Archive for category Blairgowrie

River Ericht Freezing

Just got back in from a walk. This was taken at about 4.15 pm. Ice forming on the edges of the River Ericht Blairgowrie. Same forming on the opposite bank.

ce on the River Ericht

Picture taken on night time distant scenery setting with flash. Camera hand held but held very steady during the time taken for exposure. The sky looking darker than in the photo. The lights in the distance are Blairgowrie


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A few videos people have made of and around Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland. God made round here first then used the bits left over so make the rest of the world. These are a tribute to our home.

For more please also visit

For Coupar Angus, this is a video that takes in the road movie concept.

The Coupar Angus Horse Fair is backed and supported by experts from the equine world and with knowledge of native Scottish breeds. These are notes from my own area of interest dogs, more specificlly the Scottish Working Bearded Collie.

This is an article that starts to reconcile many areas. The evolution and ecology of the breed, in relation to it’s natural environment, changes in and the history of farming, geography, psychology and training.  


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Ecological Repairs

Even joinery and renovation should be considered ecological and sustainable.

A client who I was doing some garden construction for, (a rubble site to a self managing sustainable garden) told me his garage window was rotten and would have to get a new one and get someone to fix it and paint it.

To me this made no sense. Why consume all those resources when it could be repaired and last as long as a new one, or longer? So I told him I could repair it and he would never know it from a new one.

First the rotten sill was taken back to good wood. Accurate use of a chisel work.

old sill cut back to good wood

old sill cut back to good wood

Then we construct a new part.

Garden, landscape and enovation 009 

For repairs, renovation and maintenance contact Roger at Celtic Lion.

Call back to see the finished work prepared and painted.

garden project client record 004

garden project client record 005

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What A Beautiful Day, A Humpin’ an’ a Shovin’

Well apart from the work on global development I have to have balance in my life. being a relatively skinny 6ft and 16 stone I love gettin’ down and dirty with construction work and associated things. So I have been landscaping a garden. I am really proud of it, it will be ecological and beautiful. I’ll have to post some pictures of the before and after and the bit in between.

One benefit of sometimes working on your own is you don’t have to bother with some of the health and safety stuff. Some people spend money  going to the gym. Me I like carrying 3 by 2 slabs and laying them. With the problems Blairgowrie police have given me I had been scared to go out. The last time they attacked me I didn’t defend myself and got hurt.

So what if they do it again. Should I defend myself. If someone was attacked by 3 muggers, or they stopped someone else being attacked, and they say threw assailants  over a fence they would be considered a hero. But what happens when someone is attacked by 3 police officers and they did the same. They would be a criminal and convicted for assault. So I hadn’t been out. Not matter how much you know if the police attack you not to defend yourself. Deep down you are over riding your basic instinct for self protection.  What would happen if I did defend myself? So I never went out so that scenario would never have to be explored.

Anyway after the lovely visit to Alva to see all the Bearded Collies, then a walk in the country and a couple of short bikes rides I started feeling better. Staying in affects your health and well being. Time to reverse that. So a bit of gardening was the next logical step on such a gorgeous day.

So I saw Alan and we arranged to pick up some horse manure for me to prepare the soil where I am going to lay the lawn. We had got a load before Christmas with his Peugeot 6o something and trailer. He had got a new Citroen C5 now. Off to the farm and it looked dry and fine. We loaded up the trailer and tried to pull away. Car and trailer were going no where.

For some reason it looked like the two cars had a slightly different weight bias and the front tyres of the C5 wouldn’t grip on the slight but grassy slope. Still Alan, I have to give him his due wouldn’t give up. For more than 30 minutes we tried to move it no luck. Eventually we found that if he could move it a foot, with the front end sliding side to side if I got my spade and removed the top inch of grassy soil, where the wheel next went we could slowly inch it forward.

“Get out of the way” yelled Alan. The wheels though turning at 20 mph were not gripping and the set up was stationary. Now they had found grip. Alan couldn’t stop he had to keep going. The small track was bound on one side by the midden on the other by a long pile of rubble and stones. I couldn’t jump out the way, if I lost my footing I would have slide back into the path of the car and trailer.

Carrying my spade I ran, pursued by Alan doing an impression of Sebastian Loeb the car slewing from side to side and on the loose but here muddy bits. Suddenly it all came to a halt. The back of the trailer had grounded. Alan dug that out while I removed a large rock which simultaneously had wedged one of the back wheels.

