Day 123 has seen 3 miles walked, 2050 feet climbed, 6 Adits explored, an extraordinary display of courage, a picnic in a snowfall, the wonderful company of 7 Batty people, my first cave selfie, not a single bat found but the most charming way possible to complete such a brilliant day.

The Bat Team!
The Bat Team!

I joined the Central Scotland Bat Group in the Ochil Hills for a Mine Shaft Bat Hibernation Survey. It was a glorious day.

The survey leader picked me up from the house at 0930hrs and I was thrilled with the organised way in which I had managed to prepare myself and depart from the house without having forgotten the slightest thing. This was a major leap forward for me so we set off with me positive about the chances of making it through the day without a seizure. On the way to link up with the rest of the team I briefed John on the likelihood of a partial seizure happening and the what to dos if one does. Namely don’t worry. Make sure I’m safe from falling off of a ledge or down a slope, let me work through it and I will come out the other side of it shaken, weak but keen to continue. However should it be one of the very rare vicious seizures in which I have lost consciousness or, as happened during the eels seizure described on Day 25, started choking you might need to call for help but there is an emergency blanket, a bivvy bag and an emergency shelter in the bottom compartment of my rucksack. John was very relaxed about the brief which settled me instantly and before I knew it, after picking up Anne in Dunblane we were at the Car Park in Logie to link up with Laura, Alastair, Dani, Alasdair and Hannah to form the remainder of the survey team. Despite the weather being bitterly cold these wonderful people had gathered from Edinburgh, around Stirlingshire and even Aberdeen in order to assist in the survey. We were blessed with the team that gathered, for with the temperature hovering around 1°C, which was not too bad until we started to climb up the Balquhorn Glen to the first adit, when we crested out of the shelter of the small parking area and in to the face of 10 knot winds carrying a snow flurry with it we quickly felt the full effects of wind chill on this barren hillside. This team of wonderfully Batty people merely smiled more broadly as the wet snow got blown through our waterproofs to chill our very bones. As we continued to climb in to the face of the snow flurry and the vicious biting wind I witnessed a most wonderful display of courage that stuck with me for the remainder of the day. John was leading the team beautifully. Keeping us briefed at each stage of the climb and pausing to keep the team together. I decided to bring up the rear where I could perhaps of been the most use in shepherding the team. My attention was attracted to a young woman who was struggling a little up the hill. I checked to see that she was okay and sensed a deep sadness but saw a strong determination to continue. This young woman informed Anne and I that she was on a new medication that was making her feel really breathless. I decided not to pry any further but to keep a close eye on her. John had seen that the rear was struggling a little which presented a real dilemma to him in these bitter conditions. He had to manage the temperature dropping from exposure of the rest of the team but equally he wanted to keep the team together so we should push on but in stages and slowly using the ground where possible to provide shelter. This young woman battled on through the bitter wind, fighting for every breath with the snow flurry stinging our faces as we pushed on up these steep slopes. Quietly and stoically, step by painful step this incredible woman pressed on until the effort overwhelmed her with emotion. We discovered that bouts of depression and anxiety were plaguing her and the drugs she was on to assist her had just been altered and she was still adjusting to them. I immediately understood how she was feeling as I had gone through a very similar experience post brain surgery when they got the balance of my anti seizure medication wrong. I have experienced anxiety and bouts of depression as in Day 92 and day 113 all in recent months so knew exactly where she was coming from and how hard it can be. Yet this brave young woman had decided to not give in to the feelings of panic and hopelessness but instead fight it and take on life to find a path through. I gave her a big hug partly to shelter her from the biting wind and snow but also to reassure her. She briefly laid her head against my shoulder which reassured me that this was the right thing to do. The whole team were happy to keep her with us but she made a further brave and very selfless decision to withdraw off of the hill to let everyone else push on without further delay. We were all reticent to agree to this decision but knew it to be the right one so an escort plan was quickly hatched and we had to say farewell to this delightful young woman who had inspired us all with her courage. Before she went I gave her one of my flyers and asked her to look me up in the hope that she will find solace from the knowledge that she is not alone but also hope, inspiration and encouragement from the challenge. I hope she does and comes to join me on the journey. It would be an honour to have you with me.

Climbing into the cave!
Climbing into the cave!

