Back home again

3rd June 2018

My wife is ill, so I travelled home yesterday afternoon. (Update 7th June: now substantially recovered)

Yesterday’s Jaffa-cake-sponge coffee shop was the second part of an anxious wait. The first was a rather decent haircut that left lots of cut hairs stuck to my suncreamed face and neck.

Sitting in a busy bus shelter, another hour ticked away as I waited for news. I checked train timetables, as the window for getting home that night gradually closed. The decision of a hospital admission for an ear infection finally came. A bus to Edinburgh, a train to Manchester via York (pouring with rain in Newcastle), a tram: just 6 hours after leaving Peebles I was home. Quite remarkable speed really: I even squeezed in a refreshing shower at Edinburgh station. The hospital allowed a late visit. Everyone hugged & I then crawled gratefully into bed at home.

My resumption point will be Peebles, rather than Spean Bridge. But that’s next year at least.

It’s been great, unbelievable at times that I was even doing it. Some days brought a euphoria I have rarely experienced: a thrill at the vastness & beauty or desolation of the landscape. Others just the determination to keep going (Wenlock Edge). I am going to reflect on all this for quite some time.

A big thanks to everyone who joined me for a day (or more!) and for the happy companionship of the Pennine Way walkers. Bonne marche a tous!

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Putting on my normal shoes today feels very odd, and my balance is unsteady. I must have relied on the walking poles a lot!

I am also allowing myself to acknowledge that my feet and knees are sore. That my body in general is feeling very tired, and I am grateful for a longer rest. I have been away from home for a very long time.

But today is also a celebration day: The Botanist in Manchester will see us (only two!) raising some cocktails to Clara’s 18th birthday! (Exactly 18 years ago yesterday I did a mad dash across country, but that’s another story).

Weight obsession corner:

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Finishing weights:

Bodyweight: 71.1 kg (I visibly haven’t burned off all the calories that my walking appetite demanded. I call it “Mr Podge”)

I left a pair of gloves in the Newtown St Boswell bookshop.

Full Kit review here later…

  • Rucksack: Osprey Talon 33: 915g
  • Packed clothing: green waterproof bag; waterproof socks (Sealskinz); pair Ron Hill trousers; pair underpants; pair woollen socks; pullover fleece; sun hat; warm hat. Total: 905g
  • Waterproofs: Montane jacket (455g); gortex trousers (240g). Total 695g
  • Washbag: 2 fleece towels: 105g, soap 55g, mossie head net 25g, suncreams 110g, toiletries 130g, repair kit, plasters etc 115g; compass 45g; mapcase 75g. Total 685g
  • Electronics bag: Kindle; folding plug; battery pack; cables; backup mobile phone; iPhone (145g): Total 820g
  • Sunglasses and case:
  • Poles: Pair Fizan with added lengths of sticky tape. Total 380g
  • Wearing: pair Ron Hill trousers (210g); pair underpants (65g); pair woollen socks (75g); Paramo long sleeve shirt (210g); zip-fleece (370g), money belt & contents (140g); spectacles (?). Total: 1075g
  • Walking boots:
  • Tent with poles, pegs & carry bag (980g); footprint ( 140g). Total 1120g
  • Sleeping bag; compressor sack; pump sack. Total: 910g
  • Thermarest Neoair plus repair kit. Total 395g

missing: gloves

Day 57 Innerleithen to Peebles

2nd June 2018

Weather: Hot & humid start. First rumbles of thunder at 10:40 Rain in Peebles from 13:30, with thunderstorms forecast for the rest of the afternoon.

All Day 57 pictures on Dropbox

The “5 miles” route along the tarmac’d former railway line was pleasant enough, spoiled only by the noise of traffic on a nearby road. It was also a gauntlet of barking, snappy dogs. Why do dog owners think it’s funny? Also notable for kamikaze snails crossing the path in baking sunshine.

A “Tweedside path” sign misled me to a dead-end and fence-climb. A pleasant riverside walk into the busy Saturday shopping centre of Peebles. At 12km, it was half as much again as I was expecting, but still the shortest ‘day’ so far.

