Day 64 Sunday 20th June. Peebles to West Linton

Miles walked today 13.4 miles cumulative 974.2 miles

I haven’t done any multi day walks since lockdown so although I have only been walking 3 days I planned a rest day because I was unsure how I would feel after two 20 mile days. In fact, I think I would have been fine to carry on. The weather was a bit drizzly so it worked out rather well.

On Saturday I started my day off by walking upriver through a waterside park and through a wood to Neidpath castle

There was been a fortified tower house here since about 1190 but the first one was burnt down by the English. The current castle dates from the late 14th century although it needed partial rebuilding after it was attacked by Oliver Cromwell. You may have seen the castle if you watched the BBC series “Merlin” you may recognise the castle.

I returned to the town and visited Cross Kirk. A cross and a stone urn were found on the site in 1241. It was believed the urn contained the remains of St Nicholas (who died in Turkey) and Alexander III arranged for a friary to built on the site. It is now ruined and there was no access today.

Peebles is a pleasant town. There is a park in front of the river. The wide high street has a lot of independent shops and some attractive Victorian buildings. It was good to see people using a “real” butcher and baker and I took the opportunity to get lunch for tomorrow’s walk. I then popped into a cafe for lunch and after an afternoon’s sleep and the entertaining Portugal v Germany match I was ready to resume the walk.

Sunday dawned a bit brighter and I set off early. It was another day following the old drove route and my last full day in the Southern Uplands. The path quickly climbed up the side of Hamilton Hill with good views back to Peebles and the hills that I had crossed the day before.

In general, the walk was at a lower altitude than yesterday. There were still great views of the surrounding grassy hills but for most of the morning I was walking between fields with grazing sheep and cows. For the first time since the first day, I noticed some traffic noise as the A703 ran through the valley below.

I descended to the remote farms at Stewarton. There was then a short boring climb through a thick pine forest, the trees planted in close rows so there was no undergrowth, before I emerged at the abandoned farmhouse at Courhope.

The path descended through open forest to emerge at the Flemington burn. It then wound round the hillside to the Fingland burn which the Cross Borders Drove Road web site describes (justly) as a highlight of the route.

The path ascended gently towards the trees on the left in the distance. I passed the only other person that I saw today a fell runner. There was one family about a quarter of a mile ahead but they turned off my route before I caught them up.

I took one last look back at the valley before entering the wood, crossing a col and descending through farmland at Rommanobridge. I passed a group of bullocks who expressed an interest in chasing me. For once I felt in control as they were on one side of the fence and I was on the other.I don’t think they would deliberately hurt me but they are big and stupid.

I then had a short walk into West Linton. I could see my next target, the Cauldstane Slap in the distance

I could see West Linton on the map but where was East Linton? Up until the mid 18th century there were two Linton villages, the other lies about 35 miles to the east. This caused confusion to the new postal service so the villages were re-named west and east. West Linton is one of the oldest Burghs in Scotland and was an important stopping point for the drovers.

Day 63 Friday 18 June Innerleithen to Peebles

Miles walked: Today 11.9 miles Cumulative 970.8 miles

A short day today. The weather was mainly cloudy but dry. For the next few days I will be following the Cross Borders Drove Road. This path runs from the foot of the Pentland hills, above Livingston to Hawick. It was the route drovers used to take cattle from the markets around Falkirk south for sale in North England.

My ear worm for the day had to be “Queensland Overlander” (Australian for drover). I discovered this song on a field trip to my next door neighbour’s record collection in Hall of Residence. It was on an album by the Bushwackers Band, amazingly still available on ITunes. The band was formed when its members wanted to go to a folk festival and realised if they played they would get free entry. Their claim to fame was the invention of the “lagerphone,” essentially beer bottle tops nailed to a piece of wood that would be tapped up and down to the beat.

I left Innerleithen by the road to Traquair. I detoured through the grounds of Traquair House. This is a Manor House that claims to be oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland .

The owners were originally Catholics and staunch Jacobite supporters. After the failed 1745 uprising they swore that the Bear Gates would never reopen until a Stuart once again sat on the throne. They are indeed still shut and access is by a drive to the right. There is little chance of the gates re-opening as there are no known living direct descendants of the Stuart line.

