Road Rage and Radgy Midge
Handley Page Hampden P2118 on Ben Loyal.
covered = 6 mile/Ascent=+471m))
One of a number of crashsites I went looking for back in 2001 during a week long Holiday up the east coast of Scotland with my Mam, Heather and her cousin Natalie.
At the time I had an Old Abbey Durham Caravan that was made in the 1970's so it had a steel chassis as opposed to a more modern alluminium one, which meant it was very heavy. I towed it up the A9 with an almost as old Montego Diesel Estate which had a seized Turbo, so towing the cumbersome Caravan it could only manage a top speed of 30mph and because I had adjusted the smoke inhibitor on the fuel pump to get as much power as possible whenever it hit a hill it was putting more smoke out the back than a crippled Destroyer.
My old Montego Diesel, a great car once the Turbo was fixed, 70+mpg on the motorway. Luckily the driver of the Vehicle in the background wasn't on the A9 when we took our caravan to Scotland!
Because of this, reaching Brora, which is right up the east Coast of Scotland past Inverness, took us about 12 hours, thanks to constantly having to pull over every time the traffic jam of cars behind us became to large. During those 12 hours I was subjected to quite a bit of road rage from impatient drivers, not the ones that had accumulated behind me; because I kept pulling over to let those past; but off drivers I inherited from other caravans who weren't pulling over. The other caravans with their own large tailbacks behind them would catch me up and overtake, leaving the irate drives of the cars that had been stuck behind them for the last 10 mile or so to think it had been me holding them up, so when I pulled over to let them past road rage ensued. This scenario was repeated again and again all the way from Perth to Inverness.
Unwinding on the beach at Brora after an eventfull 12 hour drive up. It would appear the Cows here like a plodge as well!
By the time we reached the Caravan Site at Brora there was one pitch left, on a small hillock right on the edge of the field, I remember my Mam saying that no-one else had taken it because it was probably too windy being higher up than the rest of the site. During the first night it absolutely bucketed down and come morning every caravan on the campsite was sitting in three foot of water except ours perched on its little dry hill.
Brora Caravan Site, this was taken the day after the torrential downpour, the water level has dropped a lot at this point, the woman in the nearest caravan was mopping water out the door
I searched for 3 crashsites in the Hills above Brora, I failed to find any of them but having seen photographs on the internet in more recent years I could see I had passed very close to all three of them. One of the three was a Fairy Barracuda with rather large lumps still extant, so the fact that I failed to spot it was more of an achievement than actually finding it. After Brora we relocated the Caravan to Grummore, near Altnaharra, right on the shores of Loch Naver.
Heather and Natalie beside our Caravan at Grummore Caravan Site near Altnaharra.
Three things I specifically remember about the Cararvan Site at Grummore were:-
1- The plastic washing up basin beside the entrance .We were supposed to wash our feet in this when entering and leaving the campsite due to the foot and mouth outbreak at the time. I found this amusing as there was no fences so sheep were wandering around on the campsite, of course said sheep may have been washing their feet as they left!
2-The water supply. This came from a burn which ran off the adjacent hills then through a filter and out of the tap, despite it being brown we were assured it was safe to drink!
3-The Midge Curfew. At about 9pm every evening everyone on the caravan site would have to batten down the hatches before clouds of ferocious midge appeared, several campers who ventured out after the midge curfew were never seen again!
View down Loch Naver from the Caravan Site.
I had a little bit more luck In the hills near to Grummore where I managed
to locate a Vickers Wellington near Loch Strathy and the Hampden on Ben
Loyal. This was in the days before Scotland's right to roam act and to
reach the Hampden crashsite meant going through Deer Stalking land, but
luckily the Warden on the caravan site knew the Estate owner and he got
the OK for me to cross his land.
The following day when I asked the Warden about the access I needed to reach the Wellington at Loch Strathy his reply was "Just go for it, I don't know that Landowner so I don't care if you upset him".
Setting off towards Ben Loyal from the A836 next to Loch Loyal
I parked the old Montego Diesel on a grassy area beside an abandoned croft at Lettermore ,then followed a burn uphill towards Ben Loyal. There were a few Burns flowing down from Loch na Creige Riabhaich, where I needed to be; with names like 'Allt na Creige Riabhaich'. 'Allt a' Ghlas-choire Mhoir','Allt Dhonnachaidh' and Allt Torr an Tairbh', so I was kind of pleased the one I followed didn't have a name so that I didn't have to attempt to pronounce it in the event that someone asked what it was called!
There were no paths to follow just bogs and peat hags.
After a bit of an uphill bog slog in from the road
I went up and around between 'An Caisteal' and 'Craig Riabhach' to the top
of a steep drop down into 'Bealach Clais nan Ceap', this is where the grid
ref I had put the Hampden crashsite. I could see a collection of wreckage
right down the bottom of this steep slope, in the Bealach right next to a
footpath that came up from the north. Another thing I
noticed was hundreds of Deer roaming around, they must have known there
was no stalking scheduled for this day!
The collection of wreckage at the bottom of the slope had been dumped down there by the recovery crew at the time and was not where the Hampden crashed, that was just below where I was and I was able to follow a trail of pieces from there down to the stuff beside the path.
The summit of Sgor Chaonasaid, with Craig Riabhach to the left. Ben Loyal comprises of more than one peak, as do a lot of other Scottish Mountains, The highest pieces of Hampden wreckage were found in the area circled in yellow.
The story of this crash had been told in a book I had called 'Hell on High Ground', The Warden at the Caravan site where our Caravan was pitched had borrowed the book because he knew someone in Tongue who had helped in the rescue of the sole survivor of the crash, so he had taken it to show him. When I went up to the site shop on my return from Ben Loyal to order our sausages for the next mornings breakfast, the Warden gave me my book back and asked me if I was aware that it was exactly 58 years ago to the day that the crash had occurred.