This is a shorter blog post but I forgot to charge up my phone and my charger due to agonies incurred on previous day. So not many pictures :(
Cessford to Kirk Yetholm
Earworm of the Day: Mairi's Wedding (trad) and Willafjord (trad)
Back the next day and on the walk for good now. We left the car at Cessford for P to collect later and started off and what was the longest stretch of road-walking on the Way.
The guidebooks say that Cessford was once a much bigger and more populous place than it is now and the ruins of Cessford Castle are sited back off the road. The castle was once a base for the Kers - a separate branch of the Kerr family to that of Michael (Kerr) Ancram, Tory politician and Marquess of Lothian who owns Monteviot House.
The Way leaves Cessford and passes the ruined castle on a narrow lane, heading downhill towards Morebattle. The section of the Way between Cessford and Morebattle is all road-walking, initially on quiet roads between arable fields in blazing sunshine.
Hamish likes it best when all three of us are out on a walk. His family is complete and all is well with the world. I'd checked his feet and he seemed to be coping with the walk very well. We climbed slightly and the fields at the top of the hill were full of golden rapeseed higher than us. It was an odd feeling - just being surrounded by gree and yelow with the blue sky above.
Down past the farm cottage at Otterburn where some children were playing outside and then reaching the main Kelso-Kirk Yetholm Road (another fast one - with a high number of manicured ladies in black four by fours, heading for Kelso at a fair lick which made Hamish cower) at the delightfully named Cowbog, where the road runs through the valley of the Kale Water. We sat on a wall to take on some water and look at the map.
An information Board later on the road points out that the whole valley area was once the huge Linton Loch; 1000 acres of water and marsh (now drained for farming). The area was also the home of the mythical Linton Worm - wyrm being an old Anglo-Saxon word for dragon or serpent. The Worm would rampage across the Border countryside laying waste to people, livestock and farms until it was killed by a local laird.
We braved the busy road and Hamish hunted for ditches and streams where he could slake his thirst. The water i carry along for him (at considerable effort) is never as nice as water from puddles and ditches. You can take the dog off the streets but ....
Morebattle is a lovely village with some quaint street names that made it seem like my kind of place. It was still blisteringly hot.
P had gone back to bring the car to Morebattle and I had arranged to meet him in the pub for our free half-pints. Before that though, I stopped at the Trysting Tree, which is where the Jethart Callant and Kelso Laddie meet up on their respective Common Ridings each summer. I was starting to think about borders and what they meant.
The Templehall Inn was very quiet indeed and we felt guilty having just our free half-pints, so we ordered crisps and extra drinks (all to help boost the local economy of course) before reluctantly heading back into the heat for the next stage.
After a short stretch on the main road, we headed right along a lane down across the burn and then a steep climb up Grubbit Law. I took it very very slowly indeed as my right foot was in real pain from blisters front and back and my left hip was hurting too (bursitis - longstanding). I've kind of adopted a hill-pace which is slow, measured and involves more than a few stops to look at the view. Speed isn't everything - right? I did think i was getting a bit fitter though, and i was starting to be more confident that I would eventually get to the top of the hills we met on the way.
No phone battery. No charge in my wee power pack.
At the top of Wideopen Hill we were apparently on the highest point of the walk and half way there, and the views were amazing. Suddenly the Eildon Hills seemed far away and the Cheviots filled the horizon in the other direction - I felt we'd finally achieved some real distance across the visible landscape.
All the time, when you're walking in the Lammermuirs, the Cheviots are the far horizon to the south, marking the edge of the visible world, and here we were, nearly there. Approaching the border in more ways than one.
The route down from the hill followed drystone walls - which reminded me that I was supposed to be drystone walling at a practice meet in Yorkshire that coming Saturday - how would I feel? :O
I do love drystone walling (or dystane dyking) but have struggled with both confidence and fitness since I joined the Guild. A hernia, then an op plus recovery, followed by hospital-acquired infection and recovery had put paid to much involvement in 2017 and for most of the summer of 2018 I'd had a grumbling chest infection followed by a detached retina. Hence the 'get active and do stuff you enjoy' resolutions for 2019.
As it turns out I could barely put one foot in front of the other and occupied myself with supplying the other wallers with stone and doing 'packing' - providing the essential infill between the two faces of the wall. My Wharfedale friends took compassionate care of me and sent me back to Scotland feeling a lot better.
The walk was a bit roller-coastery - up n down - and we could see Yetholm below us, then down an old green lane, down to a tarmac road (again!) for about a mile and some lovely riverside track around the side of Kirk Yetholm where we had booked a B&B.
This was the night that P was due to leave and I would do the rest of the walk on my own (mostly). My friend RE was supposed to be joining me on Friday for the last stretch but I was assuming that she wouldn't be able to make it. I needed to be prepared to do this alone. And of course I had got used to the company now.
The B&B (The Farmhouse) had not long been sold (we'd seen it in the local property guide) but the new owners weren't planning to run it as a B&B. That's a tremendous loss to the St Cuthbert's Way, as the place is absolutely brilliant.
The lady-owner met us and was understandably (with moving day later that week) pretty stressed out but showed me (and the dog) to our room which was a huge double with a jacuzzi bath. We dumped our bags and headed to the pub for something to eat.
We had already checked out the Border Hotel a few weeks previously. It is where the Pennine Way ends and I'd been asked to take a photo of a wiry tanned man who said he had completed the route in eight days. Now, in a younger life, I used to go out with Yomping Boy, but this seemed excessive. I asked if he'd seen anything of his walk and he said 'no not really, just had my head down'. We took these photos on that visit:
It's a brilliant pub (wish it was my local!) with a fine selection of gins including Hadrian's Wall Gin which is kind of medicinal and herby. I love it. We sat outside the front, looking over the green and ordered some tea. Fish n chips (again). Something needed to wipe away the memory of the Scotts View disaster. A huge portion, crisply friend with great chips and loads of peas.
The tables out front were full of people enjoying the late sun, dogs lazed about on the tarmac and a man who said he had walked from Bideford was thumbing through the Cameron McNeish end-to-end book he'd borrowed from the bar, trying to work out what he was supposed to do when he got to the top end of the St Cuthberts Way at Melrose, as he was planning to walk to Cape Wrath but seemed very relaxed about how he was doing it.
I loved his attitude but it isn't me I'm afraid. I wondered about the man who had been walking north through Scotland this time last year, staying in bothies with his fierce dog, wondered how the Naked Rambler was getting on (if he'd ever managed to leave Scotland or if he was still in prison somewhere), and whether this notion of walking long-distance attracted such a wide range of people because -buried within us - walking is our common heritage. We need to do it. When all else fails us we can still walk.
I read a book a few years ago about walking, and how - in evolutionary terms - we as human beings are not yet adapted to deal with living at increasingly high speed; with being able to cross continents in a day, or speed between major cities in the central belt in under an hour. Physically, and emotionally perhaps, we are still built for 2-3 miles per hour. Perhaps that is why I think better when I'm walking?
I loved that evening and didn't want it to end. The food was lovely, the gin was magical and the sun set slowly behind the houses across the green, as someone tended a hazy bonfire.
We wandered back down to the B&B and lazed around for a bit before I had to say good bye to P who was getting a taxi back to the car at Morebattle, then driving home. I didn't want him to leave either. I felt a bit less fearless now that my foot was so blistered.
Gave my foot a proper looking after - the room had a sewing kit which I used for the rest of the trip as my blister-lancing kit, and fresh Compeed.
Now it was going to feel like more of a solo-adventure.