I turned on to a lane that followed the Traquair Water up to the moor. The cross borders drove road has an interesting logo, best described as an artists impression of a bull

I left the lane after the gates to the Glen Estate and climbed steeply up the flank of Birks hill. I was passed by a couple of mountain bikers but there were no other walkers out this morning. As I gained height the views of the surrounding hills opened up. From the top of Kirkhope Law I thought I could see the Pentland Hills to the north. These form the barrier between the Southern Uplands and the Central Lowlands.

My descent was along the ridge in the middle ground. On the way I passed a couple out for a day hike. We agreed that the Southern Uplands are remarkably fine walking country. They said the walk up from Peebles kept them sane during lockdown. I was lucky too, (and I am not being ironic) I had the Mersey Valley and the Trans Pennine trail to keep me amused. I felt sorry for people stuck in the middle of towns or cities with minimal green space. I wasn’t even tempted to drive to the Lake District to test my eyesight. By the way, if you suspect your vision is impaired why would you drive 25 miles to test it? And why put your family at risk by having them in the car?? One rule for those in power and one for everyone else….

Just before a Peebles I crossed a burn in Gypsy Glen. This was a popular stopping point for the drovers. The drove would consist of up to 1000 cattle, one man would herd up to 60 cattle helped by dogs. The would use places like this to rest and feed and water the beasts. They would sleep around the herd with just their plaids for shelter from the elements.

Day 62 Thursday 17 June Melrose to Innerleithen

Miles walked: Today 21.9 miles Cumulative 958.9

Today was perfect walking weather: Temperature in the high teens, a bit of cloud so I didn’t get too hot and a mild cooling breeze on the moors. Visibility was excellent.

Today and tomorrow I am working my way up the Tweed valley. Today I followed the Tweed at the beginning of the walk, then took to the moors on the south side of the valley. I was following part of the Southern Upland Way which runs coast to coast from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath.

I can recommend Burts hotel in Melrose. Last night’s dinner was excellent, my bed was comfortable and everyone’s cooked breakfast looked nice, I had my customary porridge. I started off walking down to the river past the abbey.

The Abbey was founded by David I as a Cistercian abbey. It didn’t open until 10:00 so I could only look at it from outside the fence. It looks larger than Jedburgh but was sacked several times by the English so was rebuilt in the late 1300s, only to be laid waste again by Henry VIII in the 9 years war.

Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried here. His body is buried in Dunfirmline. He wanted to go on crusade but was too infirm so, after his death, his heart was removed and mummified. It was taken on a (failed) crusade to expel the Moors from Spain and on return it was buried in Melrose. The location of both the body and heart were lost but 1921 archaeologists found the heart. Earlier, the royal tomb was discovered in Dunfirmline Abbey. When the tomb was opened the skeleton inside had a split sternum….

I then joined the riverside path. The Tweed was flowing slowly and reminded me of the Severn. I got into a lethargic mood and was happy to stroll along or sit in the sun and watch the river go by. Not a good idea on a long walking day. Eventually I girded my loins and sped up and followed the river to Tweedbank

The Tweed near Melrose

In Tweedbank the path left the river to go through the town. As I walked alongside the railway a Geordie voice called to me from behind. He was doing Lejog, and started this year in Cornwall, there are at least two other people doing the trail who are in the Borders at the moment.

He left me as we rejoined the Tweed, the path passing through a wood between the river and the A7. I took a short cut across the southern slopes of Bala Hill, the official route detours into Galashiels. There were good views back to the Eildon Hills

The path then crossed a ridge to rejoin the Tweed several miles upstream. I passed two women out for a day hike. One of them eyed my rucksack. “I suppose you are walking to John O’Groats as well?” “Er, yes As a matter of fact I am.” Now I am about two thirds of the way I am more prepared to admit to my daft scheme. However, almost apologetically I always explain that I am doing it in stages.