We pushed on and made it to the first Adit after a bit of a scramble along the side of the steep burn hanging on for dear life to heavy and well placed branches once we had worked out which were the rotten (do not hold on to me) ones! At the front we received a quick brief on the purpose of the Adit as horizontal mine shafts excavated with strategically placed dynamite many, many, many years ago to obtain the mineral wealth held within which fuelled the industrial development through finance of the hillfoots area. These abandoned mine shafts, especially the longer and deeper ones provided a more stable temperature and accessible roosting sites away from predation. However, they were also popular exploratory tunnels and it was felt that this regular disturbance might be preventing the adoption of the tunnels for hibernation sites but without evidence it was difficult to prove hence the very reason for the survey. We donned on our hard hats, headtorches and armed with spot torches to survey likely hibernation crevices we split in to two groups and dived in to the Adits. This was my first ever journey in to a mine shaft so was fascinated, excited and determined to find a bat in amongst the wonderful craggy interior of the Adit. It was much warmer inside the mine shaft so took my time with the team finding cave spiders and moths by the multitude. We found evidence of roosting sites with the deposit of Moth wings where a Daubenton’s Bat had been munching on moths but not a single bat found.

We dropped down off of the hillside and after a slip and a fall by a number of us returned to the cars and pushed on to the Alva Glen for the next set of Adits to survey. Once there we thought we could feel the sun making a feeble attempt at pushing through the clouds so decided to have our packed lunches on the picnic tables with small snow flakes floating down round about us. The odd visitor to the glen appeared slightly flummoxed by the sight of these very wet hardy folk sat enjoying lunch together in the snow. The hardy folk were the other 6. Not me. After treatment I have found my ability to manage my temperature far harder than it used to be. It was getting better but not yet perfect. I was getting colder by the minute and not feeling hardy so was hugely pleased, as the snow started to fall harder, when the decision was made to retreat to the cars. As we sat in John’s car finishing our lunch I suddenly burst into the first two lines of a song by Wet Wet Wet to have the second two lines completed by Anne:

‘I cannae feel my fingers,
I cannae feel my toes,
My bum is totally frozen, 
There’s droplets on my nose’

We giggled hard and feeling warmed we set off bravely back into the snow for the short climb and traverse to the next pair of Adits. Hard hats back on and back in for another hunt. Again we took our time and searched every nook and cranny but not a single bat found. We scrambled back to the descent towards the Golf Club and after another couple of slips and falls made it back to the cars to head back to Logie and the ascent to the next pair of Adits.

Once at Logie John and I changed in to Waders for the trog up the hill. The next Adit was full of water. I was secretly quite looking forward to this extra little bit of spice for our day of mine shaft exploration. This was the longest Adit and the water was too deep for Wellies so John and I dived in with our waders. I was loving the experience and the warmth of the cave so took my time as I passed John and continued my search often up to my knees in water as I crouched and waded, bumping my head in my hard hat along the ceiling of the mine looking for bats. Eventually John came back for me so reluctantly I headed back out with again not a bat found.

Cave Moths
Cave Moths

We returned to the cars and said farewell to the wonderfully hardy and Batty people who made the day such a pleasure with their smiles broadening the more bitter it became. I had to hand out some flyers and invite Laura, Alastair, Dani and Alasdair to enjoy a glass of wine and watch a video! John, Anne and I set off for home, cold but contented. Anne had to get home to relieve her dog so we couldn’t stop for a celebratory Mocha and a flapjack but instead we had a far better finish to the day. Anne invited us back to her house for a cup of tea to warm us before we get home. We immediately agreed and leaving Anne to get things ready John and I stripped off our wet kit, made sure all my kit was gathered and packed and prepared to dive in to Anne’s house. What a wonderful welcome we received as the coffee was made by Anne’s delightful lodger and the wood burner flared into the most wonderful show of warmth the flames flickering with such vigour and enthusiasm to warm our very soles. We had the most wonderful conversation around the table, warmed by the fire, and in such wonderful company. The perfect way to end the day.

As John drove me home we talked some more and I answered in my mind James’ question from tea yesterday evening. I had made a Broccoli Pasta absolutely packed full of goodness from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals. As James and I devoured it we talked about the survey I was going on and he asked me the most intelligent question. ‘Dad, What’s the point of bats?’ After such a great day in the company of wonderfully batty people and with all of John’s very thorough and interesting briefs I felt confident that I could now answer the question. It was really remarkably simple yet strikingly simple. One has to couch it in terms of ecosystem services. What services Bats provide to the very ecosystem on which we depend for our survival. There are four main areas:

  1. They control insect populations. Bats can and do eat many thousands of insects a night. Many of these are the disease carrying or irritating biting insects such as mosquitos and midges. They help keep a lid on the populations of such insects.
  2. They help control agricultural pests. Again insects but those that cause agricultural problems and by eating so many of these a night bats help keep these insect populations agriculturally sustainable reducing the need for pesticides which are a poison which enters our food chain.
  3. In Europe and other continents the fruit eating bats play a pivotal role in the pollination and seed dispersal of the native plants to the ecosystem on which the bats and so many other species depend for survival.
  4. Finally bats are indicator species. Insects form a vital link in the food chain to any ecosystem. So when industrial practices or agricultural practices cause a drop in the availability of insects as a food source bats will show a marked reduction in their population numbers which will raise awareness of a problem within the food chain allowing industrial or agricultural practices to be amended in favour of insect populations before it starts to reflect in a further crash across the rest of the ecosystem in terms of bird populations, pollination rates et al.

