The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Day 32 - Kershope Bridge to Dod Burn

Friday 23 April
Distance: 15.75 miles (Tot: 549.25 miles)
Number of dead sheep in and around Braidley Burn: 9

Last night was by far the warmest so far, and despite the threats that had materialised in the early evening, it was a peaceful one. The two factors combined served to give us our best tent-night's sleep yet (Mick woke up at 4am and realised he still had his earphones in - that's how well he was sleeping!).

Under overcast skies, we started the day with a walk into Newcastleton, where a cafe was found resulting in two big grins and a very early, not to mention quite substantial, second breakfast.

With only 3 miles covered in the first 2 hours of the day, things did then get faster, as we left the village and, after a while of following the road, took ourselves off up the driveway of a house.

With the track soon petering out, a few miles of pathless yomping were called for. Parts of those miles would, in most other months, have been almost endless bog-trotting, as evidenced by the bright green mossy stuff that signifies bogs. Our recent run of luck with the weather meant that those bogs were at worst a tiny bit moist (when I'm complaining later in the walk of great wetness, remind me how lucky we were at this point!). It also meant that the stream we were following, which looked like it should be quite substantial, was just a trickle.

It wasn't all easy going in the dryness. There were still tussocks and knots of grass to be negotiated, but we managed it without wet feet, and that was a bonus.

My drinking water was running low by the time we started climbing up towards a forest this afternoon, but I was glad not to have filled up in the lower reaches of Braidley Burn when we saw the number of dead sheep further upstream. In fact, it put me off filling up until we had passed clear of the sheep-inhabited area.

Once we had cleared the lower farmland, for the rest of the day it was hard to believe that we had started this morning just 5 metres away from England. Everything we could see this afternoon was big, empty and lumpy; from lunchtime no sign of habitation was within our view. It felt very Scottish, and that wasn't entirely expected so soon after entering the country.

Yomping uphill after lunch, we hit the forest on the ridge of Swire Knowe at the exact right point, but the path is not well trodden (and as a contrast to this morning's yomping was as wet as they come) so it wasn't entirely clear where to go. We muddled through, however, and managed to pop out the top edge of the forest in the right place too - and with a minimal amount of being smacked in the face by branches overgrowing what appeared to be the path.

Around the edge of the forest our legs once again got a workout, with bogs, heather, tussocks and knots, but we made pretty good time. In fact, it was only 4pm as we dropped down to Dod Burn.

Passing thought had been given to continuing on, but there was a nice flat-ish area next to a nice steam and it would have been a shame to pass it by.

Up went the tent and within minutes moisture was felt in the air. The moisture turned into rain and, not for the first time on this trip, we felt smug about our accidental excellent timing.

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