Now the hard work of the day began. I crossed the river at Yair bridge and entered a coniferous forest. The path climbed relentlessly. There were no views because of the trees and so I just got my head down and climbed. On emerging from the forest the views were spectacular. The hills of the Southern Uplands are grassy and rolling, rather than mountainous. Imagine the Howgill fells or the Yorkshire Dales but on a much grander scale. You will have seen them if you travel up to Scotland on the M74. I am usually on my way to the Highlands but what a treat I have missed. Yet another unmissable treat of Lejog.

At the top of the hill are three large cairns, the three brethren

These were built in the 16th century to mark the boundary of three estates. The views from the top are fantastic,

Panorama from Hareshaw Hill

While I was admiring the view and eating some food a runner paused for breath. He is planning to do Lejog pushing a wheelbarrow

The next eight miles were amazing. The path, sometimes grassy sometimes stony, followed the ridge with great views. I crossed the top of Brown Knowe which, at 523 metres, will be the highest point on my Scottish route. I could see back past the Eildon hills as far as the Cheviots. (The forest in the mid ground is the route up to the ridge, the three brethren are just off camera to the right.)

Most of the descent to Traquair is through forest. At the edge of the trees I saw a backpacking tent, I presume this was the walker I saw earlier. I entered the forest and was pleasantly surprised. Many of the mature trees had been harvested and the new plantation was only a few feet high so my views over the hills continued. Innerleithen came into view, nestled in the valley

Many of the paths in this area are old drove roads and the path I will follow tomorrow, the Cross Borders Drove Road, joined the Southern Upland Way. I passed a spring called the Cheese Well. This is said to be inhabited by fairies and travellers would leave offerings of food hoping the fairies would ensure a safe passage across the moor. It is said the fairies were partial to cheese.

The Cheese Well, Minch Moor

Further down the hill there is an art installation called “Point of Resolution ” by Charles Paulson.

From this viewpoint the circles cut in the heather look circular but as you walk down past the piece they are actually large ovals.

Rather tired, I arrived at the road in the hamlet of Traquair. The oldest inhabited house in Scotland is here, but hidden from the road by trees. I crossed the Tweed to enter Traquair. The river was placid again here and I saw my first salmon fisherman

I knew this would be a tiring walk so I booked into the first pub I would come to when reaching the village. The Traquair Arms was a good stop.

Day 61 Wednesday 16 June Jedburgh to Melrose

Miles walked: Today 20 cumulative 937

I thought 20 miles was too far for my first day so about 2 months ago I drew some short cuts on the map. Unfortunately today I thought they were wet weather alternatives so I walked the full distance. I wasn’t even put off by the couple who said to me : “That’s a long way, it’s over 20 miles.” Anyway, I made it.

The day was dull with occasional drizzle but it was warm. I stopped at Queen Mary’s house, where she stayed when she visited Jedburgh in 1566. It is closed because of COVID but the outside is impressive.

There are some pear trees in the garden. Pears were introduced by the Augustinian canons when they arrived from France and they thrived in the climate of the Scottish Borders. They were highly sought after in the 19th Century, but their popularity waned after the Victorian era.

I decided to leave Jedburgh by joining St Cuthbert’s Way (see day 69 for an explanation) and retraced my steps to Dere Street which I first met on the Pennine Way. Bad move! That added an extra mile, I should have walked down the road. At this point Dere Street is a farm track that descends to the Jed water. I followed the stream through woodland to the river Teviot. I walked along the river, past a swan sitting on her nest, to a relatively new, but wobbly, suspension bridge. I then passed through the mixed woodland and rhododendrons of the Monteviot estate and crossed a road to rejoin Dere Street.

Monteviot House

Almost immediately there was a cafe that had been recommended to me by one of the guides at the Abbey yesterday. The cake was indeed perfect and, as it was stuffed with raisins and had a sugar icing, I claim I ate it for medicinal reasons, to boost my carbs.