Now the final challenge, the last bit of the hill from a standing dead start. The engine revving the combination moved 18 inches then started to slide back. I got behind the trailer. With a good solid grip for my feet I could get low with my face only a few feet from the ground. My hands on the trailer, it was like horizontal weight lifting. I held the weight of trailer and car sliding on to me. Then the front wheels found grip, then I pushed and drove forward to assist the engine. Then the set up would start to slide back, I had to hold the weight so we didn’t lose all the distance we had made. Slowly Alan, the car and myself got a rhythm. 18 inches forward then slide back a foot, then grip and push push push another 18 inch. Then hold the slide then another push and another 18 inches. We were not going to unload this trailer or get help.

I was back at school, a tight head prop. Not just wanting that couple of feet to get the ball, but desiring to destroy their scrum and drive them the length of the field and destroy any confidence they had they could even think of holding us.

Muscles from my toes, feet, calves, thighs, backside, stomach, back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands were all shouting “stop no more”.  No all or nothing. Exhaustion was creeping in. My heart had given up beating preferring a continual rasp like a lion purring.

If I stopped now I would never have the energy to start again from lower down the hill if the whole lot slide. The rhythm was there, become smoother and more predictable. No prisoners no surrender. Then it didn’t slide back, then it moved quicker, suddenly the trailer was away and gone from my hands.

I stood up straight getting air into burning lungs while taking in the view, across the valley of the Isla to the Sidlaw hills. Two cart horses had appeared, their heads over a nearby fence watching the whole event with nonplussed indifference.

There is something strangely bizarre about this world.

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A Reason for Everything?

Quizzes must be like buses, you wait for ages and two come along together. So Saturday night I was asked to go to another quiz, this time in aid of EPACTS, East Perthshire Action of Chuerches Together. This was the first time I had been into town itself at night since Blairgowrie police attacked me. See Polish Up the Mind.

I was introduced to some nice ladies and they were told we had a good chance of winning. One lady confided in me that she was having problems with her sight was and couldn’t read the quiz answers on the paper. She said it had affected her confidence and hadn’t been out on her own for 6 months.

How it resonated, both of us for different reasons had lost our confidence and hadn’t been out. So with her inspiration I decided to do something about my situation. This morning I contacted a solicitors to bring about a complaint of assault against the officers from Blairgowrie police. 

But that is something for everyone. We need to have a safer better world for everyone. Just because violent  thugs are police officers doesn’t mean theyshould be allowed to get away with their crimes.

Thank you to everyone who has given me their support and best wishes. I really have appreciated it.

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Polish Up the Mind

Quite some years ago me and my friend Dodd were talking about the Clint Eastwood film Firefox. Here the missiles were controlled by the pilots thoughts, but as it was a Russian plane, which Eastwood was stealing, so he had to think in Russian. Now we were discussing whether someone whose first language was English could thinkt in Russian. Purely by coincidence my old French teacher was passing, so was handy to ask whether you think in a foreign language. Anyway let’s leave that conversation of 27 years ago.

Friday night I went to a quiz night in aid of the Blairgowrie Hillwalking Club. Apart from a nice night I met a drop dead gorgeous lady. So beautiful I had to keep looking at her, I couldn’t help it. What is the etiquette in a situation like that, when you meet someone for the first time? I know they write songs about it.

The other thing was I thought she looked like Tinkerbell from Peter Pan. Those who have been following the posts will know this is in keeping of context. In Magic Boxes, Horns, Thieves and Warriors I wrote about the author J M Barrie living at Kirriemuir just up the road, and the dog in the book, Nana, was thought to be a Bearded Collie. 

Now she said they were going Rambling the next morning, others said if I wanted to go just turn up at the Wellmeadow in Blairgowrie. Having bought some chicken that was going out of date and a bottle of wine when I got home I had to make a curry and drink the wine. It would have been rude not to. Still I woke at 7.15 and decided to go for a nice days walking.

The Ramblers’ site said to meet at 9.30 am, plenty of time. So I left the house, then met Steve, who with an eagle eye for detail noticed my walking boots.  I referred him to the review on this site, as I had to get into town. When I got there no one was about, so I waited until 10.00, still no one, so guessed they might have gone early, they didn’t know I was turning up, so no reason to wait.

