COUNTING THE COSTS OF TRAVEL
First of all, my new superduper cheap silcone cake tray arrived, so I had great fun making muffins - 18 at a time (6 in the one I already had), all different types. We're still eating muffins - hot, cold, with custurd, without custard... you get the picture. I made a load of muffins!
This, of course, does not bode well for the frugal fitness plan of getting slim and trim for the big May Challenge!
We managed to fight our way to the start of the summit track despite deep mud. We managed to get through the forest despite the persistant drizzle and squelchy paths underfoot. We managed to cross the windswept logging track and ascend further up the hill, wading our way through what can only be described as a riverbed of slush and fast flowing meltwater that was worsening by the minute. The horizontal, wind-driven rain was battering into us! We even managed to clear the zigzags higher up, despite the swirling mists and driving rain, but then the freezing fog, high winds and snow began closing in on us and we thought better of it.
About one single kilometre from the summit, we had to turn back. Downwards through the snow then fog and rain, saturated and in need of a cup of the by now, cold tea. And just to rub salt in the wound of our failed attempt... WE WERE PASSED BY A RUNNER! Well! I'm not sure about you or anyone else, but I erupted into fits of the disbelieving giggles and simply had to sidetrack the guy for a photo. So here it is - my friend 'Woo' with the crazy runner who said that after eight different ascents of Cairnsmore of Fleet, he was yet to see the view from the summit!
After almost 5 hours of walking, soaked through, we had to visit the supermarket on the way home and do the grocery shopping. It was horrible! The shelves were bare and there were no reduced items!
This being the year I challenge the household to live without a car, travel is severely restricted. I can venture only as far as my secondhand bike or legs will carry me... or as far as a friend will drive.
Being without a car hasn't really hampered us on the 'getting out and about' front because there's plenty to do and see about here. Since last weekend, we have visited several lots of interesting standing stones, for example.
The site known as Torhouse is the furthest we have managed to go so far, at just over 11 miles from here. On a dry day, which it was, there's plenty of scope for picnics and exploring the archaeology of the place, including a large stone circle, a rather interesting looking rocky ridge and several other standing stones nearby.
There are many strange stone feature strewn about our local landscape. Some are said to be marking the graves of long-forgotten kings, some the remnants of pagan ritual sites and others as hilltop markers from days gone by, probably lookout points during times of warring or religious oppression.
It's not like I get out and about on shopping trips - no shops here - nor do I get away for many day trips when there's no public transport here, so it's all very frugal, by way of visiting places that are free to explore.
Surprisingly, we have few forests around us here in this little part of Scotland, so it was lovely to spot a red squirrel last week. Not surprisingly, I wanted to go and look for more, so the bikes were utilised again, but this time in a more off-road sor of a way. It's a shame to think that this forest may soon become the site of a windfarm, but it's equally a shame that so few people visit. Perhaps more will if they build their massive wind turbines and lay in proper bridleways or footpaths! In the meantime, I shall continue to collect fallen pinecones and watch the local planning application updates with interest.
Getting further afield is difficult without engaging the help of a friend or hiring the services of a third part. I could, of course, walk the mile and a bit along the lane to the main road, where there is a daily bus into the ferry town of Stranraer, about 25 miles from here. This I will try very soon, I just need to check they haven't changed the bus timetables or it could turn into a very expensive mistake if the need for a taxi arose. It would cost me more than a week's grocery budget to get a taxi from there! But I do want to explore the possibilities, especially as that's the location of our nearest railway station.
That's what those in power want us to do, isn't it? Car share, walk, cycle and/or use public transport? Afterall, the pavements, paths, cycle routes, buses and trains are all publicly funded or subsidised by the taxpayers' dosh, are they not? Just like our British farm produce is Government subsidised, yet frugal lifers cannot afford to buy it, nor rural lifers find it to buy it. But we should be grateful that somebody somewhere benefits! (I'm not even going to start on the horsemeat 'scandal', it's all old hat to those of us who campaigned about it in the 80s.)
For now, I am going to focus on how much money can be saved by giving up the car. Savings are two-fold, as there's the financial aspect (tax, insurance, servicing, repairs and fuel) and the carbon footprint/environmental issues, which have to count for something.
So here we are, living life without a car. It should be great, we should be fit, healthy and save a small fortune. Unless, of course, you live in a rural area where there is no public transport, there are no pavements or proper footpaths and no shops to visit for the weekly groceries even if there were cycle routes to get there. Add to that the winter weather that sometimes makes walking unsafe, far less cycling, and you can see that it's not all that it's cracked up to be - there's no help available from anyone. But the car has long gone, so we have lost the option to backtrack on this challenge.
I need to get used to cycling. After about 12 weeks of weather-induced, sporadic practice, I have managed to achieve a distance of about 20 miles. It isn't quite far enough to visit the nearest Co-op but it's enough to reach the nearest village store.
Today... my bike has a flat tyre and is in need of new back brake pads. Our nearest bike shop - a little local one run from the back yard of the owner's house - is 23 miles round trip! I've contacted them and am hoping the puncture repair holds for long enough to let me practice cycling that far and then cycling that far, when I can pay for something called 'slime' to be put in my tyre tubes. It's meant to provide up to 3 years of puncture free cycling. While there, I can get new brake pads and a shopping basket fitted to the front. I'll budget £50 for this, as that's almost the cost of an MOT but should last me for a long time. Now to raise the extra £50!
Isn't it great when the Government of your own country overlooks the fact that Britain has rural communities made up of people who don't necessarily have the financial ability to just pay someone to 'fix' their problems? The simple solution may well be to go and find a better paid job but I ask you, where does one find a well-paid job in a rural location, or even a job that's within walking or cycling distance of home?
HOME is about the only place we can work, unless we want to be dragged into the benefits system or burn a few thousand pounds each year on car travel and everything else required of employment.
Back to the day in hand.
An emergency DIY puncture repair was done and then we cycled around the 'short' circuit, which is a fairly scenic, seven point something mile trip around single track lanes beginning and ending along the road running parallel with the loch. The sun was shining, there were loud gaggles of Greylag geese by the water and the tyre stayed inflated, so that was my little bit of excitement for this afternoon.
Now I am off out for a walk to stretch my legs and fit a short hillclimb into the exercise regime. Ben Nevis may be over 200 miles away and over 4,000 feet higher than any hill about here but we all need to start somewhere and 'free & local' is what's on the frugal fitness menu.
Until next time,