Suitably refreshed, I continued in a dead straight line along the Roman Dere Street. This was now a very pleasant grassy path passing between fields and woodland over gentle hills. To the left, on top of a hill about a mile away, I could see an old Victorian mausoleum which is meant to be well worth a visit. After a couple of miles the path passed Lady Lilliard’s Stone. The inscription is worn but is reproduced on a metal plate:

Fair maiden Lilliard

Lies under this stane

Little was her stature

But Muckle was her fame

Upon the English loons

She laid monie thumps

And when her legs were cutted off

She fought them on her stumps

Legend tells of a woman who fought in the Battle of Ancrum in 1544 (in the Nine Years war, see yesterday’s post). She fought the English, some say by the side of her lover, and was grievously wounded but continued to fight on. However, in the Ballad of Chevy Chase there is a verse describing a squire who suffered a similar fate at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 (recounted in the ballad of Chevy Chase) so it may not be true. An information board near the memorial suggests that even if there was no Lady Lilliard it is an appropriate memorial to all the women who were brutally raped, killed or both in the border wars.

Eventually Dere Street joined the A68. Here I could have taken a short cut along the road but decided to continue along St Cuthbert’s Way. I passed a small church at Maxton that had a stained glass window that was impressive and then had a very pleasant walk along the River Tweed. I had hoped to see Dryburgh Abbey which is on the other side of the river but the ruins were obscured by trees.

I walked through St Boswell that had an interesting monument to commemorate the establishment of a freshwater supply in the mid 19th century

My final barrier of the day drew closer. These are the Eildon hills. My path passed over the col between the middle and right hand hill. There is a Roman fort on the right hand hill, Trimontium. Important finds are displayed in the National Museum of Scotland and there is also a small museum in Melrose.

Just before the Eildon Hills I walked through the village of Bowden. Here there is a Pant Well, one of only 2 remaining. Pant wells were constructed in the early and mid 1800s, water was diverted from a spring or well through a pipe to avoid contamination. Interestingly, this well was built before Snow’s report linking the cholera outbreak in Soho to a contaminated pump in Broad Street; so it appears that the importance of isolating a clean water supply was becoming appreciated at several sites, at least, in the North East and Borders.

I climbed up to the col in the Eildons but I was too tired to go to the top. The cloud cover was heavy and it started to drizzle. Even so, I could see back to the Cheviots and forwards towards the moors that will take me to Peebles.

View back towards the Cheviot Hills

I continued down a steep path into Melrose. This was a very enjoyable day’s walk through varied countryside. I am staying in Burts Hotel After a long soak in the bath I went down to the bar for some lamb rump and a couple of pints of Timothy Taylor. Recommended.

15 June 2021

So, with lockdown partially lifted, I am off to try to complete Lejog. I am currently on the train back to Jedburgh, where I ended my walk last year, the mountains of the Lake District just coming into view. I decided not to camp this year and my route will follow the “classic” route adopted by many Lejogers.

The Firth of Forth provides a major obstacle to a direct trek north. There are only two crossing points, the Forth Bridge, which entails walking through Edinburgh. Nice as the city is, urban walking doesn’t tick the right box for me. The second alternative is to cross at Stirling but this involves a lot of road walking, again not my cup of tea. The preferred route by most is to head west, turning north between Falkirk and Glasgow.

So, tomorrow I will continue my walk through the Scottish Borders, using what promises to be an excellent walk on a variety of long distance paths in the Southern Uplands. I will drop down to the central lowlands to reach Linlithgow and then follow the Forth and Clyde canal and John Muir trail to the West Highland Way at Drymen. The West Highland Way will take me to Fort William and, if fitness allows, I will bag a few Munros on the way. I then will walk through the Great Glen to Inverness. Finally, if I am not devoured by the Loch Ness monster, I will follow the nascent John O’Groats Trail and finish the walk as I started with coastal and cliff walking.

This route will mean that I can always find a B & B or a pub to sleep in. On the way I hope to learn some Scottish history, from a Scottish point of view, by reading Magnus Magnusson’s book “Scotland: The Story of a Nation.” and I am sure some of what I learn will find its way into the blog.

