Killing two birds with one stone, I decided to explore the paths through the Birkwood by Braemar. This seemed an excellent opportunity to test my wonky knee and to find an alternative to walking the road into Braemar if I should follow a TGO Challenge route that way in the future.
As I was starting from Braemar this time the first half of the way I was checking out backwards. If you see what I'm getting at.
I wandered up Chapel Brae to the Duck pond. "Looks as though it could do with a clean out" - not my words but those of a visitor sitting with his wife on the bench beside the water. He was probably right.
The Morrone Birkwood Circular is signposted just after the pond. I took the right hand track and followed it as it undulated through the trees. Soon I came to a new metal gate onto a forest track and left the circular route behind - having completed the outward section.
There was a bit of mud hopping and dithering then as the tracks through the forest look as though they've recently been renewed. I expected to pass beside a lochan but the track here was blocked by branches. Since my broken shoulder accident I'm much more reluctant to explore such loose ground but I very gingerly climbed over it until I reached the water's edge where the mapped track vanished. There were footprints leading back up beside a small stream. So not that way then!
Returning to the original point I continued along the rough landrover track which passed above the lochan eventually dropping down to the road.
In the layby opposite I sat and watched one or possibly two eagles hunting along beside the river - too far away for photos.
Then I retraced my steps - this time upwards to the metal gate. Taking the early right turn after leaving the road, then a left, and straight ahead above the lochan just visible through the trees. After crossing the stream the track bends right to the gate.
I chose to return to Braemar by the right hand path which took me higher and just below the crags under Morrone. This wasn't the other half of the circular so I must have missed a turning. It took me eventually to a hard track which descended sharply back to the Duck Pond where now the only visitors were two herons. At this point there was a sharp reminder of the wonky knee!
Conclusions? The wonky knee is still a bit delicate and it would be possible to cut out some of the road walking to Braemar - IF you take the left hand side of the Circular route and don't mind the initial climb from the road.....