On the 4cm to 1km map there is clearly a path marked. I could not put my hand on my heart and say that I ever found it. The idea was to have the smallest of adventures. For an hour or two I would just take my camera for a walk along the smallest of rivers.
We had come across the woodland at Humbie and the river in the valley, on one of our bivvy nights. The river was deep down in the cleft of a hill. It must be dryer or sandy soil as unusually for this area these were Beech trees, and fine broad specimens they were. There was a path, but it quickly becomes too overgrown for pushing through with a bike. The intriguing thing is, I know the woodland at the far end as the river runs through Saltoun Big Wood, but I have no idea how the land links together. The large-scale map names several small woods that merge along the river bank; The Roundel Wood, Church Wood, Highlea Wood, Humbie Wood and finally Saltoun Forest. All within a 2 mile run of this small river.
This is steep ground, untamed by the plough, but still commercial wood that shows signs of coppice and management. A source of wood for barns, farm houses, gates and fencing, and perhaps small game for the pot. I love these types of broadleaf woodland at any time of year.
When I was here last the leaves were an unnatural green, a Fuji green. All so perfect and Spring new. It has calmed now, but the ground vegetation is far more lush and much higher. The first part of the walk is easy. Within a few hundred metres I think I had lost the map-marked path and things became a scramble. I wanted to document the walk and was stopping to take photos every few dozen steps.
Here was none around just the mark of dog paws and stout walking boots in the mud. A child’s plastic sword was the only litter that I came across. Snagged in a pool, a game abandoned and possibly tears. It was warm, certainly warm for Scotland and as I worked to push through branches there was the horrid combination of sweat and flies, and lots of both. I had to crawl under low branches to work hard, to taste sap and soil. There should be the remains of a railway viaduct that spans the river. I never found it, never got that far.
My top was drenched now and sticking to my back under the small rucksack. Still the river, where it choose to show itself, was perfect. Small scale and utterly beautiful and as fine as any great river in any National Park. I used to own some land that had two small rivers like this and I would put on my wellies and walk them with the aid of my stick. It was Canyoning on a micro scale and I loved it.
I take more photos. Each time I stop to compose I am mobbed to the point of temper tantrums by flies. The light is green tinged and perfect, the air full of earth smells and hints of river smells. There are places to note for future camps and bivvy nights in this intimate wood. The trees become thicker, the bank more steep, footing less sure. I make a decision to move away from the river and I take the last photo. There is deep thick conifers I have to crawl through. I head higher and to flat land and light.
Sweat is dripping down into my eyes and I have lost the lens cap from my camera with no hope of finding it. A field boundary with barley sown the other side. I can see the runs of deer and badger as they move into the woodland. I have to climb over the fence and brush through nettles and of course I get stung. Tram-lines and I have to walk in vectors to curve back to where I started. Finally a road, but it is a dead end and possibly private, so I do not recognise where I have returned to the world. I know I need to go right and I can still see the woodland. I pick up a road that I recognise and then a track back to Humbie church where I have parked the car.
I have been away two hours, possibly a little more and I have seen and experienced beautiful things. You could possibly call it an adventure and I certainly got lost an a small unthreatening way. Next time I will try to link things from the opposite direction and walk upstream. I may even bring some wellies and do micro canyoning.