After arriving in Edinburgh I took the local train to Galashiels, one of the few lines to re-open after the Beeching cuts in the early 1960’s. The line runs along the Gala valley which was very pretty. I then caught the bus to Jedburgh. This gave me a preview of tomorrow’s walk, which looks good. I was tempted to get off the bus in Melrose when we passed the pub I am saying in tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking round Jedburgh Abbey

This was one of four Abbeys built by David I in the 12th Century, the others being at Kelso, Melrose and Dryburgh. Jedburgh was built for the Augustinian order. It must have been a magnificent building, it was attacked many times by the English before being reduced to a ruin by Henry VIII during a series of wars in the 16th century. Walter Scott called them the “Rough Wooing” as Henry’s army carried out a bloody campaign to try to force the young Mary Queen of Scots to marry his son Edward (later Edward VI). The conflict is probably more appropriately named the Nine Years War as it was particularly brutal and was really about an attempt to force Protestantism on the Catholic Scots as well as trying to impose English rule.

I wouldn’t have fancied being a monk. A display at the Abbey describes the canon’s day: up for prayer at 3:30am and one meal a day, usually vegetable stew is not my idea of the good life. They were allowed fish or fowl once a week but red meat was forbidden as it is conducive to sin. Talk was forbidden at mealtimes, the only sound was a canon reading from a religious text. If you wanted more potato you used sign language.

Jedburgh was also the birthplace of James Thompson who wrote the words of Rule Britannia in 1740.

Jedburgh was originally built at a crossroads with narrow alleys, called Closes, leading to courtyards. Some of these had very low entrances. They reminded me of the Wynds in Shrewsbury

The town was really quiet. I ate in Belters Bar (recommended, extensive burger menu including meat, fish, and veggie) and the landlord said that tourism hasn’t picked up yet in the Borders. Indeed, many of the bars appeared to be closed on a Tuesday, only opening from Thursday to Saturday, maybe this will change as we get into summer. There were only 4 small groups (including me) in Belters this evening.

I returned to my B and B to sort out my maps for tomorrow. I edited the blog during lockdown and noticed I often grumbled about pain in my left hamstrings. I decided to do something about this after the Pennine Way. I joined a gym and a personal trainer, Conor O’Hanlon , has been working on me. Previously I thought all I needed to do was a few walks to build up the relevant muscles and a bit of stamina. He impressed on me the importance of balanced training and a strong core. During lockdown he set me a routine I could do at home, although the weights were limited to a couple of kilo bags of rice and I have trained hard since the gyms were allowed to reopen. I feel much fitter and I felt much more comfortable on the walks that I did this spring.

Day 60 Saturday 19 September Wessenden Head to Hebden Bridge

Miles walked: Today 20.9 cumulative 917

This was the section I missed when I had heat exhaustion. The problem with pre-booking accommodation is that if you have illness or injury you have to miss that section out or all your B and B are lost for the rest of the trip.

I returned back to the point from where Angela rescued me in August. Angela Taxis again provided transport. They have proved invaluable this leg and I would recommend them on Trip Advisor (even if the fleet comprises of a single Citroen C1; if you request luxury transport she puts the radio on). They are even free! When we arrived at Wessenden head the cloud was heavy and low and it was very windy. I set off downhill and I was lulled into a false sense of security as the wind dropped as soon as I left the ridge.

Almost immediately after the path left the road I came upon an art installation by the Yorkshire artist Ashley Jackson

His aims are to demonstrate how the artist views the landscape, to show the viewer, how great the landscape is and that it can be a “free” art gallery for all to enjoy; hence the quote “many people look but only a few see.” It is true that it is possible to walk all day and not really take in the surroundings. I try to use mindfulness techniques at intervals to really absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the environment.

Today was a walk around reservoirs. Lots of them. Some were built to supply water to the local towns, including ensuring a constant supply to the local mills who relied on water power for their machines. Others were built to provide a reliable source of water for the canals which were an important transport infrastructure before the coming of the railway

Castleshaw reservoirs from Marsden moor

Below the Wessenden reservoir the path turned West and ascended back on to the moor. The strong wind picked up as soon as I left the valley and stayed with me all day. Fortunately it was mainly behind me and pushed me along. The cloud quickly broke up and there was sunshine all day.

Much of the day involved either crossing moorland, which felt very remote, despite the proximity to Manchester and the frequent roads crossing west to east, or walking along outcrops with good views to the west. The walk flirted with the Lancashire/Yorkshire boundary. Obviously, the Lancashire sections were the best. All together a great days walk.

