It is the road for me today. Last night I found that I had left my computer printed map of the dodgy footpath in my lost jacket or back home and as I cannot find anywhere to sell me a proper OS map, blundering about the moors on a hard to follow path would clearly be madness.

But it is a long way by road or path and so I have an egg for breakfast and set off. It is a bit wet but the forecast is for sunny intervals later. Leaving the hostel the sign for Kielder library amuses me. The hostel building is combined with the junior school and library and last night the locals seemed to be using the school hall for bingo too.

I leave the village crossing over the River North Tyne again, this time flowing  into Kielder Water.

The road out of Kielder is, as promised by the warden, pleasant and very, very, quiet. Indeed there is hardly any traffic at all. I go five, ten, fifteen minutes between cars. And at least I make good time. There seems to be a walk along an old railway track down to my left but it is not shown as such on my map and I am liking the fact that my still damp boots are starting to dry, so I stay on the road. I pass through farmland with big blocks of timber on the higher ground, sometimes coming down to the road and then receding.

Past the pleasantly named farm of Deadwater, I see the sign I have been waiting for. And very soon I am standing at the Scottish border. I experience a feeling of slight disbelief. Can I have really walked from London right to Scotland? My feet, still a bit sore, assure me that this is indeed quite possible.  I relish the moment though before stepping into Scotland.

The border is marked by a block of conifers but, rather to may surprise, also by the remnants of some ancient earthwork.

As I walk through the Scottish trees I a white van drives towards me and I am amused to see a blue saltire flag on the back of  his cab. Not so amused as I am to see a St George's flag fluttering outside the first house that I come to in Scotland though. It also has a for sale sign and I have to wonder if the two are in some way connected.

A little later I come to Myredykes, here the old railway crosses the road and there is a potential short cut if I want to risk it. There is a track marked on the map but I carry on along the road a while and soon the trees are close to impenetrable so I stay with the road which starts to bend, hemmed in by tall conifer trees.

At last the trees give way and I am surprised, as it is fairly cold, to see a young boy in swimming trunks, climbing up a river bank. On the other side of the road are a couple with a baby and a dog, camping. We wave at each other.

Here I have to leave the road or go a long way round. But I am delighted to see a sign that takes me  up to the old railway. It is a way marked path - something my just bought OS map gives no indication of at all. Oh well, at least I don't have to go the long way by the road or batter through the bracken.

In fact it is a fine path on firm springy turf. I get views for a while and then the old railway goes into a deep cutting, emerging to leave me on a steep slope down to a much bigger road. I stop for a drink and museli bar before tackling the road which leads relentlessly up hill to more of the never-ending forest.

But sitting is no use so soon enough I am  up and grinding up the long long hill. The sun has come out now and  it is much warmer. I am in open moorland with the ever-present conifers looking on from higher ground. But before long I have grunted my way up the hill to greet them.

This road is busier, of course, but still I am surprised how little traffic there is on it. Mostly it seems to be motorcycles in fives and sixes, out for a pleasure run. And then I meet a couple of lines of vintage sports cars, clearly on a rally.

But there is little else. Few lorries, even few touring cars. It is a scenic road and it seems strange that traffic is so sparse. Not that I am complaining.

The road goes down and then up again, the forest never far away but it is someway into it that I come across a sign announcing that this is Wauchope Forest, one of the great chunks that makes up the mass of the Kielder Forest.

Beyond the sign the country falls away on my right side, and fantastic views just open up. I can see miles, across the endless plantations to the distant Cheviot hills. It is a fantastic moment.

But I am tiring already. The road is hard on my feet and it seems to be one hill after another. By the time I reach a picnic site at Rough-hope Rigg I am more than ready for a rest and luch break. There is a site with picnic tables just exactly where I want it. No one else present, a facility that seems to have been provided for my personal use. I ran across something like this on the old railway line from Northampton to Market Harborough and it pleases me to think about how far I have come since then.

But time is getting on and I have a long way to go still, so I don't linger as much as I might like. Now the views have opened up in front, to the north, as well as to the west.  A gentler country comes into sight, some little peaks poking up here and there but generally green and far less wooded.