Papaver

Don’t think I have seen hawthorn this colour before

Canoeing lessons

Approaching Peebles centre

Jaffa cake sponge in the Ramblers Cafe. Proprietress found its wobble hilarious

Day 57 track on ViewRanger

Day 56 Melrose to Innerleithen

1st June 2018

Weather: Hot, sunny, windless to start. Cloud built up, some light wind on exposed ridges. Heavy rain with thunder and lightning late afternoon.

All Day 56 pictures on Dropbox

That was quite a day! A good getaway at 07:40, knowing the forecast of thunderstorm at 4pm where I was headed. The brief walk along riverside was cooler, but several up & down hills on the Southern Uplands way was hot work. Substantial parts of it were shaded by trees until the exposed ridge up to Three Brethen, and the 5 miles to Minch Moor (tree felling having removed some of the forest marked on the map). But this gave some fabulous panoramic views: showers ahead of me, the rounded hills. The Eildon Hills above Melrose were visible most of the day, just shrinking gently with time.

The thundery weather was on time. Fortunately I was just descending from the high ridge, but got a generous dousing of rain, thunder that sounded like ripping and tearing above me. Some sheet lightning. Reached Traquair Arms hotel in Innerleithen at 17:25. My track recording stopped earlier, I assume as a “power saving” measure.

It was quite a long way, and the heat made it an even more tiring day. 3 litres of water carried from the start (heavy) and all consumed.

In case you didn’t know …

..

Galashiels

What firemen do on hot days

Blissful shade

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Cairn and trig point at Three Brethren (Eildon Hills in distance)

There may be trouble ahead

Looking back

All clearing now, I thought. From Brown Knowe: Minch Moor, the last big bump on the ridge ahead

Pipers Knowe

Raining heavily at this point (looking NW towards Traquair)

Road at Traquair

Track available on ViewRanger , another mile to finish though (and in the rain)

Melrose rest day

31st May 2018

Weather: Cloudy, warm.

All Melrose rest day pictures on Dropbox

A gentle day in chi-chi Melrose (eg: posh pie shop mentioned in a JK Rowling book. You know this because they tell you in the window, complete with a book and photo of JKR).

Sat in a couple of quiet NTS gardens by the Abbey. In Priorwood garden watched a beekeeper, armed with smokepot, stealing honey.

Visited the somewhat underwhelming amateur Roman Trimontium museum, as most of the local finds are displayed elsewhere.

Discovered that the Minch Moor bothy, I was planning to stay at tomorrow night, seems to have disappeared between 2014 and 2016. If I need to avoid a forecast thunderstorm on Saturday there’s a low-level former railway line, between Innerleithen and Peebles, instead of the Southern Upland Route. (At just 5 miles instead of 12 on higher ground. Less interesting is fine if it avoids thunderstorm on the hills!)

Beekeeper at work.

Melrose Abbey

JK’s favourite is the steak & mushroom I believe

The most impressive museum exhibit, with accompanying magnifying glass to view the coin hoard in detail.

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Yesterday I decided that I would suspend this trip at Spean Bridge, and use the time to go and bag some outstanding Munros, (blog at “An Excuse to Eat More Cake”). That’s simply because I cannot get to Dunnet Head and get home before the end of June without some difficult compromises.

The alternative was worrying about which sections to join together for one day, forgo rest days, AND abandon the “hard” wild-camping section along the Cape Wrath Trail (Spean Bridge to Watten), in favour of the JOG trail. All those tricks would allow me to do it in time, but it’s not what I really want to do. The 7 days back home for injury used up all my flexibility.

I am now planning more days off, and eliminating the anxiety of reaching Dunnet Head by 29th June, so expect to enjoy the remaining walking far more.

I hope to resume in May 2019, which will coincide with the need for something to get over Brexit blues.

Day 55 Jedburgh to Melrose

30th May 2018

Weather: Overcast, fog on hills above 300m for most of day. Cool but humid. Light rain 15:00-16:00.

All Day 55 photos on Dropbox

Airbnb has certainly taken me to some quirky places. Only cats for company last night & this morning.

Foot report: it has been improving gradually. Pain in arch gone, less frequent stabs in ball of foot. Which points a finger of blame at the previous boots.

For the first time this trip I wasn’t looking forward to the walk when I woke up. In the end it wasn’t too bad: following “St Cuthbert’s Way” to Newtown St Boswells, coincided with Dere Street at first: great stretches of straight track, mostly bordered by trees. A rather humid and cool day, needing a fleece when stopped.

