Norman’s Law, Marilyn #936, 285m
With this unseasonable weather the temptations to get to the top of a hill have been overwhelming. Despite niggles and difficult side-effects of the medication, my fitness levels are improving – although not yet so far that I could attempt even the most straightforward Munro (Meall Cuiach).
Apart from the anomalous bulk of the Lomond Hills, which are visible from almost every summit in the Grampians and southern highlands, there are many prominent hills in Fife, many of which afford splendid views over a subtly beautiful landscape of rolling hills, mixed farmland, heath and woodland. The ridge along the north of the county affords excellent views of the Tay Estuary and the hills and mountains to the north. Ever since my success on Green Craig at the end of January, I have had my sights set on Norman’s Law.
Martyn and Coll arrived at one, in time for soup before the walk. We parked near the spot height at 143m on the road between Brunton and Newburgh and followed the track to where it splits, either towards Luthrie or along the Fife Coastal Path. We followed neither, but instead walked through an empty field and steeply towards a gate, which we crossed into a pasture populated by a flock of pregnant ewes, who were initially startled, but soon formed a firm phalanx, observing closely as we walked past at a distance in the direction of an easy place through the fence onto the final plod up the hill. Happily Coll has absolutely no interest in sheep, only rodents hiding in long grass, and when available, hare.
At the 285m summit we sat for a while in the still air, admiring the views and chatting. Suddenly I caught sight of a bird of prey, gliding beneath us, disappearing under the edge of the hill. Perhaps a harrier I suggested. Martyn was quick with the binoculars and caught sight of it again as it emerged briefly back into view. Immediately he exclaimed that it was an owl, a short eared owl! I had by now found my little telescope and we both scanned the air beneath us and from time to time glimpsed its thorough aerial surveillance. And as we descended along the eastern path we caught sight of it again, parsing the ground beneath in search of rodents. Coll was doing much the same, but with his nose and ears and at ground level. At one point we got a marvellous view of the bird – definitely a short eared owl – gliding over the field of sheep below, heading purposefully towards an area of felled woodland, whereupon it dropped quickly to the ground and disappeared from view. Coll also caught at least one small rodent amongst the long grass.
The descent has a couple of scrambly bits, but nothing that taxed my experience or threatened to inflame my back pain. My body appears now to be working well under the control of the medication; I can walk for reasonable distances, albeit at a slower pace than before, for up to two and half hours without feeling anything but ordinary fatigue. The only restriction of which I am conscious is a reluctance to take myself to places where I might stumble and then be obliged to move my body suddenly in such a way that it jolts my back. This is a very powerful motivator, both mental and physical; my intentions are naturally never again to do anything that might reproduce the pain I experienced before I was admitted to hospital, my body too has also learned, instinctively holding itself in such a way that it will be safe. My posture is on the whole good. The only times I feel anything like pain in my lower back now is if I have been sitting badly for too long or awaken, dribbling on a chair, having fallen asleep in the wrong position, but always this is relieved with rest and good exercise. The only movement I definitely cannot make is to lift anything heavier than a newspaper from ground level, and the only position I cannot assume is to bend over at an angle similar to that I adopted when I was riding a bike. My body has learned and my mind is sharply motivated.
At the foot of the hill we turned left back along the track to the car and returned home for tea and cake, where we checked out the bird books; definitely a short eared owl. Although I could take no photo, I still have an image in my mind’s eye, looking through my monocular, of the bird gliding towards us, its big round face and deep dark eyes continuously scanning the ground, held aloft by effortless wings, silently and almost invisibly in search of a meal. A wonderful vision of natural bodily coordination and control from which to take inspiration.
Thanks to Martyn and Coll for another fine day out.