Nina Avery's diary for Loch Shiel 1981.

Tuesday 21st July, 1981, age 17

(On the train heading north)

Got up at 7.30, went through to the seated compartments. Most people looked pretty rough. Met Mike, played cards with him, Fiona and two others and lost. Wandered around and chatted to people I knew and people I didn’t know. Changed trains at Fort William for Glenfinnan, it was really desolate country. Had about 3/4 mile walk down to the loch (well, it felt like 3/4 mile) Then we had to wait for the ferry. Rocky, Adam, Jane, Louise and I went up to the railway station to find a loo. The ladies was locked so we used the gents. We had to cram all the kit, food etc into quite a small boat. I was sure we wouldn’t all get into it. We unloaded all the kit by forming a chain along a really rickety pier. Then we had at least a mile to carry all the equipment. It was really heavy. Mike and I tried carrying a black box but it got rather heavy so Steve and Paul took over. We had to put the tents up in the drizzel and midges. I’m sharing a tent with a girl called Jane who’s quite nice and likes heavy metal.

Wed 22nd July

Did various jobs round camp, digging pits, collecting wood etc. I went wood collecting with Louise, Helen, Fiona, Chris and Claire. We found a short telegraph pole and sawed a few trees down. Darren and I went for a walk down the river to see if we could see any places to fish. After dinner everyone who wanted to canoe at all this holiday had to go and do capsize drill. It was pretty cold but there was a breeze so there weren’t too many midges. Wrote a letter to Mum and Dad. Played with a rugby ball with Chris, Mike and Jim. Chris, Richard, Sarah and I went up to Glenaladale house. We had a good nose around and then brought a bench back to the campsite. Louise, Mike, Richard and I were all on duty with Brian as our leader for making the coco this evening. Louise made it mostly. We had a talk from Steve about safety in camp and tomorrows activities. Then our duty group had to do the washing up but the boiler wasn’t working so we had to wait for a large cooking pot to come to the boil. We all sat and talked (and laughed) until 1 in the morning, it was really good fun

Thursday 23rd.

Made eggy bead for breakfast. Got a really steamed up face and made my eyes run. I was going to go for a birdwatching walk but my feet ached so Chris, Shiela, Rob and Claire went and identified plants. After dinner we went for a walk up along the wall and down by the stream. Saw lots of deer prints but no deer. Took some photos of the campsite. Brian came back after his enormous shopping spree. We made tea with Jane. After tea we had a talk on exposure which was really funny!! I learned the chords from Lord of the Dance from Brian. Quite a few of us stayed behind in the evening. Brian passed around a bottle of cider which dissapeared. he also passed some choccy round! It wasn’t half as good as last night! Mike and I stood outside and -er-gazed at the stars!!

Friday 24th

Didn’t go out at all this morning. Chris, Louise, Mike and I (sort of) made a shower. Then we all used it (except Mike) I took quite a few photos. Everyone was most impressed. Then we went canoeing. Louise, Chris, Mike, Rich and I went along the loch to a white beach and had a rest. Then they all did a deep sea rescue with Lee in the water. Rebecca fell in the water when the pier broke. I dived in and had a quick swim, it was b---- cold. Darren dropped a sock in and I waded in and got it for him. I also brought his comb home and he was really chuffed. Learned a few more songs (tried to) with Brian. I went to bed early (well, relatively) about 11.00

Saturday 25th Mock Rescue

Felt really groggy this morning, almost didn’t get up for brekky. I got up late instead. Rebecca agreed to swap parties with me so I was with Brian. We were supposed to leave at 9.00 but left at 9.45! We had quite a laugh on our way up to our waiting place. It was pretty midgey but we had a nice rest (Martin Louise) The rescue party didn’t actually see us until they got right up to us. After having fed just about everyone except Louise (who had mild exposure!) we then strapped her on to the trolly thing and tried to push her home. It was difficult but not too bad!

Sunday 26th

Went canoeing to the burial isle and back again. Really good. I canoed back about half way and wasn’t really tired. We went up a river a bit and stopped on ‘Brians’ almost sandy beach! It was quite warm today and Louise (who stayed in camp) got sunburn. Got back about 4.30. Went fishing for about 10 mins, the midges were too bad. Had more fights with Brian and Mike, trying to throw each other off the bench. Played charades, good fun. I went out with Mike to his tent. Went back to the marquee when Geoff came to bed. Brian showed us some matchstick tricks, got to bed late again.

