’re mostly Saturdays and Sundays).

We never used to pay attention to the camping area, as we were always in day parking. It turns out that LOTS of people camp at agility shows. Way more than I realised.

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Look at all those people camping! This is at Scone in Perth.

We soon learned that you need more than a tent-on-wheels – you also need a garden πŸ™‚ Where else can I be let out to play or for my late night pee?? Ours is very nice and solid (that’s so I will bark less often at passing dogs – and there are LOTS of passing dogs – it doesn’t always work, mind you!).

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Poggle complete with garden πŸ™‚

It was very funny watching @HeatherAlex put it up for the first time at a show. She’d practiced in the garden, except our garden was too small for it so she gave up. Then she practiced with a friend who has the same fencing (and a larger garden). It all seemed straightforward, even if it did take a bit of time. There are lots of nails to hammer in and loopy bits to hold the fence on the posts.

But… at our first show with it, there was a bit of a breeze. And that was a different story completely. We had to get all four of the neighbour’s family to help hold it in place while the nails and loopy bits were sorted out. It was definitely time for BOL (Barking Out Loud) – the humans were laughing too! Good job it wasn’t raining…

We’ve got better at it now, I’m pleased to say. I say “we” because I am, of course, the supervisor while @HeatherAlex does the manual labour. At our last show, she put it up all by herself, even with a breeze πŸ™‚

I have to admit, I wasn’t too sure about what I’d think about Poggle and agility. I definitely don’t miss those early starts, especially as we sometimes had to do that twice in the one weekend. I have my own special seat with my old familiar car seat cover, fleece and seat belt harness. I’m allowed on the other seats and the bed when the fleece is there.

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We even have paw-printed vet bed as a carpet!

On the other hand, I really don’t like that nasty sparky gas thing used for cooking and I bark at that a lot. She’s started giving me treats to stop me barking – so now I bark for a bit and then stop to get the treats πŸ™‚

On the whole, you could say I’ve sort of got used to her, I think. There’s talk of us going for a longer trip in the autumn, so we will see how that works out and then I can report back!

 

 

Me’n’agility

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I can see I haven’t really written much about my agility adventures (I blame the typist) so by way of a catch-up…

We started going to training classes for fun and, I hear, to tire me out (nae chance!) in 2013. I really enjoyed it, even if I did get VERY dirty (it was in a horse arena full of dust and stuff).

The next year, we went to aΒ beginners’ class at a club (Gleniffer) which was outdoors so not as dirty (although the midges were vicious!). After that, we graduated to the intermediate class and then we were invited to join the club πŸ™‚

In 2015, we carried on training but @HeatherAlex was very nervous about actually entering competitions until finally I put my paw down and told her we needed to give it a go. So we entered one Kennel Club show and one fun show – we were pretty rubbish but it was good fun!

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At my one and only KC competition in 2015

Fnally, last year in 2016, we decided we’d give it a proper go and entered quite a few Kennel Club shows.

For those not familiar with agility, there are different organisations that run shows here in the UK but we’re registered with the Kennel Club (KC). I had to have a proper “KC name” so we came up with one that it turns out is quite hard to shout out at prizegivings (yep, we have won a few prizes). It’s “Clan Glengarry Twiglet”. Looks innocent enough, but try saying it quickly πŸ˜‰

To make things a bit fairer, you only compete against dogs who are roughly your size. I had to be measured and I’m a “Small” – most of us terriers are Smalls with a few Mediums. Whereas, for example, cocker spaniels seem to be mostly Mediums with a few Smalls.

At the moment, there are 7 grades in KC. Being new to agility, we started in Grade 1, aka “Elementary”. Experienced handlers have to start higher up the grading scheme to give newbies like us a fair chance! To move up a grade, you have to win an agility class or several jumping classes, which I started to do, but there’s a catch – it has to be a clear round (no knocked-over poles or mistakes in the weave or anything) and it has to be in the time that the judge has set as the course time. It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, as you can use another system on points for the lower grades, but we liked the “winning up” method! I did win a few rosettes but, for a while, I never quite managed to avoid having faults of one kind or another.

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My very first win – with faults – at Avon’s winter show

So it took us a while to move up to Grade 2, which is called “Starters”, though I do not know why since you don’t start there! The nice thing was, we won up to Grade 2 at our club’s summer show πŸ™‚

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Winning up to Grade 2 at Gleniffer’s summer show

When you win up, you don’t start competing at your new grade for 25 days – no idea why, but them’s the rules (which are here for anyone who is interested). It was a funny thing, but once we’d won up to Grade 2, I then had a stonking season and won up to each new grade at the first show we went to after the 25-day wait.

In case that sounds like I am boasting, I should add that for dogs competing at Small (and to an extent at Medium), it is WAY easier to move up the grades than it is for Large dogs. There are so many more Large dogs in classes – loads of Border Collies at every show. My classes might have anything from 4 dogs (yes, really) to 35 or 40 or so, where a Large class might have 180 or more! So there’s a lot more competition for the Large dogs to beat.

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Winning up to Grade 3 at Ayrshire show

By the end of the year, I’d won up to Grade 5. I was VERY proud of myself for that, even if it is easier for Smalls. I’d won lots of crystal glasses (no use to me) and even more trophies (no use to me either), but at one show I won loads of tuggy toys, so for once all the Christmas presents to the family dogs were actually from ME πŸ™‚

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All of my 2016 rosettes πŸ™‚

It really was a fab year, 2016, as it turned out I also won the Scottish Agility League class for Small dogs that started the year at Grade 1. And my club voted me the Best Small Dog of 2016 #proudears

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Scottish Agility League Small Grade 1 – the champ!

