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]

Thursday 14 April 2011

Day 26 - Jedburgh to Melrose

Thurs 13 April (0740-1455)
Distance: 17.5 miles (Tot: 444.5)
Weather: some sun, some light rain, much warmer than yesterday
Number of attempts to find somewhere to stay tonight: 3
Number of consecutive wooden steps in the hill leading down to Melrose: 133
Number of windfarms seen: 1 (Tot: 3)

What an excellent day! And it's not often that I enthuse so on a day when we've not had wall-to-wall sunshine.

My bag felt heavy as we set out. In part that was because we'd received a food parcel in Jedburgh, but it was also because when we set out yesterday, in addition to our food bags being empty, I was wearing pretty much everything in order to keep warm. Today's weather was kinder to us, but with the side effect of having to carry more on my back (although as Mick keeps pointing out the weight on my feet is the same).

Everything didn't stay in the pack. At 8.45, just as we approached the River Tweed, we concluded that the rain that had been falling was too much for our wind-shirts and that it showed no signs of clearing any time soon. I therefore called for a 'jacket on' faff and popped my bag down.

A minute later, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a movement and without even thinking about being quiet, the words "Oh my goodness, it's an otter!" were out of my mouth. It wasn't just an otter, it was an adult with two young, who obliged us by fishing right in front of us for a good few minutes. The young were squeaking away, and obviously finding battling against the flow quite a struggle, so after giving us a good display off they moved into calmer water. We watched them there a while too, until they swam off to the river bank. We moved on with smiles on our faces, not quite able to believe our luck. Absolutely fantastic.

We also noted as we moved on that the rain had stopped - but I'm mighty glad that we did choose to stop just when we had, to don waterproofs.

From that point our route was more or less the same as the route we took on our LEJOG in 2008, and a pretty route it is too (except for where we passed the council offices on Newton, which must be one of the ugliest buildings in the country), through woodland and along the river. It was also a route festooned with close encounters with wild-life. After the otters we had both a yellow hammer and a chaffinch allow us to get unusually close, and when Mick thought he had a blue tit crash land at his feet it turned out to be a pair fighting.

On reaching the Eildon Hills (a feature we omitted in 2008) our intended route had been to cut through between the two main hills, but finding ourselves with the choice of skirting the easternmost or going up it (having approached from the east), we opted to go up. The path was mightily steep, but in practice it was a small amount of effort compared to the reward of the views.

We soon cooled down in the brisk breeze up there, so having taken in the 360 degree views, down we went. We didn't excel ourselves with our navigation on the way down (small failure to pay attention, and it's not like it's a tricky place!), so we ended up taking a bit of a circuitous route into Melrose. We got here in the end though, and made straight for the campsite, where we stayed previously.

The 'Tent Area - Closed' sign didn't bode well, and the warden confirmed, very apologetically, that the council wouldn't allow them to take tents until 21 May. She also declined to allow us to masquerade as a caravan. She did, however, happily agree that we could return to use the laundry, as all of our clothes were desperately in need of a wash.

A trip to the Youth Hostel ensued, where we arrived before reception was open. As we sat and waited I googled it, and found that, according to the SYHA website, it was going to cost more to get our own room in the Hostel than it would to stay in a B&B (and at least in a B&B we get an en-suite and a cooked breakfast included in the price). So, a bonus night of luxury tonight.

Tomorrow we set out (in clean clothes!) for three days of very sensible lengths, and two nights of wild-camping, as we make our way over to North Berwick.

(Conrad: You're packed for next Wednesday already? That's far more organised than I ever am before a big trip! Hope you have a top trip yourself and look forward to catching up with you somewhere in June.
Louise: you have a good (and sunny!) trip this weekend too.)

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  1. I sincerely hope that you managed to take any picture of the otter babies!!?! I will have to tell everyone about your encounter tomorrow!! Jealous -yet again! :)


  2. Looking at your UK-map filled with routes you've walked I think there's really only one option left for you to walk : a coastal route along the edges of the mainland !