My route  today is nearly all via the Borders Abbey Way and by coincidence this goes right by the door of my B&B.  The trouble is I have not seen Hawick apart from junctions and a supermarket. It is a long leg and I am still feeling tired so I don't want to linger or detour, but I decided I have to at least have a quick look at the historic centre. The landlady says I will have to ignore the debris of Friday night, and in fact a civic minded chap is going around collecting it.  There are few other people except a posse of identically kitted out cyclists who suddenly hurtle by.
             Having taken some photos of the centre and "Ken the Horse"" celebrating a victory by local youths over the English Army, I set off back past the B&B and up the hill. In stark contrast to yesterday's entrance to Hawick over a couple of miles I am out of it in no time today. The road turns into a country lane and I meet two dog walkers in quick succession both of whom stop for a chat about the weather.  Friendly folk but I need to get on.

I pass a care home marked as a nunnery on the map and then a farm. Soon the little road is no more than a track and then no more than a vague mark in the turf. 

Just as I leave the made up track something dashes towards me. A stoat. I have my new camera with the 18x zoom out and it comes really close, seeing me at the last minute, I suppose, but it is far too fast for me to get a shot off.

A little later I have a strange encounter with a bird. A pipit, I think crashes to the ground twisted and obviously injured, but as I go towards it, wondering what to do, it recovers and flops through the fence at my side. Perhaps it is a distracting tactic but I doubt it, it is late for it to have young chicks and it collapsed far too near for me. I could have jumped on it had I wanted to. So my guess is that it has misjudged something and stunned itself but recovered as I aproached. I hope so anyway.

A forestry plantation looms ahead of me but this is no vast forest, a more managable scale and the footpath through it turns out to be very pleasant. Wide spaces between the trees and a twisting path, not a straight line between serried sitka spruces.  It is a lovely day and I should be enjoying this more but my left big toe is rubbing and I am short of energy.

I get momentarily confused as I exit the woods because there is an area that has been felled, for a moment I think I am going to have to struggle across it but then I see that the footpath runs down by the side. At the bottom of the hill I cross the excellently named Ale Water and reach a minor road.

My route takes me over a field with horses. I stop for a moment by the stile. Slightly nervous as three thoroughbred looking horses are grouped around the far stile. But  couple with a dog come over that and the horses take no notice at all which reassures me. There seem to be an awful lot of people around beyond the horse field, considering that |I have seen hardly anyone since leaving Hawick, and then I realise that it is a golf course.  A very busy golf course it turns out.

I have to cross a fairway and I wait for some golfers to take their shots, then hurry off, but soon I am entangled with some more. They don't wait for me (or other golfers) to get clear. It seems to be Sunday morning mayhem here. I am relieved to gain a track that leads me off the course and up a hill  and then onto a minor road that takes me up to another and rather bigger forestry plantation.

This is not as pleasant as the last but there is a well waymarked track. So far this Border's Abbey Way has been marked very well indeed.

I get to the far side of the woods and get a glimpse of a country house which later I identify as Bowhill one of the Duke of Buccleuch's houses. I am more interested in what is beneath it, hidden by intervening high ground.

All this walk I have been having a soundtrack playing in my head. This is variable and sometimes strange. For some reason Beyonce figures heavily. "If I were a boy... even just for one day..." Van Morrison hardly at all, and occassionaly, inexplicably, I get the theme tune for Top of the Form running through my head  But probably the most persistant of all, at least since Bedfordshire, has been Tam Lin by Fairport Convention.

As you no doubt know, this traditional ballad of shape shifting and vengeful fairy queens starts with the lines:
"I forbid you maidens fair
who wear gold in your hair
to go to Caterhaugh
For young Tam Lin is there"  

There are endless variations but that is the gist. Actually for about thirty five years I thought it said "Carter Hall" but then I looked up the lyrics for some reason and discovered that it was Caterhaugh and that this was a wood just below the house I am looking at. 

If I had more energy and time I would make a detour to have a look but as it is I am  footsore and weary and there is a long way to go today yet. So I content myself with a photo of the general vicinity and trudge on, singing Tam Lin as I go, horribly out of tune. 

Cresting a short rise I get more views, this time to the east and north east and I see a little white town in the distance. A bit further and another one comes into view. The first must be Selkirk but I am not sure if the second is Galashiels or Melrose which lie very close together. I am really hungry now so the sight of Selkirk is very welcome.

There are banks of rose bay willow herb as I leave the track for a footpath down out of the plantation and when the wind stirs there is a blizzard of fluffy white willow herb seeds.

The walk is through pastures by the edge of the woods and very pleasant too. I have to go through a farm yard to get out onto a small road for a spell at Middlestead, but the road soon gives way to more fields. 

At Brownmoor where I leave the road there is a small paddock with the heftiest, I would even say beefiest sheep I have ever seen. They have wrinkled faces and, even though they are rams, a solidity unusual for sheep.  They decline to give me a good shot of their odd wrinkled faces though.

And so back into pasture mostly though I do pass through one field of crops.

Before long the open field gives way to a drive though what looks more like the gardens of a country house. 

Then I pass flats in what was obviously the stable block, or some such, of a grand house, and then the house itself.

To my pleased surprise the drive then takes me down to an arch and through the arch is Selkirk, the high street just a few yards away.

