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]

Friday 30 September 2011

A Change of Plan

Nothing like making a u-turn and then impulsively acting on it.

We’ve told lots of people that we’re not applying for TGO Challenge 2012. We were quite decided on the point – for a while at least.

About twenty minutes ago I said to Mick “Shall I fill in the TGOC application form?”

About fifteen minutes ago I went and dug out the cheque book.

About ten minutes ago I popped up the road to post it.

So, contrary to our previous declarations that our plans for next year won’t allow us to take part in the Challenge, our application has been made. Next year’s plans have been re-jigged accordingly. Our big map of Scotland is now spread out on the living room floor and some poring over it is about to occur.

Fingers are crossed.


A random snap from Scotland, taken before (not during) this year’s TGOC (I don’t think we saw that much blue sky during the Challenge this year!)

East to West Photos: Day 28

Sat 16 April (0830-1710) (NE of Lauder to below Lothian Edge)
Distance: 19 (Tot: 497.5)
Weather: cloudy start, then sunny intervals, clearing late on to mainly blue sky; windy

It was a day that involved much yomping, some of it very colourful (even if a bit squelchy):

Day 26-1

In between the colourful bogginess it was knee-deep heather:

Day 26-2Day 26-3

Then, suddenly, we came across a motorway under construction. For access to the site of a new wind farm, we guessed.

Day 26-5

Now that’s a sign you don’t expect when you’re up a glen, quite a distance away from the nearest road:

Day 26-6

The route that we were on for much of the day was the Herring Road, which runs from Lauder to Dunbar. At times there were sign-posts:

Day 26-7

Then we got to Crystal Rig wind farm and, just as waymarking would have been really handy, all signs disappeared (according to the sign at the entrance, we were supposed to be following the red posts; we saw one just after we entered and another just before we left). We were hampered even more by the fact that our map showed a sizeable chunk of forest ahead of us (the other side of which we had intended to camp), yet when we got into the wind farm we noticed that there wasn’t any hint of that forest – not even stumps.

Day 26-8

Making rather a hash of navigating our way, as none of the wind farm tracks were shown on our map, I suddenly noticed that we were in the forest. See those bits of old branches on the ground? That’s all that remained.

Day 26-9

If this map had been in our possession at the time our passage through the wind farm would have been smoother – but far less memorable.

Day 26-10

By contrast, this is what we’d expected to find on the ground:


The original blog post for the day can be found here.

Thursday 29 September 2011

East to West Photos: Day 27

Fri 15 April (0930-1545) (Melrose to NE of Lauder)
Distance: 14 miles
Weather: cloudy, one brief drizzly shower

Easter was now just over a week away and the bakers in Lauder was selling cakes appropriate to the occasion:

Day 25-1

It was a couple of miles outside of Lauder when we caught our final sight of the Eildon Hills. Being lumps in a land of flatness they really are noticeable for quite a distance.

Day 25-2

The day became curtailed when we found this camping spot. I don’t think the photo makes it look quite as perfect as it was. We were happy campers!

Day 25-3

The original post for the day can be found here.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

East to West Photos: Day 26

Thurs 13 April (0740-1455) (Jedburgh to Melrose)
Distance: 17.5 miles (Tot: 444.5)
Weather: some sun, some light rain, much warmer than yesterday


Leaving Jedburgh on the Thursday morning we found that there were quite a variety of routes that headed the same way as we were going:

Day 24-1

To the River Tweed we went, where the most memorable five minutes of the trip occurred. We had stopped to don waterproof jackets (completely unnecessarily as it turned out, the drizzle stopped as soon as we had them on) when I caught sight of some movement out of the corner of my eye. One adult otter and two pups fishing just a handful of metres away from us.

Day 24-2

Here’s a cropped and zoomed version of the adult. I did take some video, which looks fine on my computer but in the small format on You Tube doesn’t really work.

Day 24-3

A while later the Eildon Hills came into view. They stayed in view until late the following afternoon! At the time that I took this photo I expected that we would walk between the right and and the middle lump. When we got there, we decided to go over the top of the one on the right. A good decision, methinks.

