Alford Rendezvous

the annual Rendezvous, organised by the Grampian Network 50+ Committee, was held at Alford Academy this year in the last week of July.

A number of us from the Mearns 50+ Group attended on the second day, along with another 250 from the north east. The previous day there had been 300 attending.

After the usual registration, welcome and the warm-up we then divided into the various groups to follow the activity we had chosen.

This year there were three all-day walks up to 9 miles each, 8 half day walks repeated twice daily, heritage walks and visits to the Heritage Museum as well as bowling, dancing and Nordic walking.

Indoors, hand craft classes are held again twice daily, for various activities such as beading, flower arranging and card making as well as I.T and modern phone technology and its uses.

I chose the heritage walk around Alford with an excellent guide who was a local lady.

Her knowledge of the area, the buildings, the businesses, local personalities and benefactors, street names the old railway, and so on were excellent.

Mention was made of the Hay family from Alford who produced mineral water and lemonade – as well as whisky – who later opened premises in Aberdeen and Inverurie, Charles Murray the famous poet, who once lived there and our guide even quoted from his many poems.

Mention was made of Alford’s famous bull, now standing as a monument by the roadside on entering Alford. This was to commemorate the Aberdeen Angus breed of black cattle which was started there by local farmer William McCombie.

In the afternoon, we walked on Pitfichie hill near Monymusk, to see a stone circle, one of many unique to the north east of Scotland.

As we came back, we met with another group that had done the all-day walk. They had been up the Greenhill much higher than us and had been lucky to have excellent views from the top as the skies had cleared and the rain had stopped.

This event is an excellent way of finding new walks, new interests, getting local information but most of all to make new friends and renew acquaintances with other members from the 2000 or so in the clubs from Laurencekirk in the south, to Forres in the north and also from Fraserburgh, Peterhead in the north east to Aboyne and Alford in the west.

Next year it will be in another venue as it moves annually. It is a marvellous day out and thanks must go to all who organise it and the local input that makes it special.

Having had a walk at Anstruther to St Monans on the Tuesday and Alford at the Rendezvous on the Thursday, I thought I’d finish off my week with a day on the Sands of Forvie on the Saturday.

I arranged to meet my daughter at the Forvie Sands Nature Reserve car park just across the bridge over the River Ythan. Leaving a car there, we travelled the next few miles to the Reserve Centre on the outskirts of Colliston to walk from there.

This is a wonderful start point as the information room tells the story of the sands, the old church and how a village was buried under the sand, much used by schoolchildren, there are lots of ‘touchy-feely’ items on display as well as the usual check lists and information gathering sheets for them, and toilets too.

We walked outwards to the coastline and through the dunes, which are quite high above the shoreline. This allows viewing of the many seabirds and the porpoises and basking sharks that are often seen just off-shore. Beautiful beaches, inlets where lots of smuggling took place and all the bird life on the inland side among the dunes and lochans.

The trail is well signposted with information boards near the old Forvie Church now a ruin, but an ideal shelter for walkers needing a coffee break.

Part of the area is out of bounds as the terns are still rearing their young, so we came downhill on a path through swaying fields of barley almost ready for the combine.

Just at the end there was a loud squawking going on and this turned out to be young herons being fed by their parents.

We had seen a fox, game birds, sea birds, waders, and the usual buzzard above the trees, views over Balmedie beach towards Aberdeen as well as all the birds in the Ythan estuary.

A visit to the lovely picturesque harbour at Colliston completed a most memorable day out.

Try it sometime – its not too far away.

The Hillwalker