Millstone Edge

Much of the moor consists of grasses. There is a project to re-introduce a wider variety of plants such as heather and spaghnum moss. This will have the benefits of raising the water table (spaghum traps a large volume of water). As well as improving plant biodiversity and offering a habitat for a wider variety of moorland wildlife the increased water content should reduce the risk of wildfire and downstream flooding

Just before crossing the M62 I passed the Holme Moss transmitter mast

This was an important television transmitter until 1968. It also formed part of the “Backbone” microwave network during the Cold War. This was a “line of site system” designed to maintain communication between cities in the event of a nuclear war damaging other systems. As you can see, all the TV antennae have been removed. The mast is still used by mobile phone providers.

I crossed the M62 and Blacktone Edge for a final but misty view back to Manchester

At the north end of Blackstone Edge the is a medieval marker stone

Aiggin stone

This was originally about 7 feet high. These stones served as waymarkers for travellers but were also used as a site to pray for a safe journey. Some were used to transport the deceased to consecrated ground for burial and had places to rest a coffin nearby so a prayer could be offered for their souls.

A Roman road descends to the north. There are still paving stones on the road, but historians differ as to whether these are the original Roman stones or make up a newer road built on top of the original.

The path then passes more reservoirs before crossing Withens moor to reach Stoodley Pike

Stoodley Pike was originally built to commemorate the fall of Paris after the battle of Waterloo. It collapsed after a lightening strike on the day the Russian ambassador left London prior to the Crimean War. It was rebuilt at the end of the Crimean War.

It was a short walk down the hill to Hebden Bridge. This was a fine walk to complete the Pennine Way and my crossing of England. Scotland awaits in 2021.

Day 59 Monday August 31 Kirk Yetholm to Jedburgh

Miles walked: today 17.8 cumulative 896.1

Now I have left the Pennine Way the sun has come out! There was a slight delay at the start as someone had gone home with the kitchen keys. While waiting for breakfast, I had a wander round the village, which is mainly centred on the village green and I visited the Kirk

Today’s route followed the St Cuthbert Way. Following a vision, St Cuthbert trained as a monk at Melrose Abbey. At the age of 30 he made a pilgrimage to Lindisfarne and the Way is meant to recreate his route. As is the norm on this walk, I am travelling the opposite way, ie towards Melrose

As I have already said, some Lejogers leave the PW at Dere Street and go straight to Jedburgh. The route it takes from Jedburgh through the Southern Uplands appealed to me so today I headed south-west to Jedburgh. I walked alongside Bowmont Water which passes between Kirk Yetholm and Town Yetholm. I crossed a field containing rather belligerent looking cows. Their eyes said: “don’t mess with me Jimmy.” They left me alone and I was soon climbing up Wideopen Hill with fine views back down the valley and across to the Cheviots.

On the way down the hill I met a retired vet by a field gate. The path crossed the next field but there was a rather fierce looking bovine the other side of the gate. “That’s a bull” the vet said. Indeed, inspection of the animal’s undercarriage confirmed a male member of the species. There were two bullocks with him. He looked like he wanted to teach his sons how to terrorise the English like the good old days, we avoided the field.

The hard work of the day done early, I descended to Morebattle. The name probably has nothing to do with fighting but derives from the Anglo-Saxon mere-bodl which means “the house by the lake”. It did have a rather nice pub, so I had a leisurely lunch sitting in the sun in the pub garden.

The afternoon was an easy, slightly undulating walk through farmland and along quiet lanes. After a couple of miles I came to the ruin of Cessford castle.

The castle was built by the Ker family in the late 15th Century. They were a powerful reiver family who also had a bitter blood feud with another reiver family, the Scotts. It sounds like the Borders were a lawless area at this time. A placard at the castle quotes the Bishop of Ross as saying “They do not concern themselves whether it be from the Scots or the English that they rob and plunder.”

The path the went through some pleasant, light woodland and joined Dere Street. I will follow this again when I return, but for now I turned off towards Jedburgh after 200 yards. Jedburgh looks a pretty town and has an old abbey. I plan to look round it when I return to the walk next year.

