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, 19 April 2014

Day 19 - Chew Green to Lilliardsedge

19 May (0805-1830)
Distance: 19.5 (Tot: 350.5)
Fitbit Steps: 43000
Weather: truly glorious
Number of big-grin-making events: 1
Number of cups of tea consumed by Mick today: 8

Well that was another excellent day!

It followed a night that was definitely the coldest yet, as all of our water bottles had ice in them this morning, and our drinking tubes were frozen solid. In anticipation of the cold start, and with a desire for the sun to make it over the hill and hit us before I de-duveted, I set the alarm for half an hour later this morning, fully expecting to be awake well before it went off. To my surprise, it was the alarm that woke me.

Briefly joining the Pennine Way, up past the Roman camp at Chew Green we went, not far beyond which lies the Scottish border. Perhaps it's in anticipation of a 'yes' vote that the border has been closed; we found the gates up there (including the pedestrian ones on the PW) to be padlocked. Or, perhaps it's to stop off-roaders during the closed season. What it did mean is that we had to clamber over gates, in the absence of any stiles (and surely, if you're going to padlock gates on a National Trail, you should provide stiles?).

The walk along Dere St from Chew Green to the road at Pennymuir is through the most stunning bit of country. I can't think of anywhere I like more. So, with the glorious surroundings and the pure blue skies, I was already in a happy frame of mind as we started dropping down to the road.

When we came to realise, on our descent, that the car parked on that bit of road was a chap who I'll call 'TVPS', the grins on our faces nearly split our cheeks. By the time we reached him he was busy setting up a table and chairs to lay out the most impressive road-side picnic ever seen. Even the French (who are surely the champions of roadside picnicking) would have been proud of the spread put on for us - which was washed down with a plentiful supply of tea.

I cannot describe how good it was to have such an unexpected treat and to catch up with TVPS. (Thank you kindly!)

Alas, after a good break, Mick pointed out that we did need to carry on. The only obvious point to pick up water today was at a Visitor Centre 12 miles further on and we needed to get there before they closed at 5.

Dere St continued to be our route and parts of it were lovely. Unfortunately, parts of it were absolutely horrible, where up to eight sets of vehicle ruts (some over a foot deep) spread across the entire width of the track. We were pleased to be past those sections.

The Romans did like to take the direct route, so much of our day was spent going in straight lines, which (of course) undulated with the land. Although it was quite cool in the wind today, it was warm when sheltered, and it was sticky work going up the ups. For the first time (except maybe Day 1, but I can't remember that far back), we stripped down to our shirt-sleeves.

The River Tweed, when we met it, looked as pleasing as a river can look (again, those blue skies set it off nicely) and as we crossed it via a suspension bridge, we knew (from previous experience) that St Cuthberts Way was about to take us around the houses, going east along the river before looping back west.

Around the houses we didn't go - and not because we cut through Monteviot House's splendid gardens. Once across the bridge, a new path has been created and signed heading up-river and, not knowing where it would take us, we took a flier that we would be able to cut up to the Visitor Centre. It came good, and a very nice walk brought us out at the Centre with the best part of a mile of 'around the houses-ness' omitted.

Water was obtained, tea drunk, ice cream eaten and the crowds had thinned to almost nothing by the time we hauled our packs back on for the final bit of the day.

The people we met during the last couple of miles, who told us there were good camping spots to be had by the Lilliardsedge Stone, clearly don't know what makes a good pitch. It was tussocks a-go-go around there. Eventually we tucked ourselves into the unploughed margin in the corner of a field of wheat. What is the legality of camping in such a place in Scotland? I know you're not allowed on crop fields themselves (obviously!), but are the grassy margins fair game?

Anyway, that's where we are, having faffed around for well over half an hour looking for somewhere.

(Mike K: glad to hear there will be a stile at the unstiled fence in due course. Is Deborah Wood, off to the left of the road between Ramshaw and Blanchland? I do recall that it was a touch soggy in places.)

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  1. You're either time travelling or you've had too much tea...

  2. Just a wee correction the river you crossed to-day was The Teviot one of Tweed's many fine tributaries.
    Thanks for the compliments and I'm sure I got as much if not more pleasure from our meeting than you did.

  3. Yes - to the left of the road.... And (I prolly shouldn't mention this) but there's been an Anne Summers basque hidden in the bushes by the gate for a couple of years now. I'd have it myself, but the original wearer must have been very skinny..