But I am not out of the forest yet. The hillside I am coming down is a sort of clearing, hemmed in by the forest and this narrows at the bottom. But here the woodland on the steep slopes to my right is not conifer, but natural woodland, Cragbank reserve according to my map.

Almost as soon as I come to this I see some lurid fruits, too big and light coloured for sloes, on a bush. I pass but then stop, and intrigued go back. They are some sort of damson or small plum. I try one. Slightly underipe but very tasty. Then I notice there is another bush with yellow versions of the same fruit, and another and another. The ripe ones are delicious.

I don't want to tarry or carry much more weight, but I can't resist picking a couple of dozen. My diet has not been great on vitamin C lately and my water is going down fast again. The little plums are delightfully refreshing.

I walk on, passing bush after laden bush. There must be fifty, sixty, more. It galls me to leave such a bounty unharvested but I console myself with the thought that they must have been planted there, probably as a food source for local wildlife.

Past Wolfhopelee,  a great name, I think, and on some more I come to the little road that will take me off. I hesitate. This B road is not bad at all for traffic and I would quite like to go through Bonchester Bridge. But this way cuts off a couple of kilomters of the A6088 which is bound to be a lot more busy.

So I take the little road which takes me down to a river and a quite delightful spot before making me climb up again. At least the way is shaded by handsome beech trees.  Soon I am out in the sun again though, marching across country. My road meets another and that takes me over to the A road.

I have yet to speak to a person in Scotland and am intrigued to. Where do Scottish accents start? People in Kielder mostly sound Northumbrian and they definitely did in Falstone too.  A farmer is wrangling sheep in the hamlet of Hawthornside, but though he shouts a greeting it is just a monotone and I cannot discern any accent. I know that Hawick accents are something else because my friend Robert's brother in law was from Hawick and  no one could understand a word he said when he landed up in Norwich, years ago.

What is to be said about the what happens now? It is another fast road. I am tired and my feet hurt. It is not so bad to start with as the road is fairly straight, although I don't think I have ever seen one with so many blind summits on it. It is quite like the road I ground along between Hawick and Cononley in Yorkshire. Straight and fast and beloved of  bikers, but not so bad because there is a verge I can step onto and I can mostly see the cars coming a long way ahead.

But then it snakes into a gorsey gorge and there is often little if any verge. Cars go fast and I have to keep crossing and recrossing the road. I am dog tired now and this is no fun whatsoever.

But at last it gives up and I find myself limping down one last slope to a bench on the outskirts of Hawick. I am still a couple of k out of the centre but this road runs along the river and is railway footpath flat. Still it takes a while as I am hobbling rather slowly.

 At last I come to a big Morrison's supermarket and I go into the garage bit to ask directions. I have forgotten to bring the print out with my B and B address but I remember it is Prince or Princes street. The guy is friendly and helpful and shows me on my OS map. It is about 100 meters away.

And his accent is pure Hawick, which now I listen seems to be a Scots/Geordie mixture.

The landlady at the Laurels guesthouse is friendly and the room is fine with a view back to the supermarket . But the en-suite, just like the one in the Blackcock, has only a shower, and I really would have liked a long soak.

Never maind. I go out to get fish and chips, correction, a fish supper in a nearby fish and chip shop. No accent fun there as it is called Mario's or something and the staff all seem to be Italian.  There is a vocabulary confusion though because the girl asks me if I want something on them and I say yes, thinking she means vinager, but she puts some strange brown stuff on them.

I don't know what it is. Surely not cold curry sauce? It is slightly acid and if curry so mild as to be unidentifiable. Anyway it is OK and I am absolutely starving, so I gobble down a fine piece of haddock without minding the strange brown stuff in the slightest.

Then I go back to the B&B, shower, drink about ten cups of  the redbush tea I bought in Morrisons and collapse to bed again and am asleep in seconds.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Hoots, mon! You've made Scotland!

    Mark wants to know whether you went into Hawick and saw the horse statue. We identified the bridge as the North Bridge and even saw your B&B on google earth, where Mark was also shocked to see an iconic High st tearooms has apparently closed.

    Louise C (Hawickian by marriage)  


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