Oh shit! I wake up after nine with rain rattling the windows. It is so overcast that it seems dark still.

I am very tired. Four hard days have taken their toll. Worse, my toe is still sore. This problem started on Saturday on the way to Hawick. The skin started to rub on the top of my left big toe. Because it was not a blister as such I put a normal plaster on it it yesterday morning but that just rubbed off. So now I try compeed which, if you are not familiar with it is slightly scary, but very effective, sort of artificial skin.

I hobble around getting breakfast and go to the window to look at the rain. I am startled by a movement. There is a bird feeder just outside the window and a nuthatch has landed on it about three feet from me. We eye each other for a moment before it flies off. That cheers me up.

As soon as I have eaten I trudge off because it does not look as if the rain is going to stop any time soon. Susan and Nick's house is on a handily placed little road. I can go to the end and then take a track which, after a bit, joins up with the Southern Upland way which is going my way until Lauder. The rain does ease as I reach the end of the metalled road and walk round some wee lochans.  I lose the path for a bit but can see a way through a dry stone wall and I take that, rejoin the track and that leads me on to the SUW.

This turns out to be an old drovers road. Wide and enclosed by dry stone walls it shoots north, going up and down the dips in the rolling country but hardly bending side to side. It is just what I need in my half-exhausted state. I am limping because of the toe problem but can walk on autopilot, just checking the map for interest from time to time, rather than need.

It takes me over the top of a moor, then runs along the side of some woodland by "Covenanters Well" becoming a well made drive before turning into a minor road for a spell.  It goes past some very horsey houses and then becomes a footpath over a field before running along the side of a whole series of fields.

I have to pass beneath some pylons and the cables are fizzing in the rain and simultaneously humming in the wind. I say humming but the pitch makes it more like groaning and with the crackling and fizzing noises it is most unsettling. I am glad to get beyond them.

The second of these is occupied by cows with calves who are sitting in a mass up against the fence I am walking by. I am much less nervous than I was of cows now as the madness seems to have passed but I am not so keen on the way they are looking at me (yeah, I know, they just do that because they are short sighted) so I detour round them. One or two get up so I am glad I did not try to squeeze past them.

Now the way gives a good impression of going straight into a byre at the edge of the field but just before it it diverts into some woodland, crosses a stream and then comes back again.

Another field and I am at the road.  I cross it but am in two minds as to whether to take this B road down to Lauder or continue on the way. I have a muesli bar and some water and decide to go back and take the road.  This is probably a mistake because it looks from the map as if I missed some good views but I am feeling lazy and the road goes straight down to Lauder with nice easy gradients.

At least it is not busy.  And I do get a view of Lauder this way too. I wend my weary way down the hill and soon am trudging into Lauder. I buy a Scots pie and a scone in the bakery and ask if there is a cafe. The girl says that there is something called the Flat Cat but she says it in an odd way, well there is the Flat Cat.

It is a few doors down and I think I realise why the doubt in her answer as it is not really a place for smelly men like me. It is a gallery and coffee shop run by three women and is quite improbably mimsy. Rather how I imagine Morningside to be. I am the only man in there and it is clearly the place to lunch for ladies who lunch in Lauder. The only place by all appearances.

However they do not throw me out for general uncouthness and are, in fact, perfectly friendly in a fluttery sort of a way. I have a cappuccino and a bit of apple tart.

I have no clear aim today but I still have plenty of time for walking so decide to go on to Oxton. One of the ladies in the cafe tells me that you can walk most of the way on the old railway track marked on my map.

On the way out of Lauder there is a garage and coop which also has a tourist information i. Quite why must remain a mystery because the check out girl I ask has no more idea of tourist stuff than the people who work in my local coop would be likely to have. Still she is very helpful, going off to ask someone,  the information is similar though whilst the Flat Cat lady said you have to get over some fences, the source of information here says that you have to go on the road for part of the way.

So I divert into a little industrial estate. I find the track easily. Too easily, I soon realise it is going the wrong way, so backtrack through the fire station and find the old railway.

This is a good track except for the fact that the vegetation is long and the rain has soaked it. My boots are soon wet through once again.  But it is enjoyable and I am very glad not to be on the main road which runs parallell a few hundred meters away.

A movement catches my eye as I walk along an old embankment. On a fence post below me a buzzard is eating something. It is very close but sees me and is off before I can take a picture.

When, as  predicted and shown on the map, I run out of railway track I have a choice. The official version is off to the left, a footpath sign points that way. But it is uphill and I am feeling lazy and a track runs down to the A road to the right. So I take that. Unfortunately the gate it leads to is secured and wired and who knows what. The alternative is to go through Blackburn farm yard but that seems a bit cheeky without a clear right of way and anyway, there might be dogs. So I clamber over the gate onto the A68.

The next bit is not much fun. It is a fairly busy and definitely fast road, but at least there is a verge to step on a  lorries hurtle towards me. I am glad to get off it though and go up a minor road. I will probably walk the A68 most of the way to Edinburgh but I have a respite now.

The B road takes me back to the line of railway and there is a gate. I consider taking it as it is the most direct way and will keep me off roads but the vegetation looks high and there are no way marks. So I go with the guarntee of the little yellow strip, walking up to the farm of Midburn and then down the country lane that leads to Oxton. Or rather hobbling, as the compeed does not seem to have been so magical as usual and my toe is killing me.

Oxton seems a bit sad and flyblown (literarly when it comes to the bus stop) its pub empty and for sale and the one shop shut - if only for lunch.  I have a half hour wait at the bus stop and then the bus does not come.  I am getting quite worried but a wee girl who is waiting for another bus tells me that it is often late.

At last I see it coming up the road and then I am on it. Remarkably soon out of Oxton the bus crests a ridge and I can see the Firth of Forth through the rainy haze away in the distance.

The bus deposits me in a rainy, windy Edinburgh with enough time to hit the gear shops before my train.


  1. JaneGS said...

    That seemed like quite a long leg, given the toe, the rain, and the lack of decent places to gain proper sustenance along the way.

    Do you have a map of your journey?  

  2. Spencer said...

    I need to sort one out don't I? The problem is that I need to get photoshop or something so that I can draw the route in.

    Off again in the morning and I am sneezing like fury. Weather forcast bad so I forsee more moaning!  


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