Mini Adventure #1 - Tentsmuir

Planning And Preparation 

I've been planning a #miniadventure with my daughter since last year but never really got round to it, I knew I wanted to do it while she was young enough to find it exciting and before she realised that I'm not 'cool'.

A few improvements to the bike had to be made before it was ready for our arduous journey, including fitting of mudguards, a Surley Nice Rack 2.0  front rack and new grips. This was achieved with a minimum amount of swearing and fettling bits to fit; I'd class that as a success.

Friday night was spent looking out camping kit and packing it, unpacking, repacking and realising that even the relatively flat 8 miles I had planned each way were going to be a challenge for my legs and the structural integrity of my dads 30 year old Specialized Rockhopper. I could barely lift the bike once it was laden and that didn't include Lana on top!

I went to bed full of anticipation for the following day's adventure and had slightly strange, vivid fear of the dark dreams; hopefully not a bad omen........

The beast of burden ready for action.

And They're Off!

Saturday came and a late start was enforced as Kate was sleeping off a night shift, not too much of a problem and heavy showers were coming through most of the morning.  Late afternoon came, the rain stopped and we were ready to set off for Tentsmuir forest.

The bike felt pretty unhappy making low speed maneuvers for photos but nothing seemed like it was going to fall off, so we tentitively set off down the street; "Go fast daddy!" was the shout from Lana.

Only two miles of our planned 8 were on quiet-ish roads throught Wormit and Newport, after that we were onto the cycle path to Tayport; this lead us all the way to the boundary of Tentsmuir forest, where I had roughly planned a camp spot.

With the road and bike path successfully navigated without the bike snapping in half, we arrived at Tentsmuir and set off into the woods.

Into The Woods

Up until this point the bike had been perfect and the riding had been easy going but it was away to get a bit trickier on the fire trails and single track of Tentsmuir forest. 

I aimed for the first section of single-track trail; bouncing over rocks and through mud, wrestling to control our overloaded Rockhopper on it's big slick tyres. Familiar single-tracks, normally tackled flat out turned into a serious challenge, even small roots that would have been unnoticed on any normal day in the woods now saw me tense up as I awaited the inevitable pinch flat that never came. 

A few challenging miles later we arrived at my planned camp site but it was quickly discounted on  the grounds of ground conditions; too bumpy, too sloped or too woody, according to Lana.

On we rode, we were onto paths that I hadn't ridden before and with large dark clouds looming overhead I was starting to lose confidence that a suitable pitch could be found, was this all a terrible idea? Why didn't I just drive like a normal person? Was I going to have to go home defeated? 

Base Camp

Base Camp.

And then Success, right at the boundary of the nature reserve, a flat spot with stunning views over the estuary, far enough from the water to not worry about the tide and close enough to the trees for the hammock, it was perfect!

One excited little girl.

The sky was darkening so we set to work making camp as quickly as possible, Lana ferrying the bags and passing pegs as I pitched the tent. Everything went together easily and soon we were unpacking our sleeping kit inside, a quick test snuggle in the sleeping bag and it was time to cook.

A new gas canister foot for my MSR pocket rocket and a pizo igniter were rock solid upgrades, making cooking on the stove much more stable and easy to light. The wee pocket rocket performed like a champ with our pasta cooked in double quick time and ready to serve just as the rain started to fall.

We retreated into the tent to shovel tasty fusilli pesto with chopped tomatoes into our gobs by the sporkful. The rain battering of the flysheet of our tent was the perfect soundtrack to dinner.


Pasta devoured, Lana's mind quickly turned to the long promised toasted marshmallows! The rain was still threatening so I rigged up the hammock and tarp to provide some shelter with a view of the river then fired up the Pocket Rocket again. Even set to a peep, marshmallows were quickly incinerated and then just as quickly scoffed; burnt tongues couldn't hold us back!

Parents take note, a promise of sugary treats is never forgotten; at this point Lana also remembered she was due another treat for being a brave camper! Back to the tent to make the hot chocolate, shelter from another rain shower then outside to watch the shower recede into the distance and sip our chocolate milk.

Fear Of The Dark

Finally sleep beckoned, we clambered into our bags and with the rain pattering on the tent once again we tried in vain to get to sleep; marshmallows and hot chocolate were not my friend at this point but I persisted.

Just as we're drifting off to sleep a ray of sun blasts through the vent at the bottom of the tent and Lana's eyes light up; "We have to go outside Daddy!"

