Home at last, I dunno how many posts that I’ve started with that phrase but it must be dozens, the weather may be pish, the croft waterlogged and the wine rack empty but I’m so glad to be back. I don’t think I’ve done a journey like that since 1984, when I’d quite often just nip up to Oban for a weekends wreck diving. Always after a full day at work and usually in a twenty year old Land Rover towing a boat.
Sure it’s no big deal for most folks but 90% of my driving is on roads that don’t have roundabouts, lights or even traffic on them and my vehicle is hardly ideal in town or on the motorway. Actually my vehicle is pretty unsuitable for most things, apart from what it does the most, which is ‘haul my ass’ up and down ‘Calum’s road’, quite often with heavy weights attached to it.
With fuel consumption of 20mpg at an average speed of around 40mph it’s hardly conducive to saving the planet or making friends on the highway. However I wouldn’t have got the job done without a vehicle with a winch and it’s very presence intimidates other motorists into politeness. You would be amazed at how many people give way for an old, large, slow and erratically driven vehicle at roundabouts and slip roads.
My epic trip started proper at 7:30 on Sunday morning when I flashed up the ‘Old Girl’ and headed up Glenshiel towards Loch Cluanie
which seemed to be having its first ‘high tide’ in ten years or so. There really, really must have been some serious rain this winter, for Loch Cluanie hasn’t been this high in years.
This is how I always remember it used to be twenty years ago, even in the spring and summer.
Hardly surprising after all the rain we’ve had, but Loch Loyne was just as full.
Here’s the two lochs in September 2012 as I headed sowf http://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/ it was exceptionally low then but that bridge on the left has now been visible for years. You can see normally submerged part on the bank opposite.
The roads where quiet and clear and apart from diesel, the odd couple of minutes of leg stretching and trailer checking I just kept going. An unabridged reading of Compton Mackenzie’s ‘Whisky Galore’ on the tape player amusing me for the ‘nth’ time all the way to Preston, some nine hours later. I’ve read the book, seen the movie and listened to the tape but it always makes me smile.
I won’t mention the broccoli
Trusting to my memory rather than the ‘pratnav’ I managed to get lost, how it’s changed since I was last down in ‘Accy’ and how busy it’s become. Luckily I managed to make landfall at the nice leafy suburb of Accrington where my mate lives. I even managed to convince him that I’d got lost deliberately then I could drive past the Walmesley arms in Great Harwood http://www.walmsleyarms.biz/
Not that I ever drunk anything other than orange juice in there, it was Raasay that ‘drove me to drink’ twenty one years ago, but I did spend at least one night a week in there with my mates.
A fine chicken dinner with delicious veg was served up for me along with a glass or two of wine, after which I retired early. At least I think I retired at a reasonable hour, wine and good company can often assuage the passage of time.
The Proven in the veg patch
We were up at 6:00am and demolished a couple of Raasay sausages each prior to leaving before 7:00 on the pretence of missing the worst of the traffic. That all went ‘tits up’ when my indicators packed in as soon as we hit the first dual carriageway, so we had a twenty minute delay in the first layby whilst I fixed them, with amongst other things, a 13 amp domestic fuse, or should I say 10, but we’ll not go into that.
Having looked at our destination on both the map and Google earth I foolishly trusted to the ‘pratnav’ and got lost once more. Still we managed to arrive at our destination around 9:30 on a beautiful sunny morn, a perfect day in fact, apart from a couple of small details. OK, a few major ones actually, since the Proven 2.5kw wind turbine had been erected some ten years ago, in what would then have been an accessible spot, ‘things’ had changed. For a start there were several raised beds underneath it, a fence between it and the anchor point, a shed, several trees, propagators and a hedge, my heart sank This was not going to be easy, still, we were well equipped, the day was a cracker and the ground firm.
It became immediately clear that the mast was going to land on the beetroot and the turbine itself in a willow tree amongst the brambles. It could have been worse, they could have been in full leaf and it could have been raining
First thing, after taking a fence down and loosening the tower bolts was to assemble the ‘gin pole’ whereupon I realized that I should have brought some steps, luckily my mate is taller than me
With the ‘gin pole’ in position the Tirfor is set up and attached to the winching block some 8 to 10m away. I brought all three of my Tirfors and was glad I did, the mast was far heavier than I envisaged, my 1.6ton would have struggled and I only packed the 3.2ton as an afterthought.
The TU32 is a bit of a beast to lug around on your own and there was certainly much ‘fetching and carrying’ amongst the veg patch.
The actual lowering was quite straight forward as I’d brought a stack of pallets to rest the mast on and after a little judicious pruning we had it down.
It was just resting on the raised beds right enough but we squashed no more than the odd brassica.
Once the turbine mast was resting firmly on its bed of pallets we removed the blades, springs, covers, slip rings, cable and brake rope from the turbine itself. The yaw rollers came next, the the grub screws that hold the top yaw bearing onto the shaft, with all those loosed the 190kg lump can be slid off with relative ease. At least it can if you take the alternator cover off and place some pallets in such a position that you can slide the whole unit along them.
We got this far in just over an hour, from here on in it got serious, the Land Rover was a good 40m away, there was a shed in the way and the winch rope is only 30m long. Not only that but we still had to split the tapered mast in two,
luckily I’d figured this was going to be ‘an issue’ so brought a grinder and generator. Even so, we wouldn’t have got the mast split had there not been a VERY substantial security fence nearby that lined up perfectly with the mast top.
Even so it was a struggle to get them apart and we still had to traverse an obstacle course to get them out.
The smaller top section was easy enough, at around 150kg we just manhandled into line with the Landy and used the 9500lb electric winch on the front bumper. However the base, coming in at around 300kg with a nice ‘anchor’ at its base was a whole different ball game but we managed to get it on the ubiquitous pallets and pull to the hard ground electrically. Once it was there we turned the ‘Old Girl’ around, hitched up the trailer and pulled it on with the small Tirfor.
By 17:30 we were ready to ‘hit the road’
and the rush hour traffic
A couple of hours later we were in my mates house eating chilli and drinking beer, twelve hours later I was on my way north.
This time to the accompaniment of Bill Bryson and ‘A walk in the woods’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Walk_in_the_Woods
which lasted all the way to my parents house
The brief glimpse of spring that I’d experienced in England came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday morning but I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow, it’s 23:00 now and my bed time.