The glen is like a furnace, so I’m walking as briskly as I dare under the searing sun.
I don’t like heat and I don’t like rushing. I’m starting to question whether I’m even enjoying myself. What on earth am I doing?
Truth be told I’d much rather be ambling out of this beautiful glen at my own pace. I’d rather be strolling along in leisurely fashion and taking the scenic grandeur in on my own terms. Perhaps stopping at the river’s edge, soaking my feet in the cool water, eating some cake. Y’know, enjoying myself. But, no, enjoyment is weakness… and they know it.
I’m being stalked, and there’s little option other than to keep moving. I HAVE to keep moving. Oh, but I really need a rest. I need to have a drink. I REALLY NEED TO PEE!
OK, needs must, but I’ll have to be clever. How can I do all three and survive unscathed?
Over the next couple of minutes as I’m walking, I plan it all out, rehearsing the movements in my head like it’s a finely tuned military operation.
I then come to an abrupt halt and turn around. For a couple of seconds nothing happens, other than my heart beats furiously as it makes the most of the respite. I’ve repeated this routine over and over this afternoon but they’ve found me every time.
Clegs are highly attuned predators after all, and I am the hapless prey.
Clegs are like a pack of wolves and I’m their lumbering prey
I’m not sure what irks me more about the inevitable delay between me stopping and the clegs lazily arriving – their stubborn predictability or the weird sense that they’re not in any rush.
They can fly fast but they never really seem to, at least not in the frenzied panicky way that most flies do around your head when you’re walking. Clegs are more like a pack of wolves chasing down their prey, taking it in turns to harass but ultimately keeping their distance and biding their time until the poor lumbering beast, energy spent, is too tired to resist.
A few more seconds pass and then, after a teasing stillness, the pack arrives and immediately encircles me.
I, the poor lumbering beast, hastily execute my plan via a combination of waving, relocating, swatting, and walking around in big circles. It’s not a relaxing interlude by any stretch of the imagination but, miraculously, I seem to complete it unscathed.
I put my rucksack back on and prepare to wa… OUCH!
The clegs are fiendishly coordinated – I swear they’re working together. And, man, do you feel them when they bite
I instinctively swat at my shoulder. I’m stupidly impressed at how fast I react but it’s already too late. The cleg has what it came for. That will itch like hell for the next week.
I take a brief moment to rub the wound, to numb the sensation, but that’s a mistake because while I focus on that, another cleg has already landed on my stomach. Unseen, unheard and unfelt, they employ some kind of stealth technology that renders them completely undetectable until their jaws have sunk.
It’s fiendishly coordinated – I swear they’re working together. And, man, do you feel them when they bite.
Clegs versus keds
Unlike mosquitoes, who pierce the skin cleanly like a needle and then inject anaesthetic to numb the pain, clegs have no time for such pleasantries. Their serrated jaws slash their way through your clothing and skin, and they’re not interested in doing anything to make the experience any less unpleasant.
Having sneakily outwitted and evaded your defences so comprehensively up until now, subtlety is abandoned completely for the bite itself. It’s as though they’re saying: “Haha! Got you!”
As I stumble around, thrashing, a third cleg seizes its moment on my leg. Quickly I succumb to the attack, collapsing in a heap on the ground, and my life force gradually ebbs away with every bite.
OK, so it’s not quite that bad, but that feeling of hopelessness is very real once
your defences are breached. And they will be breached, because it’s not possible to maintain a high enough level of vigilance for an entire day.
It is exhausting work, fending off clegs. And given that they could probably bite through metal armour if they wanted, I do find myself wondering if they rank highest on my list of “annoying wee beasties” in summer. Higher even than midges and ticks.
Then again, I’ve not yet had a skin-crawling deer ked land on me this year. Maybe ask me again once they have come out to play.
Ben Dolphin is an outdoors enthusiast, countryside ranger and former president of Ramblers Scotland