27th August – Peebles to West Linton – The End for 2018

20180827 Looking back on Peebles
Looking back on Peebles

The day started well. I had a substantial breakfast, the weather forecast was good and I had found a much better route to take, by following the Cross Border Drove Road.

20180827 Heading for Linton on the old drove road
Heading for West Linton on the old drove road

I left Peebles at 8.30 and climbed up from the valley floor over a ridge before descending and climbing another hill.

20180827 Highland Cattle
Highland cattle – luckily the bull was otherwise occupied!

By this time despite the forecast it had started to rain. I stopped around 10.00 as my lower abdomen was painful with what I took to be trapped wind.  I took some tablets but they had no real effect.  The rest of the day was not very pleasant and it was with great relief when I arrived at The Gordon Arms at 3.30.  I went straight to my room, dumped all the wet kit and jumped into the shower.  It was then that I discovered that I had a lump in my abdomen, near where I had had a hernia a few years ago.  To cut a long saga short, I ended up being taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, just before midnight, where they confirmed that it was a hernia which needed treatment.  When the registrar arrived from theatre, he managed to reduce it, and I was admitted.  He tried to get me on the list for the following day, but this proved impossible.  After X-rays and blood tests, they decided yesterday that I could return to Wantage and get things sorted out there.  Alan kindly came and picked me up and I will be returning to Wantage tomorrow.

I cannot overstate the kindness and concern shown by all the staff at The Gordon Arms at West Linton.  The owner, Seonaid Mann, took me first to Bonnyrigg and then on to Edinburgh Infirmary.  She also very kindly picked me up yesterday ,and could not have been more helpful.  I do not know how I would have managed without her assistance.  The nurses and doctors at Edinburgh Infirmary were also very attentive and kind.

I think that I knew from the moment that I saw the hernia that my trip was over.  The doctors all confirmed that it would not be possible to continue.  This is obviously very disappointing, but I am glad that there was no uncertainty about what has to happen.  The walk is over for 2018.

I will need to decide whether I can complete the trip next year.  Whatever happens it would need to be a different ending.  I will now not risk carrying a rucksack with camping gear – and without camping gear, I cannot go up the Cape Wrath Trail.  Anyway that is for the future.  For now I just need to get home and sort things out with the doctors.

 

26th August – Innerleithen to Peebles

The forecast for today was for heavy rain so I was a little surprised not to hear the patter of raindrops on the tent when I woke at 6.00. I was just about warm enough last night, when the temperature dropped to single figures. I only have a lightweight sleeping bag with me and will need an upgrade when I reach Fort William. Taking advantage of the fact that the forecast rain had not arrived I quickly struck camp and moved to a covered area, near the bar, to have breakfast.

Today was a short day to reduce the mileage I have to do tomorrow to reach West Linton. I left at 8.55 and retraced my steps back to Traquair.  From here, in worsening rain, I took the road to Peebles. The planned route diverts from the road to Castle Knowle or Kailzie Hill but these seemed unnecessary excursions.  I arrived in Peebles at 12.30. A quick visit to the Tourist Information identified the position on my digs for the night.  I am writing this in a Wetherspoons, having had lunch, while I wait for 3.00, when the guest house opens.  It is also giving me the opportunity to dry my kit.

25th August – Galashiels/Melrose to Innerleithen

20180825 Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey

Today was a good day in many ways.  The weather was fine, albeit with strong winds on the summits, the route was interesting, and the Southern Uplands Way, which I was following for most of the day, was very well signed.

20180825 Looking down on Galashiels
Looking down on Galashiels

I caught the bus from Galashiels at 6.30 and started walking just after 7.00.

20180825 Suspension bridge over the river Tweed
Suspension bridge over the river Tweed

The trail started by following the Tweed before joining an old railway track and then crossing the A7.  It was then time for the first real climb of the day around Gala Hill.  When I was at the bottom of the hill a man on a horse came round the corner. The horse spooked and the rider went out the side door. He was unhurt but the horse ran off. I last saw it a good quarter of a mile away still running hard. He was unimpressed.

The trail continued down and then rose over Hog Hill…

20180825 Descent from Hog Hill
The descent from Hog Hill. Brown Knowe is on skyline on right.

…before recrossing the Tweed at Yair Bridge.