Day 58 Sunday August 30 Windy Gyle to Kirk Yetholm

Miles walked: today 12.7 cumulative 878.3

The wind dropped during the night but the temperature dropped to just above freezing and I had to wear a base layer and socks in my sleeping bag. It was misty (and cold) when I woke up but this soon lifted and it became a nice day with sunny intervals. There were excellent views across the hills.

The importance of wild camping is to leave no trace behind.

I only had half a bottle of water left so breakfast was cereal bars and an apple. I then set off along the ridge. The Cheviots look beautiful; green, rounded hills but they are one enormous bog. There are only a few short sections of paving stones. Simon Armitage wrote in his book that most of these come from old mills and the grooves on the stones are where machinery was attached. I read on a notice by the path that peat is an important carbon store and erosion by walkers leads to increased carbon emissions. The causey stones therefore help mitigate the effects of walkers on climate change. Bodies such as the National Trust and National Park Authorities are also trying to re-seed denuded peat to help prevent further erosion.

As the day went on the cloud dispersed and there were fine views over the moors. I passed the second mountain refuge on the ridge, very similar to the first. Finally the last peak of the Pennine Way came into view: The Schill

The Schill. The border fence is still on the left

Stunning views from the top. I could see the Solway Firth to the West and the North Sea to the East. Behind me the ridge I had been following was spread out in a semi-circle. In front was the lowland between the border and the Southern Uplands. I was so taken by the panorama I forgot to record a video.

I descended from the top and crossed the border fence for the last time to enter Scotland. The Pennine Way splits into two and I selected the lower route, I had had enough bog trotting for one day. I soon was walking through farmland. I knew I was in Scotland when I saw:

A trailer full of Tunnock’s wafers. Heaven!

I was soon in Kirk Yetholm and the end of the Pennine Way. I have walked across England. Just 450 miles of Scotland to go.

That evening four of us sat in the bar reflecting of the high and low points of the Pennine Way. We agreed High Cup Nick and the Yorkshire Dales were the best bits and the waterlogged moor above Greenhead the low point. The others were going home but I had one more day planned.

Day 57 Saturday August 29th Byrness to Windy Gyle

Miles walked: today 14.3 miles cumulative 865.6

Today was the first half of crossing the Cheviot Hills via a long ridge. I found today one of the hardest on the PW, despite the short distance. There was 2616 feet of ascent and I have had a northerly gale blowing in my face the whole day. Oh yes, it rained most of the morning.

The path from the campsite goes through the forest to Byrness. There is not much at Byrness. It was a base for the workers planting the forest and building the Catcleugh reservoir. Now there are a couple of houses, a hotel (which was shut) and a church.

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The church was built in the 1790s. In 1903 a stained glass window was installed in memory of the 64 men, women and children (a 12 year old was killed by a stone crusher) who were killed during the bulding of the reservoir, using money raised by public subscription. According to a sign outside the church, it is a site of pilgrimage for trade unionists.

There was a steep and muddy climb up through forest to gain the ridge. I was passed by another couple who I had met before on the Way. They had also stayed at the campsite but had rented a pod. Luxury!

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Looking along the ridge from Byrness Hill

The path runs alongside the Otterburn military range. A short, but succinct warning to take care:

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The path then went past the Roman camp and fortlet at Chew Green. Later, there was a medieval settlement here. There is little to see now apart from a few ditches. I took the opportunity to fill up my water bottles from the river Coquet as there was no more running water until Kirk Yetholm.

I then followed an old Roman road, Dere Street, up to the ridge and the Scottish border. Dere Street went at least as far as the Antonine Wall and some LeJogers leave the Pennine Way here and follow in Roman footsteps to Jedburgh. I will meet Dere Street a few times on Lejog but I wanted to complete the PW, even though it entailed a 2 day detour.

The English/Scottish border runs along the ridge

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Border Fence

Not very substantial and the gate is no Checkpoint Charlie. Ms Sturgeon will have her work cut out if Scottish independence occurs. I will follow the border for most of the next two days, the path dipping in and out of Scotland.