I am hoping something will be open on a Sunday. Most of Selkirk is slumbering but there is a delicatessan open and it has tables. The food displayed is remarkably creative though I cannot say I fancy the stuffed aubergine creations much.

Instead I plump for lentil soup and home made bread. Most unusual for me as I am not a big soup fan but it is just the job. Very tasty and the bread is lovely and it deals with my hunger without weighing me down too much. 

The cafe/deli is buzzing and gives me the chance to listen to Selkirk accents, quite different from Hawick, softer and more Scottish and less Geordie,  at least that is how they sound to me.

It is comfortable and pleasant and it is with reluctance that I part from it. I really am tired and I have a painful big left toe which has been rubbing on the upper of my boot. I checked the bus timetable but buses are sparse on Sundays and, anyway, I would rather walk to Melrose if I can so that I do not have to return tomorrow.

So off I go again. I don't take the Borders Abbey Way as that means going up a steep hill and a slightly longer way, instead I just set off up a minor road which the way meets a couple of kilometers later.

The road is no sacrifice. There is hardly any traffic on it and the gradient is quite enough for me despite being less than the route of the BA way. Excellent views open up as I get higher.

I have to pass through a little smallholding when I forsake the road. There are every sort of animals imaginable. Little dogs bark, ducks walk out of my way, a man attending ponies says hello. And soon I see the way ahead. 

The last big hill but one, (I think) a couple of riders thundering across in the distance. But my new camera makes nothing of the intervening space.

The climb up is not as bad as I anticipated. And now the walk is really lovely.  To tell the truth I don't enjoy it as much as it deserves. It is a lovely afternoon. The views are beautiful and the walk is mostly on pleasant, springy turf. 

But my toe is very painful and I am too tired to really enjoy it. The sections have just been too long this time and I promise to make them shorter in the future. After all this is not just about getting to where I am going but enjoying the process.

And I am. It is impossible not to appreciate this walk, it is so idyllic. I just would enjoy it more if I was not knackered and in pain. 

The turfy walk goes down to a track, shaded by trees, and I am ready for some shade. This takes me up a hill. There is, according to my map a bit of a sting in the tail of this walk. A steep ridge. But I have only glanced at this because it is on the other side of the section of map I am using.

At least this hill proves to be quite gentle. I get a glimpse of a loch e and then the track takes me down to the bottom where the way becomes a footpath. I divert a few meters to look at the loch. And then am back on the road.

The BA way is no good to me now. I am headed for a hamlet between Galashiels and Melrose and so pick my own way down  a minor road. I turn the map over ready for the sting in the tail hill.

I look at it again. And then start laughing out loud. The ridge I had seen is not a ridge at all but a deep valley. I had read the contour lines the wrong way round. It should have been obvious, actually as the ridge does not lead to a hill but to a river but my excuse is that the built up area obscured this. That and that I was very tired.

Anyone watching must be wondering who the lunatic is, limping down the road and cackling maniacally.

The road, another quiet little country lane seems to go on forever. However, it does give me a glimpse of what I think must be Melrose Abbey, though as I later find that the abbey is a ruin this seems unlikely. I take a photo anyway as I am not sure if I will actually get to Melrose itself. 

At last the lane dog legs round and I find myself walking out of the entrance drive of a modern hospital complex.

The village of Darnick, between Galashiels and Melrose, provides a handy bench and I sit down in the evenign sun and call Nick, whose house I am staying in. His mobile is not answered but he calls me back to say that he is riding his bike and I give him a rough idea of when I will be arriving.

Then I hobble on. I cross the River Tweed by a very busy bridge. Along a quieter road and then turn uphill up an old drove road. I am pretty done in now and it is fairly steep. Still it is a pleasant green way and better than road walking.  At the top the modern road dog legs, so that the drove continues along the same line as the metalled road. I know this as I see a car coming straight for me and it looks for all the world as if it is going to hurtle down the little track but it turns just in time.

I get to the road and limp on up it. Thankfully it flattens for a bit and there is a fine sunset across beyond Gala. I try to get a photo and then carry on.  The road dips, goes into woodland and then rises again, bending now.
Just as I aproach a corner a man with long grey hair comes hurtling round it on a mountain bike. He sees me, brakes hard and goes straight over his handlebars, turning a spectacular somersault and bouncing off the tarmac.

Nick has come to look for me but did not expect me to have got so far. Mostly he is OK but he has a nasty gash above his left eye. I get a sterile pad out of my first aid kit for him to use to apply pressure and I take the bike so that his hand is free as we walk up to the house. 

There he takes a look and decides that he might need stitches, so we get into his van and drive down to that hospital I passed. And my Melrose evening is spent waiting interminably for the doctor to see attend him. He gets it cleaned almost immediately but then some major incident overwhelms them and we end up waiting for three or four hours.

When we get back we have to go and look for his mobile which I had forgotten in the excitement. In the rain with torches we blunder about but finally we find it. Then Nick has to go to Edinburgh because he is flying to Benbecula in the morning.

I should go to bed right away but I have some wine and watch a bit of TV. I think I have gone beyond  quite sane levels of exhaustion. Or maybe not because Once Upon a Time in America is on and I watch the bit with the kid and the cream cake, aware that this is near the start of a very long movie. And so I turn it off and turn in, and sleep as deep and quickly as I did in Falstone after doing battle with the forest. 



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