20180825 The Tweed at Yair Bridge
River Tweed at Yair Bridge

It was here that the serious work of the day began.

20180825 Taking a break near Yair Bridge
Taking a break near Yair Bridge

The climb to the Three Brethren (464m) through a forest took 1.5 hours.

20180825 The Three Brethren
The Three Brethren (cairns)

Once on the ridge things improved, still ascending but more gently, with magnificent views.

20180825 View north from the Three Brethren
View north from the Three Brethren

When I stopped for a late lunch at the highest point, Brown Knowe (523m), a group of about 20 walkers passed me going in the opposite direction. This was more people than I had seen in the previous week.

20180825 Last of the walkers leaving Brown Knowe
The walkers leaving Brown Knowe

Then it was down again before climbing up towards Minch Moor through another forest. Just below the high point I passed the Cheese Well, a natural spring.

Anyone planning to spend the night at Minch Moor Bothy will be disappointed as it no longer exists. Apparently it was demolished after being vandalised on several occasions, a problem faced by the Bothy Association whenever a bothy is near habitation.

20180825 Descent to Innerleithen
Descent to Innerleithen

All that was left was the long descent to Tarquair and some road walking to get to Innerleithen and the campsite, which I reached at 4.35.

After pitching the tent and a shower I had dinner at the pub on the site.  This was very noisy so I returned to the tent to rest and read.  Children finally shut up and went to bed around 10pm.

24th August – Jedburgh to Melrose/Galashiels

20180824 Checking that I am in the right place
Checking that I’m in the right place

When I started this blog I decided to tell the whole story of the trip, good or bad, even if it was embarrassing. Today at breakfast I checked the name of the hotel that I had booked for tonight: The George.  I then looked in horror when it said Montrose and not Melrose. At this point I can picture my friends in MAC (Mountain Activities Club) falling off their chairs laughing.  Luckily there are few problems which cannot now be sorted out with a mobile phone and a credit card, and I found a place in Galashiels. The lady at Montrose was understanding and reduced the bill.

20180824 River Teviot
The trail crossed the river Teviot by suspension bridge

All of that excitement meant that it was 8.40 before I left Jedburgh.  As normal there was an immediate stiff climb out of the town.  Going over the ridge, the trail then drops down to the River Teviot, which is followed briefly before another ascent to regain Dere Street.  This was easy today with a good path.

20180824 Leaving Dere Street
Leaving Dere Street for the last time

The path eventually leaves Dere Street, and descends to follow the River Tweed…

20180824 Salmon fishing on River Tweed
Salmon fishing on the river Tweed

…to St Boswells and Newton St Boswells.

20180824 Mertoun Bridge over the river Tweed
Mertoun Bridge over the river Tweed, near St Boswells

At this point I spotted a shortcut, and followed a cycle trail along a road closed to motorists, down to Melrose, arriving at 4.15.

20180824 Melrose market place
Melrose market place

I considered walking on to Galashiels for a nanosecond – and then caught the bus.

Walking out of the bus station at Galashiels, I was checking the address of my B&B when I realised that I was standing next to it.  This is going to be useful tomorrow, because as it’s a Saturday the buses are a little sparse.  I am intending to catch the 6.30 a.m. bus back to Melrose.  I have another 20-mile day tomorrow, with a lot of climbing, and I then have to camp so I want to make an early start.

Coming to Galashiels has allowed me to pick up a couple of maps for the Southern Uplands.  I had an early dinner between the storms, which set in after I arrived.  It was very windy today and I can do without driving rain.

23rd August – Day off in Jedburgh

20180823 Jedburgh Abbey
Jedburgh Abbey

After a late breakfast and a little resupply shopping I met up with Alan. He had brought all the maps and guides that I will need for the rest of the trip. More weight to carry. I also swapped my t-shirts for long-sleeved thermals and picked up some gloves.

We enjoyed a pub lunch and in the afternoon I was able to book some accommodation and deal with some admin.

20180823 Queen Mary's House Jedburgh
Queen Mary’s House, Jedburgh

The Royal Hotel was very accommodating, and a real example of not judging a book from the cover, as the exterior belies what is inside.