Having got ready for the day I might as well go off on my own. What I wanted to do was recky the first part off the route to the Iron Age remains I mentioned in the Scarpa boot review. So off I went on the first part of the Cateran Trail out of Blairgowrie. covered in Magic Boxes, Horns, Thieves and Warriors.

Half way to the the Bridge of Cally I stopped for dinner. On some rocks, by a wall, in the sun,  just me the birds and the valley. After getting my sandwich box out of my small day ruck sac and eating, I thought it would be nice to have a parlech. BANG. Parlech is Polish for smoke. The bag, the box were the ones I used 2 years ago when I was working with 250 Poles in the berry fields. It seemed polite and an opportunity to learn Polish especially sitting around on  warm sunny dinner times.

Looking east from my dinnertime spot. No Ruskin, no Rafa, no 250 Polish, but they were all with me. memories I have collected. All with love.

Looking east from my dinnertime spot. No Ruskin, no Rafa, no 250 Polish, but they were all with me. memories I have collected. All with love.

The deja vue of the context, the subconscious memory had come back. I had thought in Polish. Out of nowhere the English part of my brain had been bypassed and I thought directly in Polish. My French teacher, Roger Strange, was correct. He told me thinking in another language was to do with context. If he went to France after a day or so he didn’t think in English, he thought in French, there was no English interface between thought and French words. Here I was in a similar context, in my own mind, and had gone straight to Polish.

But it was deeper than that and more more meshed more coherent. My friend Rafa had been the one teaching me the most Polish, had known my dog Ruskin. When he died Rafa put a tribute to Ruskin on his page, for all those who couldn’t attend his funeral. Now this was the first time since Ruskin had gone, I was starting getting comfortable with walking on my own, something I had never done for more than a third of my life. So I was probably thinking of Rafa in the web of thoughts. Rafa linked sunny days, Ruskin and walking.

But I was also out in the country looking at the hills. The Sunday before I had been in Alva at a Bearded Collie show, outside the hall the hills also rose steeply. I had been previously told by a Kennel Club Crufts Judge and experts with working farm dogs I was one of the best dog handlers they had ever seen. Which was nice, but was it just because I had the best dog in the world or that we went everywhere together and had the to build our relationship?

The hills rise steeply, on them small dots of sheep. For obedience for Bearded Collies perhaps the only word should be 'fetch'.

The hills rise steeply, on them small dots of sheep. For obedience for Bearded Collies perhaps the only word should be 'fetch'.

I had had a lovely day. But I never told the lady who took me I had never been out since August. Her dogs were lovely. All the dogs were lovely and all the people were, apart from the Chairman of the Bearded Collie Club of Scotland, who didn’t want to speak to me, even say hello, but some people are like that. Having not been out for so long or met anyone I was a little lacking in confidence and unsure of myself.

At the Alva show they were talking about rescue for Bearded Collies either through the owners circumstances changing or they didn’t know how to communicate with their dogs. I offered to help. In recent weeks I had been learning more about psychology of dogs, instead of just using intuition. From the reference I put on the Genepools and Co-evolution pages and Have We Breed Out the Wolf I got into Theory of the Mind.  Covering many areas, one was the differences in thinking.

Pat Scott's working Beardies won 1st and 2nd in obedience. 5 years ago Ruskin would have won. By cheating and the judges might not have spotted how. I would have let a few top dogs go first. Ruskin would have watched what they did, then done it better. Pat and her dogs were brilliant, but Ruskin would have stood on the shoulders of giants. All he would have asked for was the occasional look of the eyes to reassure him he was doing it right.

Pat Scott's working Beardies won 1st and 2nd in obedience. 5 years ago Ruskin would have won. By cheating and the judges might not have spotted how. I would have let a few top dogs go first. Ruskin would have watched what they did, then done it better. Pat and her dogs were brilliant, but Ruskin would have stood on the shoulders of giants. All he would have asked for was the occasional look of the eyes to reassure him he was doing it right.

Linking my coalescence of thoughts, purely from the initiation of thinking in  Polish, was what I was doing there. Celtic Lion is  limited company. Some regard me as one of the best Earth system ecologists. If not the best, one of the most influential. I am a member of the UK’s Sustainable Development Research Network which advises the Government. The agenda for the 2005 G8 held in Perthshire, of climate change and Africa was derived from my original work for a United Nations report I was asked to contribute to.