Day 24-4

Before we got to the Eildon Hills, we walked a while down the River Tweed (where, stopping for the lunch we had bought in Newton, I had my first experience of a Macaroni Cheese Pie). A while later I was so taken by the blossom that I failed to notice a tree root in front of me and caused Mick’s eyebrows to raise, and maybe a mumbling about watching where I was going, as I stumbled.

Day 24-5

Reaching St Boswells we had to wonder whether the council offices there win the prize for the least attractive building in Scotland.

Day 24-6

As a complete contrast, everything looked good from the east top of the Eildon Hills, where I sheltered behind the cairn from the brisk wind.

Day 24-7

There were clear paths up to the other tops too, but we didn’t investigate them.

Day 24-8

Instead we made a meal of navigating our way the short distance into Melrose. One hundred and thirty three wooden steps featured as we made our final approach.

Day 24-9

Abbeys were feeling like they were ten a penny at this point.

Day 24-10

The original blog post for the day can be found here.

Monday 26 September 2011

East to West Photos: Day 25

Wed 13 April (0735-1400) (Chew Green to Jedburgh)
Distance: 16 miles (Tot: 427)
Weather: few brief bits of sun, light showers (every time one of us dared take off a waterproof item), windy again.

About five paces into the day we joined the Pennine Way, which we followed for a whole mile and a half, before we headed off along Dere Street. Here’s Mick on Deer Street. You might think from his attire (even waterproof mitts feature in his ensemble) that it was raining. Although the day did involve a few light showers they certainly weren’t enough to warrant this level of waterproofing. We were actually both dressed in full waterproofs just for warmth. Up at 400m and with the wind still battering us, it felt very cold.

Day 23-3

Our surroundings were, once again, absolutely stunning. The photos just don’t do justice to all of the lumps and undulations, with all of the subtle differences in colour.

Day 23-2Day 23-4

Getting towards Jedburgh, Dere Street became a nightmare to walk along, having been deeply rutted across its entire width by 4x4s. We were pleased to get off that section.

Day 23-5

Arriving in Jedburgh our priority was to find ourselves a nice big lunch, but we did take a little bit of a detour to have a look at the abbey, which is in pretty good shape compared to some that we had passed earlier in the trip.

Day 23-6

My original comments about the day can be found here.

Sunday 25 September 2011

East to West Photos: Day 24

Tues 12 April (0800-1615) (S of Harwood Forest to Chew Green)
Distance: 20 miles (Tot: 431)
Weather: mainly sunny, luckily avoiding 2 showers that passed behind us, but strong westerly wind

Day 24 started with a bit of a yomp, but at least there were bridges (sort of) to help us across the streams!

Day 22-1

The bulk of the day was on Otterburn Military Firing Range, and although the first three miles were along the perimeter, the next 11 were across the range. What we really didn’t want to see was the red flags flying. What we found was the red flags flying:

Day 22-2

Continuing on regardless (and with heavy artillery going off to our right) even the strong wind didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this gorgeous area of the country. Lots and lots of space, with no sign of civilisation (except for the passing army vehicles and the sound of heavy artillery…).

Day 22-3

Practically every sign post had a bullet hole. Clean on the entry side:

Day 22-4

Jagged on the exit side:

Day 22-5

Seeing livestock made us feel more confident that we weren’t about to be bombed in these gorgeous surroundings:

Day 22-6

Talking of gorgeous … I was demonstrating the high fashion of bright pink buff worn as a semi balaclava over my warm hat. That wind (coming almost head on) had quite a bite to it – such a contrast to a couple of days before.

Day 22-7

With less than a mile to go until we cleared the range, and just as we were heaving a sigh of relief that we had made it through without being removed from the site and forced to take a lengthy detour, the military activity suddenly got very close indeed:

Day 22-8

The black dots on the road in the photo below are some of the three dozen troops who, fully camouflaged up, came trundling past us. At least they didn’t object to our presence.

Day 22-9

There are already quite a lot of photos in this post, but I think that there’s room for another gratuitous shot of the gorgeous surroundings. I really do like this area:

Day 22-10

We cleared the boundary of the firing range by a whole fifty metres before deciding to camp. We could have carried on another half of a kilometre to camp legally in Scotland, but this spot was reasonably sheltered. The farmer didn’t seem to object either, as he passed by and saw us about half an hour after we had pitched.