Then alongside the River Tweed which looked, at 1:50k, to be a simple riverside walk. In reality with many short ups and downs to navigate steep banks.

By the river, a very “busy” patch of swiftly flying birds, then realised they were nesting in burrows just below me- probably sand martins.

A cafe/bookshop tempted me to stay for over an hour in St Boswells, during which it started raining.

The descended mist put me off following Cuthbert over the Eildon Hills, (but also because I was getting a bit knackered), so ended up following the Border Abbeys Way into Melrose by way of a disused road.

A comfy b&b and, after two successive long walks, a day off I think.

.……;…

Morning view from “Mount Ulston” looking towards the Waterloo monument. An hour later the monument top was in cloud.

Cuthbert and River Teviot

A wooden suspension bridge. Very bouncy at my normal pace (needs some Stockbridge dampers)

Tree ent, obviously

Garlic flowering profusely

Ancient Roman Road passing through woods

Ancient Roman road, carving a very straight line

Seems the wrong time of year, but quite a specimen

Maxton kirk

Riverside walking, sort of

Very wide River Tweed. Jumping fish

Sand martins video

Tweed from above: look at the mist

I fluffed saving the ViewRanger track with the proper name.

Day 54 Byrness to Jedburgh

29th May 2018

Weather: Mist and fog the predominant feature of the day. Briefly clearing to give me a view of The Cheviot around 11:00, but descending shortly after. Clearing from 3pm to give a sunny evening.

All Day 54 photos on Dropbox including the fox videos.

I kissed my (clean) pants at 06:25, in the joy of finding them on the end of the bed, rather than the breakfast-fear of having left them in the (locked) drying room & needing to wait until 8am

Set off 06:40 to mist-covered tops. A sharp ascent onto Byrness Hill to find Andy at his camping spot. He’d had an entertaining evening with midges. We wished each other well, an echo of last night’s camaraderie. The mist enveloped the ground around me, my boots getting their first taste of proper wetness on this trip, but from the grass. Water condensing on my hair dripped onto my glasses.

Just before 9am, near Ogre Hill, I stopped to watch a leaping, dancing fox playing with his breakfast. A couple of agitated grouse running around him.

I resisted the temptation to explore the lumps & bumps of the Roman Camp at Chew Green, knowing there were many miles ahead.

On leaving the Pennine Way, at the Scottish border 12.2 km from the start, I bid it a fond farewell for the unforgettable, enjoyable experience. The amazing weather, but also the pleasant company I’d had.

I followed the old Roman Road of Dere Street which went on for miles from the high moorland to modern road to wooded tracks. Coming up from Tow Ford was a most cheerful pair: Mary Crosby carrying a twisted wood staff, topped by an abalone shell that was made by her accompanying brother Dick Poulson. Mary lives in Kirk Yetholm & enjoys her water “straight from the burn on the hillside”.

Dere Street hit a road at 23.7km, with a seat, so I made that the second rest stop of the day. I was shortly joined by Yvonne & Claire, with ponies, on their first day of a 6-day trek to Peebles. They wanted to be sure they were on Dere Street & somehow trusted a strange walker to reassure them of same. The ponies munched grass as we chatted & I watched them walk off into the mist marvelling at the pleasure we get from the odd quests we set ourselves.

I was most pleased to finish walking by 5pm at a let-yourself-in Airbnb for the night, vindicating the early start for such a long way. A walk downhill into Jedburgh on a lovely sunny evening, but I took a taxi back uphill, saving my energy for tomorrow.

Andy’s camping spot (I didn’t recognise him without sunglasses)

Stone slabs & cotton grass in the mist

The fox leaped about Fox video1; Fox video2

At the Scottish border saying goodbye to the PW

Boots made for walking

Roman Road in the mist

Brother & sister Dick & Mary out for a walk

“5 Stones Stone Circle”. Quite

Yvonne & Claire (the phone message is “a walker tells us we’ve found Dere Street”)

Riding off into the mist

Dere Street goes woodland (the logo is supposed to represent a Roman helmet btw)

My b&b host for the night (really: no humans present)

Jedburgh Abbey evening light

Day 53 track on ViewRanger

A further 2km walked into the town afterwards