20180823 Jedburgh market place
Jedburgh market place

22nd August – Byrness to Jedburgh

20180821 Blakehopeburnhaugh with the Cheviots on the horizon
Blakehopeburnhaugh with the Cheviots in the background

Wednesday

This was a big day in more ways than one.  It was 31k with 830m of ascent as well as the day that I left the Pennine Way and entered Scotland.

After a bowl of porridge, to celebrate my imminent arrival in Scotland, I left Byrness at 7.10.  It was raining with low cloud but likely to improve during the afternoon.  The initial climb up to Byrness Hill (414m) was steep and slippery.  Once there the walking improved as the weather deteriorated.  Short steep ascents up Houx Hill and Windy Crag were accompanied by strong winds blowing 20-30mph.

20180822 Ravens Knowe Summit 527m appearing in the mist
Poor visibility approaching Ravens Knowe summit

A flagstone path led on across a bog and the path then rose to Ravens Knowe, the high point of the day at 527m.  By now the mist was quite thick and the summit cairn eventually emerged from the gloom.

20180822 The Scottish Border
The Scottish Border

I continued over Ogre Hill and Croquet Head where I crossed into Scotland, only to move back to England almost immediately.  Climbing above Roman Camps I reached Black Halls.

20180822 Leaving the Pennine Way for Dere Street
Leaving the Pennine Way for Dere Street

At this point I left the Pennine Way and England behind to follow Dere Street, an old Roman road down to Jedburgh.  In improving weather the first part of the way was fairly easy as it follows the boundary fence.  The weather then took a turn for the worse just at the point where you leave the fence and strike out across a hillside.  Naturally at this point the track disappeared so it was out with the GPS to find a saddle between Woden Law and Langside Law.  Once there the weather finally began to improve and the track was obvious once again.

20180822 Descending from the Cheviots towards Jedburgh

Coming off of the Cheviots, Dere Street crosses farm and moorland before a road section.  All was going well up to this point.  At a T junction Dere Street goes straight ahead and is a green lane.  Unfortunately this is popular with off-road vehicles.  The result is a muddy quagmire where they have rutted and destroyed the trail.  Trying to pick a route through was difficult with the real possibility of a fall.  In the end I abandoned Dere Street, and used a lane to reach Jedburgh at 5.10 after 10 hours on the trail.

The Royal Hotel is very comfortable and they agreed to do my washing.  After a quick shower and dinner I had an early night as it had been a long and tiring day.

21st August – Bellingham to Byrness

20180820 North Tyne river at Bellingham
North Tyne River at Bellingham

Tuesday

The guidebook describes this as ” A bleak and remote day passing few habitations,” and so it would prove to be.

20180821 The moor near Hareshaw House
The moorland near Hareshaw House

I left Bellingham at 8.20 in reasonable weather and immediately climbed up onto moorland at Blakelaw.  The moorland section was quite pleasant as the path rose and fell over Deer Play, Whitley Pike and Pardon Hill.

20180821 The top of the nightmare ascent near Brownrigg Head
The top of the nightmare ascent near Brownrigg Head

Coming down off of Pardon Hill it started to rain as I neared the forest at Brownrigg Head.  Here the path climbs uphill beside a fence.  To quote the guidebook “The climb is steep and muddy at times and may rank as one of the worst sections of the Pennine Way.”  I can only say that I fully concur. It was a nightmare of mud, greasy rock and a steep slope, to which was added a very narrow gap between the wall and the trees, many of which overhung the trail.  At one point I was on my hands and knees to get under a branch.  Eventually I reached the top and took a well earned rest.  The trail led onwards along the edge of the forest through more bog and felled trees and it was a relief to reach the main forest track.

20180821 The long track through Redesdale Forest
The long track through Redesdale Forest

The remainder of the day was a yomp down the forest track to Byrness where I arrived at 3.30.  The Forest Inn provided tea and an evening meal.  The landlord organises the Spine Race each year.  This takes place in January and ultra marathon runners compete in racing the 265 miles of the Pennine Way, which they must complete in less than a week.

Once again I had a room in the bunkhouse on my own.