Day 22-11

The original post for the day can be found here.

Saturday 24 September 2011

East to West Photos: Day 23

Mon 11 April (0950-1845) (Hexham to S of Harwood Forest)
Distance: 21 miles (Tot: 411)
Ascent: 4500'
Weather: sunny intervals, a few very brief light showers, windy

Having left our B&B in Hexham (which was excellent value for money and would be recommended if I could remember what it was called), off we headed, up the road, across some fields and into some woodland:


Then we joined Hadrian’s Wall Path, although that wasn’t an easy thing to do; we had approached it perpendicularly, from a side road, from which direction there wasn’t a path. A bit of careful clambering over some fences got us where we wanted to be, and there was clear evidence as to where we were. Even though there wasn’t any wall on this section, the ditch (vallum?) was evident.


Then it started raining! It wasn’t enough to get us wet, but enough (when combined with the sunshine) to give a nice rainbow.


I’m sure at least one of us must have been singing ‘Little White Bull’ as we passed this field. Thoughtful of the livestock to pose so nicely for us!

Day 21-1

This church was right at the end of the day. I’d just asked a chap in the garden if he could oblige us with filling our water bottles, but it turned out that he was the gardener and didn’t have access to a tap. He pointed us in the direction of the village toilets where we did manage to get water. In between the asking for water and actually filling our bladders, a break was had (with more Peanut M&Ms than it is reasonable to eat in one sitting) outside of this church. I like churches as buildings anyway, but they do look particularly fine with the daffs in flower, don’t you think?

Day 21-2

There was nearly a disagreement as the day wore on. Mick found a place to camp that I didn’t much like, and I was in favour of clearing the farmland and getting onto the open land that started a few yards further on. Mick had a good argument that his pitch was sheltered (it was Very Windy), but I wasn’t happy being next to a farm track. Mick also had a good argument that the land we could see ahead was a tussock-fest, whereas his chosen spot was flat. I assured him that there would be somewhere flat, sheltered and discreet half a kilometre ahead, by a patch of woodland. Of course, I had no idea whether that was really going to be the case, but fortunately it did turn out to be so (even if the shelter only lasted until the wind shifted). We spent a very blustery (but comfortable) night there. As you can see there was a lot of nothing in front of us:

Day 21-3

And a lot of nothing behind us too (looking at that photo, I see that Mick took it before we had even unzipped the inner tent to start arranging the sleeping quarters (no idea what I was doing there; looks something like the robot dance)):

Day 21-4

The original blog post can be found here.

Friday 23 September 2011

East to West Photos: Day 22

Sun 10 April (0745-1610) (Beyond Stanhope to Hexham)
Distance: 18 miles (Tot: 390)
Ascent: 5000' (per the altimeter)
Weather: some high cloud but mainly sunny

It wasn’t surprising, given that we had camped in a valley, that our day started with an upward trend. I may have huffed and puffed my way up, but the view back was worth it, particularly with the mist hanging over Stanhope.

Day 20-1

The moorland was as lovely as the views were extensive.

Day 20-2

We didn’t need to go via the trig point on the top of Bolt’s Law, but it was the easiest thing to do (i.e. following a trodden path versus more yomping through heather), and once we got there it seemed like a good opportunity to use the top of the trig pillar for a timed photo.

Day 20-3

It all seemed so big and open!

Day 20-4

Too soon we were out of the big openness … and wondering if we had entered a war zone. That damage had been done by something more significant than a shotgun, but happily all was quiet and deserted as we passed through.

Day 20-5

At around lunchtime we were walking through some woodland and looking out for somewhere nice to sit for lunch, when we noticed that the whole place was crawling with massive ants. Wood ants, I thought (and some Googling has borne out that thought). I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such massive ant hills in this country before. Here’s one of them.

Day 20-6

And here’s another – it’s the lump above and to the right of the right-hand arch in this photo. Huge!

Day 20-7

This was the day when we saw four sheep with bottom-less buckets attached to their heads. No idea what that was about, but they weren’t all in the same area and I’ve never the same thing before or since.

Day 20-8

My original thoughts on the day can be seen here.