The path was boggy, steep in places and the head on wind was tiring. There were good views over the desolate but beautiful Cheviots. A walker passed me at about 3pm carrying a full pack. He had walked here from Bellingham, about 22 miles. He was hoping to stay in the mountain refuge hut about a mile further on. When I passed it, it looked more like a shed. Welcome shelter in a storm but I wouldn’t fancy spending a night in there. Later on I passed another walker who said the hut was full. I don’t know whether the previous walker found a space there.

Pairs of Starburst sweets started to appear on the path at intervals of about 200 yards. What was this? An offering to the Hill Gods? Something Angela had planted to goad me on?? It transpired that a couple with a dog had walked along the ridge planning to meet another family and then walk back. The sweets were to encourage the children to walk on.

I arrived at the top of Windy Gyle very tired at about 7pm. The combination of the bog and the wind had made me very slow. I had planned to go on another two miles and drop down to a waterfall to camp. There was a large cairn and a wall on the top of the hill which sheltered a grassy patch on which to pitch the tent.

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It was clear and I had high hopes of a star filled sky. As it got dark the cloud and mist came in and my hopes of experiencing the Northumberland dark sky were dashed. Maybe it was because I was camped on the Scottish side of the fence and not in Northumberland.

Day 56 Friday August 28 Bellingham to Byrness

Miles today 14.4 cumulative 851.3

Spoiler alert! I have reached the end of the Pennine Way and I am back home. I have not had good WiFi since Bellingham so I have a bit of catching up to do. I hope I have remembered everything I was going to write as I don’t keep notes as I go along. As you know, if you have followed the blog, I have to go back and do the bit I missed when I was unwell.

A late start today. First I had to queue outside the Co-op before I could buy food for the next three lunches. Then I found out there has been a landslide so there are no buses between Jedburgh and Edinburgh. After a bit of dithering I have booked a taxi. Finally, when I left the hotel (Cheviot Hotel, recommenced) I thought I was on the opposite side of the road so it took a while to find the Pennine Way. I eventually left Bellingham at about 11am.

It was another cloudy day. There were some showers but I was confident it was going to dry up before I had to put up my tent. The path headed steeply uphill though farmland with views back towards the way I had come and the end of yesterday’s walk.


I soon entered moorland and most of the rest of today’s walk was spent keeping my eyes on the ground in front of me trying to avoid the deeper sections of bog, no causey paving today. This is where the walking poles come in useful, by probing ahead you can decide whether it is safe to proceed (pole stops after an inch or so); hop across quickly (pole sinks slowly); look for another route (pole doesn’t stop sinking).

Eventually I came to the main part of the Kielder forest. When you look down on it from Padon hill you can see how vast it is

The path descended for several miles through the forest. At first there were views forwards, towards tomorrow’s walk. Eventually the path descended below the treetops and there was nothing to do but press on. There are meant to be red squirrel in the forest but they were hiding again today.

I stayed at the campsite at Cottonhopeburnfoot, about 2 miles south-east of Byrness. Backpackers were shunted off to a small field, only part of which had been mown. There was a loo and a shower but it was somewhere to sleep. There were three other groups of PW walkers in the field. One was sitting in a Lounger outside a large tent. I thought this was unnecessary weight to carry but it transpired he was following his wife and her brother while they walked and he carried a lot of their gear in his van. I recognised the other two tents from Dufton but the occupants didn’t emerge. We had some spectators.

Not the best days walk but it gives me a chance to tell you about the Pennine Way. It was the brainchild of journalist and open spaces activist Tom Stephenson. He first raised the idea in 1935; three years after the Kinder mass protest (see day 42, Edale to Crowden). In 1938 there was a conference of interested walking groups, although the Access to Mountains Bill had still not been passed by Parliament. This was eventually passed as the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949. Despite this, access to the route was not finalised until 1964 and the PW was opened in 1965. Andrew McCloy has written a book on the history of the Pennine Way and a good summary (from which much of the above is derived) is published on the Cicerone Press web site.

I was now at the foot of the Cheviot Hills, the final barrier to finishing the PW.