The intention of Celtic Lion was to set up one of the world’s leading environmental and development strategy companies. Creating a minimum of 140 jobs in the area but most important for me saving, peoples lives and stopping the extinction of animal and plant species. I had been one of the scientists who set up the next generation of climate models which was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2007. When Al Gore was notified of his Nobel he quoted my work for the British Government.

Things had been put on hold a bit with Ruskin’s illness in his final months. But life had to go on and on 9th August I went to work for the first time without him. I was stopped by the police in Blairgowrie. While one spoke to me two came up behind me and whacked me to the ground without any warning or provocation from me.

When I was lying in the gutter of the road one stood on my head and started being abusive to me. He was swearing and threatening me. He thought he was hard, I could have taken him apart anytime I desired and he would never have seen a thing.  I wouldn’t have hurt him physically, he would have just been on the sick at the taxpayers expense with ‘pyschological and loss of confidence problems’.  

After they got me to Perth police station the motive for the actions was becoming apparent. The police seemed to feel their attack on me was justified as a continuation of traditional football violence between Scotland and England. Though my mother’s family were Scottish and my father’s Welsh, I was born in Cheshire a few miles from the Welsh border. And unfortunately had a northern English accent. Enough justification for the police to launch a racially motivated attack.

Having lived in the countryside all my life I come across a catalogue of incidents. Sheep with baler twine wrapped around their legs. Hedgehogs caught in polythene shrink wrap. Cows slidden down muddy banks and caught their legs in fences. As an ecologist I often find plants I would like to identify. Plant and other species identification an important aspect of the understanding of climate change. So for these and other reasons I had a knife on me, I hand it to the police and they charged me with having an offensive weapon. No questions no explanations asked for, just charged me, and so the   police could conceal assaulting me threw in resisting arrest, the injuries I sustained the 3 officers concealed by writing false statements saying I resisted arrest and attacked them.

They were nothing but lying foul mouthed racist thugs. If they had been members of the public they would have been locked up. But as they are police officers we have to pay them to attack innocent people.

The justice system then stitched me up with a con trip. I was told the charges had been changed to possession of a knife. As I had told the police I had the knife there was no defence and would automatically be found guilty, so had to plead guilty. Days later I was informed by Perth Court that wasn’t the charge. What I had been charged with neither the police, the Prosecution, the Sheriff or the solicitors revealed to me. Had they told me the real charge I would have had a defence. All that money and resources used in attacking me and locking me up and prosecuting me would have been wasted. So a false charge was made up was made up to ensure a conviction for a real charge I had a defence to.

All that was reason I hadn’t been out. The police attacked me in a racist attack then covered it up by saying I attacked them. But I hadn’t even defended myself. The police made out they were heroes gallantly overpowering me. If you don’t know me I am the same weight as but only an inch taller than Mike Tyson when he first won the world heavy weight title. Never ever, in their wildest fantasies, could those police officers ever have overpowered me. I didn’t defend myself to protect them from accidental injury.

So what do I do if Blairgowrie police attack me again. My dad who was a police officer for 25 years, would have said deck ’em, stick them on their backsides. Others have said the same, if the police are going to attack you and then lie to cover their action, you may as well get your monies worth and give them a taste of their own medicine. Other people have quite sensibly advised me not to defend myself against an attack from the police, whatever they do to me, for fear of the consequences.

So thanks to the Bearded Collie Club, Blairgowrie Ramblers and Hillwalkers I was out in the country, my environment. For the first time in many months.

And then one of the realisations from the Theory of Mind struck me. All species or people don’t think the same. I had expected police officers, the prosecutors the courts to have some affinity with the way I thought. We are all on this planet together, we need to work  together to make a better futire for all life. But the justice system didn’t think the same did they. I was just fodder to be processed through it. No attempt at due process or the rule of law or the consequences on society or life or anything. They just wanted a conviction for the statistics, regardless of how many people died, how many species were made extinct, how much suffering was caused. Misconceived self interest.

I packed my bag and continued on my walk.

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Equipment Review: Boots for Beardie Walking?

