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]

Monday 26 April 2010

Day 34 - Hawick to Glengaber

Sunday 25 April
Disance: 19.5 miles (Tot: 579.75 miles)
Ascent: 5500' (some unnecesary!)
Number of electric shocks: 3

Well that wasn't a day that went entirely to plan!

It started off okay (except for the rain - the first time the waterproofs have been used in 23 days!), touring the outlying estates of Hawick to get ourselves back to the planned route. Despite being warrens, we managed successfully to get through the streets of houses (only being slightly waylaid by a half-naked man who called to us through the upstairs window of a house and wanted to give us something; "It's for hikers" he said "and you're hikers"; I've no idea what it was, we politely declined and moved on).

Leaving the urban area, and a bit of road walking later, we took ourselves up a slippery track. The heavy rain had abated by this time, and shortly after shedding our overtrousers (and establishing, as I had earlier suspected that my Paramo Velez smock is well overdue a proofing - I was quite damp), we saw three horse riders.

Those riders were significant, as if we hadn't seen them, we would have paid more attention to the bearing we needed to be following at that point. What we actually did was to make that ridiculous schoolboy error of thinking "they've just come down a path from the left, we want to go left, therefore that must be our path".

It was a while before we noticed the problem and some headscratching ensued to work out where we had gone wrong, and more to the point, where we were. Annoyingly, righting our wrong involved going back down a steep bank we'd just come up to return through a gate, to reascend the other side of the wall.

Getting ourselves to where we thought needed to be, things still weren't right. The forests were too close together to match where we thought we were. More headscratching and this time we were sure we knew where we were, so more corrective action was taken.

The corrective action involved a man-eating bog and some barbed wire (having negotiated both, Mick threw his poles to the floor whilst cursing strongly; it turned out he'd just realised that when he'd had a shoe faff a while before he'd left his gloves on the wall; I waited whilst he retrieved them).

Eventually we got to the end of a forest we had been handrailing, and all we needed to do was to head north for half a km, and we would be back on the right line, albeit having walked a good mile extra and over some pretty rough and lumpy terrain).

Three minutes later some more tree plantations came into view, and if we were where we thought we were, they shouldn't be there. Already writing the day off as the worst navigation we've ever achieved, we gave up on trusting the old fashioned methods and got the GPS out.

Happily for us, we were exactly where we thought we were. For some reason the Ordnance Survey has decided to omit those bits of woodland (which were certainly far older than the map) from its surveys.

Still vowing to pay more attention, onwards we went.

We managed quite a distance further until we next went awry (in between times being followed by a herd of overly inquisitive cows and, in my case, demonstrating the least elegant way to climb over a gate), although this time we had merely overshot our turn. I'd even noted as we passed where I thought we needed to turn, yet the turn was ignored in favour of the good track on the ground - another of those schoolboy errors.

A barbed wire fence was successfully surmounted and working out the best way to get back on track (figuratively speaking; over this section it was entirely track- and path-less), down to a gate we headed.

Arriving at the gate it became apparent that it was a wooden barrier rather than a gate, and over the top was a single strand of wire.
For the last couple of days we've been living in a world where electric fences have taken over from barbed wire, except that none of those fences have been live.

We didn't even think about the wire over which we needed to clamber being electrified until, climbing over together, we simultaneously exclaimed. Mick was had on his inner thigh, me on the back of my hand.

With showers being the weather of the day, we were constantly in and out of our waterproofs (put them on and the rain stops; take them off and it starts again), things went much better for a while, even if the much of the going was rough.

Then I got my second electric shock of the day. It was on our way up to what should have been our last col of the day, just after passing a positively Disney-esque castle/tower, and I just couldn't be bothered descending to a gate I could see just to regain the height on the other side, so being very careful I climbed the fence. My care was not as great as it should have been. Mick heard the 'crack' of the fence at the same time as my 'Ow - you bastard!'. It was my inner thigh this time.

The last col of the day turned out not to be the last. After a day of few breaks and much hard work, I was ready to stop (moreover my mind was unwilling to contemplate another 750' of ascent), but Mick was voting to pop over the col before finding water and a pitch.

Any whinging on the issue was prevented when we found the nearer side of the climb to be inhabited by a large herd of cattle which took great fright as we passed through. They didn't half stampede around those slopes, and not wanting to be caught under the hooves of marauding cattle, I suddenly found the energy to almost run up to the saddle between Peatshank Head and Glengaber Hill.

More rain swept in as we got to the top, and continued as we made our way down, searching the area for a suitable place to camp. We had to wander a bit of track to find somewhere without massive tussocks, but as is usually the case, something did turn up - and just at a break in the rain.

So, a hard day, with a good demonstration of how not to navigate, bit we got to where we wanted to be and we'll be paying more attention in future (honest...).
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1 comment:

  1. Hi Gayle & Mick,
    Things seem to be getting more adventurous, not least with the navigation and electric fences. Remember the blade of grass trick for testing electric fences. 5500 feet ascent looks hard - not following canals any more! You have gone too far North now for me to catch up for a two-dayer. Enjoyed the walk with you from Rugeley to Uttoxeter on Easter Tuesday. PS - the blog is asking me to enter a Word Verification that says "bigardys" - "big hard days" to come?