The rain has passed, so on with the boots and outside to watch the sunset behind the Dundee skyline, a perfect end to a fun afternoons adventure!

"It's so beautiful!" 

"It's so beautiful Daddy!"

Sunset below the horizon and it was time to hit the sack again.

Both of us started out too hot, unzipped our bags, then got too cold and zipped up again for the perfect temperature and a solid night's sleep.

Good Morning Tentsmuir

The sun woke us as it broke the clouds around 7am and we were up for another round of hot chocolate, cereal and bread burn on the stove (otherwise known as toast).

Just as I started breaking camp my dad appeared over the dune, having cycled from his house early doors and just in time; him and Lana explored the dunes as I broke camp and re-loaded the beast of burden.

Back up the dune and we were away, the 8 miles home passed quickly to shouts of; "faster daddy, Papa is winning!"

I cannot recommend enough doing this sort of trip with your young ones, obviously YMMV but we had a blast and she's still talking about it today. Time to plan the next trip!

Total time door to door was only 18 hours!





Look Up - Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid Meteor shower is one of the most reliable and spectacular annual astrological events that can see in the northern hemisphere, excitingly, I found out last night we can see it right on our door stop here in Fife! It peaks every year around this time ( July 17 to Aug. 24 this year) as the earth passes through the trail of dust left behind the Comet Swift-Tuttle, one of the largest objects to regularly pass close to planet earth.

The peak of the meteor activity was forecast around the 11th of August but with clear skies and an early moonset on the 8th, it seemed like a good opportunity to spot a few meteors. I needed dark skies with a view North East to see the constellation Perseus and didn't want to drive for hours so decided to try Tentsmuir forest. I was also scared to go out on my own into the woods, so called my friend Adam to use as zombie bait ;)

Adam testing out the DD Hammocks for comfort..... getting into a hammock isn't as easy as you might imagine as Adam will attest!

Parking at the East end of Tayport and walking 10 minutes to the edge of the woods, we found a good spot for our hammock, with a good view of the sky and not too much light pollution. Even though the sun set around 9 PM it wouldn't be until after 11 before the stars were really visible.

To pass a bit of time before it got properly dark we pitched my DD Hammocks camping hammock, a great way to watch the sky in comfort and really easy to put up, just make sure your knots are going to be easy to untie after they have tightened up on themselves (note to self!)

Looking up through the trees.

Exit stage right.

Can you find the meteor?

As the sunset eventually faded our choice of viewpoint was confirmed as a winner, with Perseus clearly visible along with the milky way rising in the East it couldn't have been much better. The tiny specks of dust burning up in the earths atmosphere put on a fantastic show, at times 10-15 meteors a minute!

It's a truly special and humbling experience to stand under a million star sky and feel you existence dwarfed into insignificance by the sheer scale of it all. To have a clear view of the meteor shower at the same time is the icing on the cake but the stars alone are worth the effort.

  Shooting above the trees and a touch of milky way.

These shots were all around 20 seconds exposure to keep the stars as points and limited ISO and aperture to stop the light pollution from blowing out the details. With a wider lens or a star tracker far longer exposures would be possible and more meteors visible.

  Five meteors in this frame. 

Shooting over the Fife.

There are multiple dark skies parks / areas in Scotland where the sky is almost totally free of light pollution but even as close by as Tentsmuir woods you can see some pretty awe inspiring stuff.

Amazing views despite a little light pollution.

All you need is clear skies, warm clothes and a friend to use as zombie bait, now get outside and go find some darkness, it's illuminating!

Look up!

Update 12/08/2016

After seeing just how much of the night sky was visable on Monday,  I ventured out again on Thursday night hoping to catch the peak of the activity, scheduled for that night.

A couple of frustrating hours of looking up at clouds eventually gave way to clear skies and the Milky Way again visible in the South East. My glamorous location was this time round was the lay-by between Newport and Tayport.

Deep field telescope.

Deep field telescope.

Meteor trail heading East. 

Meteor trail heading East. 

Milky way rising.

Milky way rising.

Sky Lines 

Sky Lines 

Fifty Shades of Tay

The Silvery Tay, also available is brown, blue, grey and orange.

Reflecting the lights of Dundee on a still night or awash with white horses when the wind runs against the tide.

It's my constantly changing companion and subject.

Tide and time wait for no man, so check out my full gallery of river Tay images below!