A new start, a new phase of life must begin. Even trying to walk somewhere, when he was old, when he was back home waiting for me was hard. If it wasn’t the solitude, it was the overbearing sense that what I did was incomplete, that there was something missing. It was also mixed with the guilt that he wasn’t here, I was trying to live a life without him. When he was gone it was worse. There was no one to return home to, to greet me. For me to look after. The changing routines of more than a third of my life had gone. I couldn’t even fill the void, because whatever I did, he wasn’t with me, to make it complete. The solitary mad man walking into town talking to himself. For the equivalent of 3 times around the world, if he wasn’t in front where I could see him, he was behind. So if I couldn’t see him it was natural to call his name, to hurry him up and away from whatever was taking his interest. Some habits die hard.

But this is a big country and I have this life and have to go to the heights and remote places. So what to wear on my feet. Getting footwear is the first step in having another dog. No point in getting a dog if you’re not going to explore together. And you can’t go exploring the mountains without the right footwear. Dogs don’t bother they come equipped already.

The boot selection lined one wall of the shop. From technical ice climbing boots on the left to low level walking shoes and sandals on the right. What did I want in a boot? One that did everything. But there was always one deep down, unspoken consideration for choice.

Some of the fancy material boots looked nice, but with so many panels and changes of material, was so much stitching really a practical choice. These were weak points for letting in water. At times the places I would go will be wet and there is always the odd stream to cross. Waterproofing is the next consideration. Gortex or not Gortex. Now I have never had a a Gortex lined boot. I have had other similar semi-permeable-no water in, but water vapour out-lined boots, such as SympaTex on lower down the performance range Hi Tech boots. Then I was buying a boot for the cash I had in my pocket £30-40. Now I was buying for what I wanted it to do.

Having experienced the dejected feeling of sudden cold water entering a boot, which only meant one thing, the membrane had gone. I wanted to try the alternative. A non membrane high quality leather boot. A boot I would prefer to keep weather proof by looking after it. The 4 season boots with the capability of taking a grade C3 crampon were considered too stiff in the sole for general walking. Another consideration was the comfort temperature range. A boot capable of permanent action above the winter snow line could get too hot for summer work.

Next in the range stood something of beauty. The Scarpa Nepal. A 3 season boot capable of taking a lightweight crampon if necessary. Unlined and in nearly black, but called Anthracite, Nubuck leather, with minimal extra panels, in grey between the bracing for the top lace hooks. Minimal stitching high on the boot. Against this was the Meindhl range. Traditional looking brown leather boots. The Nepal winning on practicality for me with it’s high rubber rand from the joining of the sole and running over one inch higher round the boot and completely covering the toe. Extra insurance from low level damp and wet, and protection from scree and those sharp rocks that scratch vulnerable areas of the unprotected leather. Legend had it it was Trail magazines 3 season boot of the year.

Oh dear, a bit dark, but I am also using the camera for the first time. Scarpa Nepals. But doesn't the WBC also have a dark side.

Oh dear, a bit dark, but I am also using the camera for the first time. Scarpa Nepals. But doesn't the WBC also have a dark side.

Having tried on the boot this was my choice. The snow capabilities of the boot were a vital safety consideration. Here we are in the truest use of the phrase quite literally on the edge of the Highlands. It is only a mile’s walk from here and you start climbing the first official hill of the Grampian mountains. It is quite common through the winter to go out and from our valley see the appearance of a snow line on the surrounding hills. In winter a casual 5 miles Sunday afternoon walk, could turn into a drama. The boots had to be part of a self contained survival system.

The shop staff assured me these boots had a reputation for snow shedding from the cleats or tread. Bearded Collie owners can now tip their dog on their backs and inspect the dog’s paws. “Oh he’s got fur between his pads and toes to keep him warm”, was an often cooing I heard about my dog. Not quite true. Dense hair between the pads of an animal is more of an adaption to snow than cold. Dogs without dense hair, sometimes oily in nature, between the pads when walking on snow can go lame.

The hair reduces the packing of snow. The snow sheds from between the pads and the dog is able to function in snow conditions. They are simply an evolutionary adaption carried in the genes for survival in the snow of the northern latitudes or high places.

Snow packing in the tread of a boot reducing it’s grip may provide an amusing clip for 10 o’clock news of someone slipping on their backside down steps, but on the hills in winter it could be the difference between getting home and dying.

Without a specific objective in mind the boots were just used for walking to the local shop and back over few evenings, after a liberal dose of Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Proof. Just to start breaking them in.Then, Yabba, DabbaDo. Snow had fallen. First was the mile into town. This proved no problem as in the evenings the pavements had been turning icy despite gritting. Then out of the town towards the higher ground. The lane becoming increasingly more snow covered with the decrease in traffic use. The weather now helping with the test as increasing wind started driving the falling snow horizontal. Then the track off the road. With even less traffic this was a mixture of complete covering snow conditions.