Monday 27th

A 3 day bivvy went out this morning, leaving me a tent to myself. Jim, Lou, Rich, Rob, Paul and I went to some mines the other side of the loch. It was very interesting looking at all the rocks. Found some ‘cores’ brought three home, plus lots of bits. The walk was quite pleasant, Rich kept stopping to look at birds all the time. Mike and I went to my tent as Jane was away. He left at 2.30!!

Tuesday 28th Canoe Bivvy

Had to sort out all our stuff for the bivvy and put it in placcy bags. Then we had to go and do deep sea rescue and capsize drill. It was really windy with about 2’ waves. Mike and loads of others came and took loads of pictures NICE people! It was b***** freezing. Went back to camp and had dinner. Then Steve thought Mike had taken the wrong canoe to mend, so him and martin took one back (the wrong one!) It was really hard work canoeing up there and we really only had one stop. When we got to the ‘campsite’ I had stomach ache, but I recovered. We had forgotten all the cutlery so we had to use out toothbrush handles to eat our food with!!! It was really really cold and Fiona and I went to bed at 9.00 - nothing else to do.

Wednesday 29th

There were loads of f*** midges about this morning but KIND Steve and Martin gave Fi and I brekky in bed! We then left the campsite and headed for a town with a SHOP. However we really didn’t have enough time so we stopped off at a campsite place & asked but no luck. The canoe home was very pleasant, although Fiona and I found it difficult to go in a straight line. The sun shone and Martin got a funny shaped tan because of his lifejacket. We were thinking of having a mock royal wedding but didn’t. Jane W and I made dropped scones for everyone which were really nice.

Thursday 30th July

Went rock climbing in the morning with Brian and Paul. When I was half way up I got stuck and Brian came up to help me, but then I was ok. Paul and I left early and went back to camp. I did some washing. Mike and I sat in his tent and Geoff was in there too. I left my wellies by his tent and he stood one in the stream and it leaked and got wet! Pete told us that we were going on our bivvy first thing tomorrow - we thought it would be Saturday. Shock! Brian asked if anyone wanted to go for a short canoe. No one else did so I did. Lee, Nigel, Alex, Brian and I canoed across the loch. My canoe leaked and my shoulders really ached. Mike came down. Brian and lee tried eskimo rolls but failed

Friday 31st Bivvy

Pete wanted us to be ready before breakfast, not an easy task I might say!, but we just about managed. We left the campsite at 9.00 and left the other side of the loch about 10.30. We then had a 15 mile walk. For the first mile I had my boots too loose and got a blister and the rest of the way was HELL. I had to take my boots off for the last bit of the hill or walk backwards. Downhill wasn’t too bad. Shiela had bad legs as well, so did Rocky. I had to walk the last bit to Strontian in my bare feet. We got to a Spar and I ate two bars of choccy and a packet of biscuits straight off. I also bought Mike some choccy biccys. We decided to stay at an official campsite with hot water, loos etc! We pitched camp and had tea and then went to the pub. I had 1/2 cider & then I had a beefburger, chips and salad for £1.50 - lovely. Wrote postcards to Cindy, and Antony and Chris.

Saturday 1st August

Had quite a long lie-in, got up about 9ish. Sarah and I had a warm shower for 20p great! Peter decided we would camp up the hill tonight and pushed us to break camp early. Bought some more food. Plain biccies, mars bars, mints and another choccy bar which I ate. My blister had hardened this morning and hardly hurts at all now. We walked to the nature reserve and found out 1/2 mile later where the wardens house was. Pete, Geoff, Sarah and Adam walked along the track but I got really bored so I walked back to where the others were. Walked up to our campsite in full view of the road. Had soup, mince and rice and angel whip. It was only 8 so we made a bonfire (my idea) Talked from 9 - 10.30 in bed

Sunday 2nd

Slept ok. The sky was clear again today! It was really midgey at camp so we walked up the hill and had breccy in a less midgey place. Porridge and 2 sausages - great! Then we plodded home. My blisters weren’t hurting at all but at the end my feet really ached. Sarah, Rebecca and I walked a lot of the last bit on our own, having a great natter. We got to the loch at 4. The canoeists were on the other side but didn’t see us. The others made a fire. Picked up at 4.30. Fi and Alex had gone on a bivvy up the mountain so Mike, Rich and I slept with Louise and Becca. Had some of Louise’s food and Robs fruitcake.

Monday 3rd

Had a nice if not very fitful sleep. Then Dean and Claire decided to go and do the nature project. Darren, Louise and I went. It was really midgey. I didn’t really want to go. I felt really cold. Did some washing when I got back. Rich came and talked to me (heart) Then Dean came over and we had a walk and a talk up to the ruined house!! I pushed Mike over lovely while he had his tea in his hand (classic!!) Then we had a wide game. Good fun. I tackled Mike and got his life. Nigel sat on me in a stream and got my life. Then I felt really tired and started crying (again) Darren comforted me for a bit. Jane was hopeless. Walked back to camp crying all the way. Put chocolate on, bed early.