So that was my first proper year in agility… My next story will be about how much harder it has been in 2017, cos Grade 5 turned out to be a whole ‘nother ball game!

 

 

 

Meandering in Melrose

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In March, we went on our very first overnight trip in Poggle, staying in a small town in the Scottish Borders called Melrose. I’m happy to report that the trip was mostly okay though there were some scary bits…

@HeatherAlex quite sensibly decided that our first trip would be to a proper site, with water and toilets and electricity and all that (and a pub nearby!), just to make life easier on our first sleep-over. Mind you, someone got soaked trying to fill the water tank – a little matter of a high-pressure nozzle on the hose which did an imitation of a whirling dervish when the water was turned on! #chuckle

Once we’d parked up and she’d dried out a bit, we went out for a walk up some local hills called the Eildons – there are 3 tops to do, but we only did one of them.

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2 of the 3 tops (we only did the one on the left)

The start is quite steep, up a LOT of steps. Easy-peasy for me, of course…

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Someone (not me) was puffing by the top of these!

The lower slopes are covered in gorse.

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Look at all that rabbit-infested gorse πŸ˜‰

Fellow rabbiteers will know, like me, that gorse bushes are an amazing place to hunt out rabbits. Which made it very unfair that I was on the lead as soon as she spotted the gorse 😦

Now the path from the steps to the gorse was a bit muddy but, oh my goodness, the next section was a VERY muddy and slippery pathway, inches deep in orange mud. Now I don’t mind a bit of mud, I must confess, and I have 4 paws so I’m pretty sure-footed in amongst it, but it’s a lot harder for humans to keep their balance especially with me tugging on that lead. I think @HeatherAlex was worried about slipping over, which is why we only did one of the 3 tops. At least, that’s what she said – personally, I think she had run out of puff!

Once we were past the gorse, we did play quite a lot of Fetch with my ball so I did get a chance to run around a bit.

On the Eildon path

A quick break from chasing the ball to check for rabbits…

And then we were at the top!

I do manage a very nice Sit & Wait πŸ™‚

Coming down was every bit as muddy and slippery, not to mention rabbit-less thanks to my lead, but we made it in the end. We went to the pub for “a swift half and a chew” (I’ll let you work out who had what!), but it was very crowded and noisy, thanks to the Scotland-England rugby match being on the tv. Don’t ask me about the score, it’s still a sore point… So we wandered around Melrose for a while before tea – there’s a nice abbey but we didn’t go in.

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Melrose Abbey

The actual sleeping-over was okay, to my surprise. It was like a proper bed with all our usual blanket, fleece & so on, so it was more or less like home. The only bit I really really didn’t like was when @HeatherAlex went off to the toilets in the morning, and I started being a bit frightened and shivery till she got back.

We were going home that day (it really was a short trip) but we managed to fit in a walk by the river before we left.

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We’re headed for that bridge…

Tweed banks

I do love walking beside a river…

All too soon, it was time to turn around and head back to Poggle.

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Can you read the notice? No horses or cattle, no loitering or jumping, and no more than 8 people at a time…

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And there are the Eildons again…

We headed home after that walk, happy that we’d survived our first stay in Poggle!

First forays in the van

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To be honest, the first time I was in the new van wasn’t exactly a foray as we didn’t move from the driveway. It was more a getting-to-know-you sort of a visit with Poggle.

The people had bubbly drinks and some crisps, and I had one of my favourite chews and some of their crisps. But it was bloomin’ cold, cos someone (naming no names) hadn’t managed to get the heating working*. So cold that everyone had their hats and coats on, and it wasn’t long before we came inside to the warm πŸ™‚

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Time to give up and head indoors!

But then we went for a proper day trip with Poggle to visit Aberfoyle. We picked it because it has a HUGE car park which meant we might not bump into anything πŸ™‚

We went with our friends Morna and Finzi, and we all behaved very well in the van. Finzi was on a rug on the floor and I was with Morna on the front passenger seat, watching the world from much higher than normal – I could see over hedges and everything!

The walk was fine, quite a lot of it on a track so I had to be on the lead and then we got to a loch and it got more interesting. For a start, I love sniffing around picnic tables in case people have dropped any food…

Not much to eat at this picnic table 😦

And then we found some metal wildlife! It’s all part of the Sculpture Trail (I’ve described the Loch Ard sculptures in some of my Big Walk posts) but we’d never been to this bit of it.

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There’s a big fish jumping out of the water!

 

dragonfly sculpture

…and a giant dragonfly hovering about the loch…

 

eagle sculpture

…and a massive bird on a pole

It was a very nice walk, we had some treats and then it was back to Poggle for the drive home. All in all, I quite liked my day out in Pog, so maybe I’ll enjoy her a bit more now.

Next, we’re going to try staying overnight in Poggle – wonder if I will like that?!? I very much hope the heating will be working!

 

* In fact, she spent the next 2 days worrying that she’d broken it until she realised she’d just done things in the wrong order (apparently there’s a lot you have to do EXACTLY right or it doesn’t work!)

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