The few cars that had used the track had compressed the snow into a hard smooth sub surface. On to this a thin layer of moving blown snow. Unnerving at first, the initial heel strike was followed by a sensation of a slight slide of about half an inch. Then with the continued roll onto the full sole contact the grip was solid and abrupt. I noticed that the water was running in the ditch at the side of the track. Still climbing different snow conditions gave different test opportunities. Six inches of fresh powder snow gave a satisfying rolling rumble as the boots bit.

Exposed to my right from the valley, falling away and down, the snow blew in. Though the history of the Bearded Collie covers the introduction of the Polish Lowland Nizinny from around 1514 and before that of the Komondor from the Magyar people in the 1200s. My own view is that these were not great leaps, rather an assimilation into a bloodline that goes much further back. Man did not run round shouting at sheep and cattle until these dogs appeared. There had been a history, before the Romans and before the Celts of herding dogs going back to certainly the Bronze Age or even to the first human colonisation after the last Ice Age.

I had taken a camera with me for a picture of the hills ahead, hills I believed were also part of the Bearded Collie story, an older episode than we covered in the droving dogs from 1200 onwards in Magic Boxes, Horns, Thieves and Warriors.The area I was interested in was roughly north west of Blairgowrie and north east of Dunkeld. The hills rise higher, but here are the remains of settlements that go back to the Iron Age. So who were these people that lived here? Who warned them of the wild wolves?. Did they have sheep or cattle. Who herded and protected their valuable and essential livestock? Was it an earlier part of the bloodline that moved cattle along the Cateran Trail and more than a thousand years before?

Ah the camera. I had some naive vision of a picture of a place I would one day walk to. An alpine clear view of snow lying on Scottish hills and behind them the tantalising draw of white mountains. Snow stung my face and squinted my eyes. Even the nearest hill just the other side of the valley was struggling to make itself seen. Perhaps another day.


Somewhere in behind the grey white were the hills I wanted to photograph

Across the  valley from where the snow was coming from

Across the valley from where the snow was coming from

In my world away of boots in snow, dogs of the Iron Age and my attention on the changing direction of the dancing flakes I hadn’t noticed the small stream in the ditch. Now all but gone. It’s surface iced over, due to the drop in temperature with altitude. The snow had found another place to lodge. Now in a blizzard of 20-30 mile an hour winds, below freezing and a wind chill on top, the walk to the hills was for another day. I turned off the track for the path to take me back to town on another route. Flumff. Snow had gently settled in the hollow. 18 inches deep, another unexpected boot test.

All that remained of the little stream as it froze over and the snow took over

All that remained of the little stream as it froze over and the snow took over

One of the specifications of a boot is weight. Sturdier and stiffer the heavier. The going through the snow was easier than I thought. The weight of the boots was negligible, making the high knee lift required easy. So who makes the subjective comments on weight. A lady in an office who normally wears flat court shoes, or a manager used to Gucci like slip ons. Having worked in construction for 7 years, heavy duty safety boots or steel toe capped riggers made these feel light as slippers.

Then it was the test of absence. Something I hadn’t noticed, but now looking down as I dragged me feet up and through the white obstacle I realised. For more than 2 hours I had been in the slush of the town in the valley, on and through the snow, walked on ice and now enveloped in the deep stuff. My toes and feet still had the same sensation of warmth as when I put the boots on in a centrally heated house. The boots were operating well within their comfort range. Or was it the Merino SmartWool socks that had been thrown in on the deal.

The descent was down what would have been another rough track, now smooth white. The wind driving snow at me from another direction, straight into me. My front acquiring a thickening white coating. Occasional slips occurred under my right foot as the boot landed on the unseen contour from the centre to the ruts of the track beneath, but the boot gripped and supported my ankle before body raised concern.

Through the oncoming grey and white a sign appeared. Here I was in central Scotland coming down from the edge of Highland Perthshire. From snow covered hills where the bloodline of the Beardie had worked for thousands of years. The sign was as stark an intrusion into my isolated thoughts, at one with the history of the land, as it was against the snow.

