Farewell sweet Scotland
Kirknewton Travel Blog› entry 14 of 19 › view all entries
Well, I made it back out. Today was the long day I've most dreaded -- 13 miles and 2000 feet elevation change. That is not inconsequential.
So, before we even start out, 4 of us decide we will take an alternate option offerred -- bailing at the halfway point and taking a cab back. The group leader is really quite suprised by this (why, I don't know) and spends a great deal of time making sure we understand the ramifications of our decision.
We are all quite clear on our decision but we let her explore it for a while, just to make her happy. She must be one of those people for whom a lot of physical activity has always been easy and natural. She just doesn't seem to get that this sort of thing can sometimes leave one in pain!
The day starts gray but never really lets loose with the cloudbursts, thank heavens.
Thank heavens for the colpeed and the lambswool boot inserts. They are making a huge difference. I took Kate's advice and re-did the lacing on my boots. That's helping a lot too.
The beginning of the walk was the first of the two major climbs of the day, about 1000 feet. A long long slog up a set of hills, getting quite steep at the end.
But, oh, the views at the top of that hill! It's probably the biggest reason I hike -- to be outdoors and for great views from the top of hills. It was all green countryside, row upon row upon row of lovely cultivate hills. This area is sparsely populated (if you don't count the sheep) and very hilly.
After leaving this first hill, we cross the official border between Scotland and England. It's a stone wall with a gate in the middle. Very closely guarded, as you can imagine. :) The St. Cuthberts way runs pretty much east and west. In this area, the Scotland/England border runs north and south.
The next 5 miles or so are pure countryside and some of the most treacherous mud to date! We wander up and down over farmland deep with boggy mud. How do they keep from losing the sheep? I really have no idea.
At one point, the trail winds through a forest for about a kilometer. It's pure 'Hansel and Gretel' in feel -- dark pines rising straight up over head blocking out the sun. Then I notice that the bottom branches of the trees are all dead, there is no undergrowth and there are no birds. It turns out, this 'forest' was planted for the express purpose of producing -- telephone poles. The trees are planted very close together so they will grow straight up. A machine will come in, uproot them, run them through a 'grater' of sorts and out the other end will pop a telephone pole.
People on the hike who've seen it say it's pretty amazing to watch. Tree gets grabbed on one end, telephone pole comes out the other. Don't the make 'baby' carrots kinda the same way??
We also walk through fields thick with bracken (looks like ferns but apparently are a much bigger pain in the ass for farmers).
We came down to an estate where the 4 slackers took their departure (are you stunned to discover I'm one of the slackers??). Our leader checked one last time just to be sure we knew what we were doing (!) but then let us on our way. We walked the roads about 2 miles to a small town. Along the way, we happened to catch sight of a farmer training his collie to work his sheep. Shouting out commands and gestures and having the dog sweep the sheep back and forth across the field. It was pretty cool to watch.
We also heard a sheep belch. I swear that's what that noise was! It was way too deep in volume to be your normal 'bleat'.
We arrived at the village hall in Kirknewton about 90 minutes before our taxi was supposed to get there. We didn't see a living soul in the town (it's very very small) except at the village hall. A gentleman was setting up a display and brought us out a few chairs so we could eat our lunch in the foyer while we waited for the cab. The other three also went to take a look at the local church while I attempted to nap in the chair (no luck).
Our cab was right on time and we were back at the hotel by 3:15. The rest of our group staggered in about 5. I've learned that no matter what the conditions actually were, they all say it was a nice walk with great views and the climbs weren't really all that bad. Hah! I no longer believe them, sweet kind people though they are.