Tuesday 4th

Wasn’t going to get up for brekky but did eventually. Had a really lazy day, just dossed about. Brian, Lee and Nigel built a BBQ by the river & I helped them. I had a wash in the river and Brian came over and took a photo of me!! The canoe bivvy went out today. I had a chance to go but I felt too tired. Dean was trying to persuade me to go (for Mike he said?!) Only 18 of us in camp. Ian Swann turned up SHOCK HORROR! He slept in Mikes tent. I went and talked to him for a bit. Brian tried his flash on my camera & it worked. Took two piccies. Went to bed at 1.00 in Fiona’s tent. Played the guitar.

Wednesday 5th

We decided (well, they did) to swim the loch today! The weather was ok, slightly breezy. Brian, Gael, Lee, Jane and I swam first. Gael did it in 28 mins. Brian swam with me at the back all the way. At the other side Lee got exposure. We all lay close to him for 1/2 hour. Nigel went back and got a sleeping bag. Fi and Alex swam back in 30 mins. I felt great. Came back to camp and went back to see Fi and Alex finish. Canoe bivvy back, Ian put up his own tent. We all sang songs tonight and I sat next to Ian. I was on Duty. At the end Brian, Mike, Ian and I sat in ? for 1/2 hour. Martin was telling shaggy dog stories. Went to bed at 1.30

Thursday 6th

Brian and a load of us all went across the loch to a beach. It was really lovely. Brian singled me out to go across with him ‘cause there were too many people. Sunbathed with Mike. Brian poured water on me and then carried me to the water. Then we went for a swim. I tried Lee’s wetsuit on. Had to wade out to the boat on the way back. Ian left.  The AL’s cooked the tea tonight. There was loads of food but spread out so not as filling. Louise, Mike, Rich and co did ‘The end of the world is nigh’  Martin and co did ‘The pluck ? maker’ Lots of practical jokes were played. I played ‘Lord of the Dance (sort of) Bed at 1.30. Talked to Jane quite a bit.

Friday 7th

I was on duty. Didn’t get up till 8.30. Rocky woke me. Had really thick porridge and omelette. Mike, Rockey and I had to do all the washing, took us ages. I walked down to the rock face and took two photos. Went canoeing. Had an enormous fight & got everyone wet.  Fiona, Alex, Lee, Martin and Mike. Started sorting out my stuff and packing. Took a black box down to the pier. We all had to do orienteering. Was going to do it with Jane. Mixed pairs, went with Mike, came 8th. Felt as if I had really let Mike down. Cried in the tent. Mike  asked Louise to come and see me. She really cheered me up a lot. Ate to bursting point at the BBQ. Rich acted really drunk. Sat around the fire and sang. Played postman's knock in the marquee. I slept in there next to Mike.

Saturday 8th

Had hardly any sleep last night. Paul came in and woke us all up this morning. Weather was ok. Broke camp fairly gradually. Found my saucepan that I lost last year! We all went round signing each others maps. Jane and Jenny went early. Left camp about 1ish. Went to Glenfinnan pub. Mike had 1 1/2 pints, I had 1. Rebecca, Rich, Lou, Mike and I walked down to the monument and back. Left Brian, Chris and Jane. Changed at Fort William. The Forest School camp got on and I went and talked to them. Changed at Glasgow. Slept a bit on and off. Fi and Rebecca left at Crewe.

Sunday 9th

Rich and Mike got off at Birmingham. It was a really sad parting. I thought so anyway. Couldn’t find Darren and Sarah to say goodbye to. Got home about 12.


A few extra memories from Nina.

I had completely forgotten that we had all signed each others maps. I still have mine, so I opened it out and turned it over and sure enough, loads of lovely messages and poems from all my favourite people, what a wonderful find.

I remember coming home on the train from each expedition and suddenly realizing quite how smelly we were after weeks of trudging through bogs and having almost permanently damp socks and boots and very limited washing facilities for ourselves or our clothes. We usually had train compartments to ourselves.

I bought a good quality frame rucksack for the first expedition I went on and, after many many years of hard use I finally gave it away to a homeless charity about 5 years ago. It still had plenty of wear in it. I also bought a good down sleeping bag, and although I did accidentally leave the original in someone's car when I was hitch hiking and had to buy a replacement, I still have that sleeping bag. I also had to erect an old marquee with a group of neighbors recently. I was the only one who knew how to go about it. It brought back fond memories of the SHS marquees.