In frozen Scotland in Beardie country my isolated thoughts broken

In frozen Scotland in Beardie country my isolated thoughts broken

The track made a few more turns on it’s descent into the town, finally to a road and pavement. Snow already starting to win the battle against the clearing and grit. As the heel struck the down sloping pavement, into the freezing mush, again that half inch of slide before the full sole savagely gripped. Prints behind me showing the tread pattern cutting through the freezing goo.

Snow takes over cleared and gritted footpath and road, the boots bite through

Snow takes over cleared and gritted footpath and road, the boots bite through

A first snow test. Are they comfortable. Well I still have them on and feel slightly resentful in having to take them off for a picture for the review. The tread and the boot should be optimised for life below the snowline, but on the first day they performed in the snow. Whatever type was shed from the tread and the boot always gripped, though sometimes with a slightly unnerving slide before the full intensity of grip violently manifest. Once I realised they would slide but always grip, confidence grew.

But violently? Yes. The next day I went to Perth and took the bus as I had done a 100 times before, wearing the boots to give them another day of breaking in. The routine and rhythm, second nature and sub-conscious. Pay the driver, start walking to the stairs to go up as always. The timing always the same, as I grab the hand rail prior to my first step, the bus jolts as it pulls away, timed with my step up to the left.

Not this time. The floor of the bus was wet. As the bus jolted, I had started to turn. Unfortunately simultaneously both soles had full contact with the wet deck, viciously gripping with not a millimetre of give. The jarring finding the weak point of my left knee, it had expected a fluid pivoting from the boots. It got instead total rigidity. These things bite. But they were designed for wet rock on a 4000ft mountain, not the number 57. Two days later my knee still reminds me.

With such a limited test I never expected them to leak or be damp and they weren’t. Other reviews range from being perfectly watertight to, do let in some water after a day of boggy walking in the rain and stream fording. The secret seems to be in the treatment. Scarpa use the HS12 tanning process with this Nubuck as with their other high end leathers, this involves deep silicone penetration of the material. For other leather the Scarpa HS12 silicone cream is recommended for waterproofing and leather care. With the ‘sanded’ matt finish of the Nepal this can slightly change the surface appearance. A brushing when dry after application can help restore. It may be if you don’t mind a small deviation from the original appearance the HS12 cream will put the waterproofing up there with any other leather boot.

With the breathability of leather, and in my opinion relatively light weight, the boot may perform at it’s optimum in the summer months on strenuous rock walking of the mountains. The inclusion of the rand for extra protection, may be a hint that this was the designers intention. One thing that must be done is to run the laces through the hook on the tongue to lift it tight.

The downside of the boot must be sizing. These are boots made in continental sizes. I am a size 10 dead, no less no more. For which there is no equivalent. 45 is roughly 10 1/4, which is what I got and felt fine, until I started using it. There is a slight movement of the heel within the boot on the uplift. Toes and top of the foot fit fine, wiggle room for the toes without any hint of sliding deeper into the boot so far. As these are performance boots close tolerance is everything. Some other reviewers consider this slight heel movement may be due to the design and accuracy of the last the boot is built on. The regional genetic differences show up as a slightly narrower heel for white British, allowing the slight slide, while the rest of the boot is a near perfect fit. With such a rigid sole the slight movement of the heel shows itself.

There is a view that the Scarpa lasts are also made slightly on the generous size. Perhaps for myself it may have been better to have tried a continental 44 and hoped the last would have given me a tight but acceptable fit. At present I could put another on a thin liner sock, but would I stretch the boot. As it’s only been used in cold weather, perhaps as it breaks in and gets softer the boot at the back might tighten up more on the laces. Or in summer half way through a hot days trekking would the natural swelling of the foot fit the boot better. Some reviewers think the boot is so sexy they bought two. One for walking and one for best. Perhaps one boot for winter with an extra sock and another for summer?

All I can suggest is completely forget about British sizes. Get measured and know your correct continental size. Then get the best boot fit. These boots depend for maximum performance on a close tolerance fit. When your edging on wet rock or tired on uneven stone or scree, you need boots moulded to the feet. I may have made a mistake of 1/8 inch, but I am writing a review so you don’t.

Again due to foot differences the Nepal is made in a separate women’s range. In nice colours especially for the ladies, though not sure whether you get the drop dead gorgeous Anthracite. One excuse for reversing climate change and giving us colder snowier winters is so we can wear these boots more often. A great present for style conscious teenagers. If told they can’t go out “in this weather”, it gives them the riposte “If it gets too bad I can always put on the crampons as well”.

