MIDGE HORDES AT CLATTERINGSHAWS

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What with one thing and another, 2020 has been something of a strange and challenging year. I think it’s fair to say that it’ll almost certainly be remembered for all the wrong reasons. But those issues and challenges facing the world at large are not what I’m here to dwell on; we’re now halfway through the year, and I’ve decided it’s high time I made some changes to this blog.

Previously known as ‘Peter’s Cruise Blog’, it will now, as its new name implies, encompass all my travels (or at least all those I want to put into words and keep a written memory of). I will, as I have always done, keep a record of all future trips I do while running painting workshops on cruise ships (even though, as I write this, I’m a little uncertain as to when this will happen again – in the meantime, there are vast archives of my previous cruising adventures for those wishing to dig around). I also plan to write up our adventures in our trusty campervan, and to keep a record of major walks/sketching trips out and about. Naturally, my plans are for it to tie-in with my artistic endeavours, but also, quite simply to share my love of the great outdoors, and the need to keep on moving (one day they’ll catch up with me). I’ve also given the blog something of a makeover… I hope you like it…

This afternoon, we headed out to the Visitor Centre at Clatteringshaws Loch in the middle of Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway – a good two and a half hours drive from home. The Forestry and Land Commission of Scotland have introduced a trial ‘Stay the Night‘ scheme – whereby, for the remainder of 2020, motorhomes and campervans will be allowed to park overnight at a small selection of their forest car parks. Stayovers are free at present, but a small fee will be introduced later. Travellers are only allowed to stay a single night, in recreational vehicles that are completely self-contained, with their own facilities (no tents or cars).

With thirty rural car parks to choose from, we decided a return to this beautiful, South-West area of Scotland was long overdue, and an excellent excuse for a couple of nights ‘wildcamping’. Our last visit was in 2015, when the weather wasn’t particularly in our favour.

Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre car park is located literally right alongside the shores of the loch. We arrived at around 6:30pm (the ‘Stay the Night’ period is 6pm until 10am), in time to get a good parkup spot. We finished up sharing the car park with about 7 other motorhomes – but we were also in time to be devoured by midges.

With dinner in the oven and an hour to kill, we took a short walk along the shoreline path towards Rob Roy’s Stone, but didn’t quite make it, what with the hordes of the little critters threatening to strip us to the bone.

On our return to the van, we didn’t really think it through; opening and closing the sliding door to let us in should have been a swift, almost seamless, operation – in essence; get in before the midges realise their opportunity. Sadly, our operation was slow and not well conceived at all, which allowed far more of the tiny maneaters into our private space than we’d bargained for.

Note to selves… we need a ‘midge zapper’, and also… if we really must come back to Scotland at the height of the midge season (July, August and September being the worst), we need to dig out our trusty midge nets.

Having reduced the number of midges in the van by taking them on in hand-to-hand combat, the only time I then left the van before it got dark was to take the photograph of the sunset over the loch. It’s very difficult to take a good, steady photograph while both your arms are flailing around…

Peter Woolley

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