So bats are extremely important to the food we eat the biodiversity and the comfort of the environment that we enjoy and to be aware of where problems are occurring before they become a problem we must be aware of their population numbers through such surveys such as those carried out today by a hardy group of soles in the face of significantly difficult conditions.

Gosh what a day and thank you to John and the Central Scotland Bat Group for hosting me so beautifully.

Sunday tomorrow so no post tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of the weekend but before you do:

Me in a cave
Me, in a cave

The challenge so far in numbers in total since the start:
Days completed: 123
Total Miles Cycled: 635
Total Miles Walked: 608.5
Total Miles Run: 41.2
Total Miles Paddled: 7
Total Distance Cycled, Skied, Ran and Rowed in the gym: 23.3
Total Distance Swum: 1,860 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam.1,316.7
Total Height Gained under own steam: 34,023 feet
Mountains Climbed: 5
Hills Climbed: 18
Days of Voluntary Activity: 7.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Bats Found:0!
Curling Matches played in: 7
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 1
Weight Training Sessions: 9
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 6
Press Ups: 312
Pull Ups: 73
Sit Ups: 312
People Met and Hands Shaken: 371
Pots of tea shared: 27
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 4
Prayers joined in a Train Station: 1
Prayers joined in a Café: 1
Pills popped: 542
Days until Driving Licence (lost to epilepsy) possibly Returned: 721
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 112 – £6,050.77

Considering I started this challenge 22 weeks ago very quietly with no target beyond a fiver, thanks to the brilliant advice from a friend of mine, I am absolutely thrilled and again thank you all. That is £54.02 for each and every day that I have managed to find the will and energy to do something worthwhile and my goodness it has been worth it for my peace of mind, for my healing and for the five wonderful charities you are supporting through your generosity. Long may it continue. May I also ask however that if you are not sponsoring me to please consider it for as much or as little as you can afford. My rate of revenue raising has slowed from £70.00 a day to £60.00 a day to £54.02 a day so please sponsor me and encourage your friends to as well.

Thank you all for your incredible comments and support. Please continue to spread the word.
If you see me around do please give a cheery hello and shake my hand or toot your horn and give a cheery wave to show your support and encourage me on.

The view out over the Ochils
The view out over the Ochils

Thank you for joining me on my own personal journey and encouraging me to walk, cycle, climb, paddle, sport and do good deeds each day to ‘Beat the Beast’ while helping to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people through sponsorship. The Five Charities that I have selected to support are:

  1. Cancer Research UK – My Father Succumbed to Lung Cancer; a couple of friends are currently fighting cancer and I am fighting a brain tumour. Let’s Help to Beat Cancer Sooner.
  2. The Prince’s Trust – Inspiring and preparing disadvantaged Young Lives for success.
  3. British Red Cross – helping those in need around the UK and the world whoever and wherever they are.
  4. World Wide Fund for Nature – For a Living Planet and a Future Where People and Nature Thrive.
  5. Help for Heroes – Support for our Wounded and their Families. To learn more about my story that brought me to this point, how I plan to ‘Beat the Beast’, what activities I plan to do within the challenge and why, please see my welcome video on this page.

How to Sponsor Me

The Beat the Beast Challenge is self funding through my own contribution while keeping costs to a minimum with voluntary support and corporate sponsorship in kind. Therefore the entirety of every penny donated will go directly to the 5 charities listed above.

Please sponsor me by completing a standing order form either through your own personal internet banking or by completing a hard copy standing order form in your branch of your bank and then handing it in to the teller.

It is entirely up to you how much you would like to and are able to sponsor me for so do please give as much or as little as you can. Every penny will be very gratefully received.

While I hope you will encourage me to keep going by sponsoring me for every day I survive and am able to find the cognitive and physical capability to complete a day’s task designed to improve my chances of ‘Beating the Beast’ or improving the lives of others, 5 days a week, four weeks a month, for as long as ever I can. Any One off Cash contributions will be most gratefully received and distributed in exactly the same manner to the five charities as the sponsorship. Any one off donations can be made by BACS or cheque.

Thank you for having enough faith in me to sponsor me.

Yours aye