Distance: 14.5 miles
Weather: wall-to-wall sunshine
I've mentioned on these pages before a chap known as TVPS, who is a Star of the First Order. He deserves another mention today for having given us some advice and a recommendation which turned today into a truly excellent experience.
The first advice was that there is now a SUW official alternative route going over Gateshaw Rig and Croft Head. As I had intended an out-and-back up the latter (it being a Marilyn), it was welcome news that we could take it in as a traverse.
Following the alternative route in its entirety didn't quite work out as a 'path closed' sign was found at its start point (NT122043), due to blow-downs obstructing the path. As it went there was also a 'no unauthorised persons' sign on the low-level route due to forestry operations, but in the absence of diversion signs we went that way, and took the second track on the left to join the alternative further along. (Incidentally, the bit of forest through which the closed path runs has very recently been felled and as we walked by it looked to us like the alternative path is now clear again.)
Thus we had a very fine high-level walk, rather than a trudge along a forest track.
Descending from Croft Head on the knee-friendly path which has been made down the spur, we then stayed on the Way for less than a mile, before taking TVPS's recommended route.
At the boundary marking our entry into the Scottish Borders we chatted a while to a local chap who was just having his lunch then preceded him up to Capel Fell (2nd Marilyn of the day). We met him and chatted twice more (as we lunched, then as he had another break later on) as we continued along the boundary fence/wall all the way from Capel Fell to where we are now pitched atop Bell Craig.
I don't think I could possibly adequately describe what this walk has been like on this clear-skied day. The views have been incredible and the going underfoot has been superb, mainly on firm grass with just the very occasional mild squelch. The good tread made the climbs seem much easier than they looked (even with heavy packs, after yesterday's resupply), with the exception of Bodesback Law. That one did seem quite a haul, partly because it was the third significant climb of the day, partly because it was just plain steep! Two chaps gave us the excuse for a breather on the top (as if an excuse was needed), as we watched them gear up with their paragliders and prepare to jump. We later saw them soaring well above the summit.
The only logistical issue of taking this route and spending the night on the ridge is that of water. However, it wasn't far to drop off from the dip just before Bell Craig to fetch some - in fact it was no distance at all for me, as Mick volunteered himself for the task (the things he'll do to get more Fitbit steps than me!).
Armed with water our pitch tonight is up there as one of our best ever. Such incredible views in such an attractive area. We're happy campers tonight. And, of course, the rest of the ridge awaits us in the morning :-)
(Today's snap is of the hills we/I walked last November taken from Croft Head. I should have got my phone out to take a few more snaps to share of today's attractions, but my Blackberry lives in my pack and I was too lazy to keep stopping to get it out.)
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