A significant group turned out for another Warts' adventure. The book was signed and the count revealed 14 of us but, as another Wart appeared from the misty gloom, it became 15, I think. The group welcomed back Penny, just returned from New Zealand to start her third winter in succession, what a stalwart! Cap'n Harmer was on Majorcan sunshine duty (and suffering a jelly fish sting) though no doubt he would have been missing the glorious drizzle being lavished upon us in the Ouzledon. His route responsibilities were taken over by Tom and Carl and Kirsty and Lucy and Tim.
With excited anticipation, we sprinted (it felt like that to me) up the main track before branching (this word would come to haunt us later) to the left up through the woods and up Alport Grain, though there was a hint of doubt over whether we had gone up the right stream. No matter, there was a concerted effort then to reach the paved (!) Alport edge path. Yes, despite years of the Cap'n's dire warnings, “road runners!”, we trod the paving stones to regather at the start of the descent to Alport.
It was then that the chickens came home to roost as Graeme limped along after slipping in the gaps between the paving stones and twisting his ankle. Maps and advice emerged, the “smooth” and longish route down to the Westend and then back along the road, was recommended. Tom gave up his map and we left Graeme to fend for himself. So then we were about 14.
The plan was to cross the Alport and head for the dark, dark wood but by now we had been out for an hour so, at the river crossing, we decided to go up the valley and then to the Tower in Alport Castles. Tim led us up and across the river again for a pleasant climb over pasture then an unpleasant tramp through wood brashings to the lower rocky slopes of the Tower. Kirsty and Lucy took us up the rock climb to the top where whisky and jelly sweets were gratefully taken. Looking back from the top, the string of lights never fails to impress.
Onward and upward, we reached the edge path and it was now only a short direct hop across the moor and through the woods to the cars. But, but, spectacularly deep heather (there were a few fallers) were only a taste of things to come in the Ouzeldon wood. As Tom remarked, the wood was the place that time had forgotten with fallen trees and branches, helpfully covered in slimy moss, and swamps laid out for our enjoyment, all whilst we contoured on a steep hillside. To generate any sort of pace through this Amazonian jungle, we developed a stooped, hurdling style. The sound of a stream appeared to be fading from us, so, on the basis that all streams went towards the cars, we descended back into the stream, crossing it a few times before reaching open ground (a relative term) for a disappointingly short time though rewarded with the sight of an owl.
Back to the broken branches and fallen trees, when a sort of embankment running suspiciously parallel to our direction, was spotted on our left. This was the track! It seemed that, in a few minutes on the track, we covered the same distance as we had made in the last 30 minutes of jungle. By this time, and, almost as usual, the group was no more, having split up into two's and three's. However, back at the cars, everyone was accounted for in the book, including Graeme who had by now, not only limped back from Westend, but had driven home! It was generally agreed that the night's outing ranked highly on the Harmerian index of warting.