It All Began With…


Three and a half years of boredom to be exact!

Every day The Fatdog and I ambled from the house a hundred metres or so into what once had been the extensive and well manicured grounds of the old Bellsdyke Hospital…”the Loony Bin”, as it was referred to in my youth.  Now a crumbling relic of what had been a massive institution complete with football ground, cricket pitch and tearoom, the pathways, crumbling buildings and open fields were now the domain of dogwalkers, mini-motorbikers, kite flyers and various other groups all in search of a chunk of off-road space.

For the young Maisie it was a wonderful place of adventure filled with packs of friendly mutts, all more than willing to play chase and create as much mischief as would be allowed by their owners.  As well as the amiable packs of dogs there were the equally amiable packs of owners.  Countless hours we wandered through the old grounds from 2003 to 2006, rarely missing a day.  It wasn’t exciting but it was…comfortable.  Too comfortable, it turned out.  Mid way through 2006 we discovered that our little dog walking haven was to be sold off for housing.

While the loss of the open land was nothing short of a disaster I had been becoming increasingly bored with the daily plodding routine, especially at the weekends.  Surely we could do something a little bit more exciting?  The germ of an idea was planted that summer a few thousand miles away on the edge of the Canadian “bush” on the north shore of Lake Superior.

We’d been in Canada in July of 2006…for a burial!  Yes, you read correctly…a burial.  Sadly my uncle, who had lived in Canada since the 1950’s, had died the year before.  My aunt had delayed interring his ashes until the following summer when all the family could attend and so J and I found ourselves well off the tourist track in the mining town of Schreiber, fringing on the great wilderness that sits to the north of the lake.  The whole trip was filled with tales of the great Canadian outdoors…skidoo trekking, wilderness walking, photography…it was inspiring.  It was only when I came home I realised that Scotland could offer a scaled down version of what was available in northern Ontario.  It was time to take a big step forwards.  Or should I say…upwards.

At this point in time I knew absolutely nothing about hillwalking.  I recalled conquering our local high spot, The Meikle Bin in the Campsies, during a snow-drenched expedition with the school in the late 1960’s but that was about it.  It appeared that the Meikle Bin was the logical place to begin our adventures so, armed with my birthday money, I headed to the nearest outdoor store and purchased an OS map, a compass, a rucksack, boots and a jacket.  Luckily FD seemed to require nothing other than her ever-present black fur coat and a bag of Bonios.  Attired and provisioned we set out together on Sunday 27th August 2006 on an incredible journey that would last a further five and a half years.