Joking aside it is not an everyday boot, the sole is for the rough ground of the mountains not the routine of the urban footpath. A bit like a Beardie really. A Beardie boot matching the dog. Capable above the snowline, but not extremely adapted. Happy in the wet but at home on the hills and mountains of summer. Where a Beardie is this boot will go, even complimenting it in stylish black and grey.

Perhaps one day they will get used for a walk. A 10 week old puppy scampering behind amongst the rocks and plants. And when he gets tired carry him as the path gets steeper. Steeper towards a remote summit, where on a clear day the Atlantic and North Sea can both be seen and on other horizons mountains merge with the sky. There I can hold him overhead with extended arms, turning 360 degrees so he can see the panorama stretching out around. Then tell him this is his land, that we have been together for thousands of years. That he is of this land, that he is part of the land. That the land made him, that he made the land. That he is the dog that made Scotland.

Price £110-200 (shop around)

Update 8 February 2009:The review contained a reference to sizing and ‘heel slip’. After checking on the net in various forums the answers seemed to range from extra liner sock, footbed inserts to lift the foot and push the heel into the narrowed contour and basically there is a problem.

With so much snow on the pavements, I wondered what the affect the salt would have on them, so I cleaned the boots with Nikwax Gel, after having first removed the laces. I also washed the thick SmartWool socks that I got with the boots. The next night I wanted to walk to the shop. So I re-laced the boots,  making the laces slightly tighter in the first rows of eyes, before the hooks for easier fitting.

As I had thin socks on and it was only half a mile, I laced the boots up slightly tighter and holding the back of the boot  to form around the heel area of my foot. Even with thinner socks no heel slip. With thinner socks there is less ‘bounce’ and relaxation of the boot when fastening than with the thick wool hiking socks. It is possible to ‘train’ the new boot closer to the foot.

The intention is to now use the boot for local short walks to finish breaking it in, using thin sock. When I need it for proper use with thick socks, the boot should fit snugly. With the knowledge that on those hot long days in the mountains with a full pack, there will be enough give in the boot to cope with naturally swelling feet.

Boot too big?  Be counter intuitive, use thinner socks to break them in and try and gently form the boot to the foot. Let’s see how it works.

Update 10 February 2009: First thanks to everyone who has read the review so far, hope it has been some help. To the problem of ‘heel slip’ within the boot I can only advise you do not follow the the recommendations given in other reviews and forums eg thicker socks, extra liner socks or sole inserts. The laces also need breaking in, when lacing the boot up as new they are still spongy and elastic and do not slide through the boot’s eyes and hooks. It is not a question of putting them on and going for a long walk. It is the number of times you put the boot on. After a short while the laces smooth out and flow easier through the boot’s hardware, each time forming the boot better to the whole foot. Training the heel and ankle of the boot is more complicated than just a  straight pull around the top of the foot section. I have continued to use very thin socks. Another addition I made was to lace the boots up when I wasn’t wearing them. Slightly closer then my foot would have opened the boot out. I have been wearing the boots to walk into town etc with thin socks and no ‘heel slip’ within the boot. The boot has formed around my foot with very thin socks, plenty of wiggle room around the toe box. I believe now I could walk anywhere for any distance even with thin socks and have perfectly fitting boots and no blisters. These are a high spec boot and need to be formed around your foot for perfection.

I can only advise if the boot fits everywhere apart from ‘heel slip’ you do not follow any advice with regard to extra or thicker socks. Go the other way use thinner socks and form the boot around your natural foot shape. When you go for the hills and put on the thick socks these boots should be perfectly formed around your foot. When the the weather is hot, the pack is heavy and the moutain is steep and it is late in the day you will also know these boots will accommodate those swelling feet. If you have have read other reviews and been told these are the best, they are better than that. You just need to understand them to reach perfection. These boots don’t only grip the ground, they grip your foot like a second skin once you know how to handle them.

Boots Supplied by

Mountain Supplies 133 South Street  Perth Perthshire Scotland  PH2 8PA 01738 632368 

Roger Thomas

The author is a former metallurgist and materials scientist, involved in both R&D and quality control. He is a member of the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Research Network. In 2007 he contributed to two Nobel Prizes.

All rights with the author. Please contact for terms and details of our work.

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