Border blues

Rest Day, 31st May: Lamplugh nr Cockermouth

Following my very pleasant surprise at finding Kate sitting (fully clothed – I might add) on the toilet, I have also hopefully put to rights anybody, if you had heard another version of this tale, who might have suspected that I had a habit of lurking suspiciously around toilets. After all, it was Terry who was particularly insistent that I inspect a supposedly broken mirror despite my “whatever” shrug.

My rest day was spent dropping Terry and Alfie off at Drigg station for their long trip back to Lincolnshire with my deepest thanks. Then it was shopping, weekly chores and a tidy of the van as Kate and I waited for Jon (a very, very long-term friend from childhood and cricket) to arrive for a half-week stint. I did feel more than a little guilty at having to do such chores when Kate had made her way half way up-country to see me for such a brief time. But just like last weekend with my daughters it was good just to spend some time together. And if truth be known, it was Kate who did most of the chores and cooked the dinner that night anyway, even if the tap did just snap off in her hand.

Stage 87, 1st June: Harrington to Abbeytown

I left Kate behind with Jon as I walked away from Harrington station blowing a few deep breaths and trying to look forward to another day of walking instead of lingering on who I had left behind to head home again. I decided that the brand new England Coast Path deserved a trial, so I gave it a go. It took me on a bizarre and slightly unnecessary headland walk into Workington and then gave me the slip by an old railway bridge which used to serve a huge dismantled siding.

I rediscovered the path masquerading as a cycleway to Maryport, but now I have a question of the town / path planners and their like. Why, oh why do such path projects have to be multi-use and thus made of tarmac, especially when there is a perfectly good track or sheep path already in place? I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I prefer to walk on rough ground and not hard unforgiving bitumen for miles on end. Not only is it tedious but it also hurts. Yes, give the cyclists their strip of smooth black to zip down at 30mph but please don’t expect me to share it with them when there is a bit of grass or even rough hardcore to walk on instead.

A long promenade took me down a fairly unappealing seafront at Maryport and then beach side shingle as far as Mawbray, with only a quick 99 cone from a fish and chip shop in Allonby to brighten my afternoon. After that, it was across fields, the occasional hidden path (photo) and down farm lanes till I found Jon parked up at a nice little campsite in Abbeytown.

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Stage 88, 2nd June: Abbeytown to Cargo nr Carlisle

The clouds overhead seemed to threaten rain, but it never actually materialised as I strode along the lanes and occasional fields all the way to Drumburgh. I wasn’t feeling 100% but I couldn’t really say why, I just felt lethargic today and my enthusiasm was suffering.

After Drumburgh my spirits lifted a tad if only because I came into contact with many walkers striding towards me on the last leg of Hadrian’s Wall Way. I came across a couple from Anchorage, Alaska who seemed to be thriving in the warmth of northern England, a dozen lads in their twenties wearing yellow T-shirts who all seemed to be hobbling, completely cream-crackered and very reluctant to chat and then a group of three, including one dressed as a Roman Centurion complete with steel armour who was clearly regretting the sandals part of his outfit.

I finally crossed the River Eden just shy of Carlisle and crossed buttercup strewn fields to meet up with Jon who was nervously distracting some cows to help me pass through unscathed and walk the last mile into a village with the frontier name of Cargo. Wild West by name, much more timid by nature.

Stage 89, 3rd June: Cargo to Ruthwell

A reasonably warm day with sunny spells was predicted and once again accurately delivered as more lanes and occasional fields now took me down river, around and up the River Esk to cross it alongside the M6 and make my way towards Gretna and potentially sixteen or so weeks circumnavigating Scotland. I crossed the small bridge over the River Sark which marks the boundary and waved goodbye to Blighty by taking a photo for a cyclist posing by the England sign and making his way towards Land’s End.

I met up with Jon for my own photo shoot at the Old Toll Bar and slipped in a quick Latte in celebration of my next border crossing. Together we vaguely considered whether I might need my passport to get back into England as I am scheduled to be here beyond the Scottish Independence vote. I wonder, will Gretna become a new Mexican style border town? Or would that be presumptuous of me as I suppose it could equally be Carlisle’s fate.

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From Gretna I then verge hopped along a busy pathless road and tried to listen to the England v Sri Lanka ODI on the radio whilst keeping an ear as well as my eyes trimmed for traffic approaching from both directions.

Annan (photo) was definitely my first proper Scottish town with an almost gothic look to the stark red sandstone walled public buildings. I nipped into the chemist to get something to help my ailing toes and had a lovely yet brief chat with the pharmacist who sported my first Scottish accent since Alec had driven Snickers back in Cornwall. To me it felt a bit like coming home, even though I am probably about as english as a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie.

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From Annan the coast opened out a little and a I nipped down to Powfoot for a couple of small sandy beaches before heading back inland to meet up with Jon who was enjoying a bit of a busman’s holiday at the Ruthwell savings bank museum.

We then made for our midweek flying support crew change by driving back down into England to pick up Phil (an old geology pal from uni) in Cumbria and drop Jon off for his journey back down to Leicestershire with more thanks. A quick overnight stop at Phil and Cath’s with a home cooked meal, laundry, bath and bed was hugely welcome. A bath! A bed! Bliss!

Stage 90, 4th June: Ruthwell to New Abbey

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain!

Tarmac, tarmac, tarmac, tarmac, tarmac!

Lanes, lanes, lanes, cycleway, A710, A710, A710!

My biggest joy of the day was a brief respite after a particularly huge downpour at the Caerlaverock Tea Rooms in Glencaple. Here they allowed me to eat my sandwiches and dry off for a bit with a cup of tea. When I came to pay, not only was the tea gifted as a donation to charity but so was my little shop purchase. Kind gestures like that are always welcome and this blog wouldn’t be worth a fig if I didn’t at least mention them, despite all donations getting a line on my virginmoneygiving page.

Another highlight was my first offer of a lift whilst dodging cars by verge hopping my way along the A710 and presumably looking a smidge bedraggled. I reluctantly turned him down but the verge hopping didn’t get any less miserable. At least Phil managed to get the tap fixed on Snickers even if they did charge us full whack on the labour. £100 for a fitted tap seems a tad steep to me.

Stage 91, 5th June: New Abbey to Palnackie

With twelve more miles of verge hopping the A710 was not proving to be my favourite coastal pathway. By lunchtime I was overjoyed to escape its grasp and have a proper coast path to follow from Sandyhills around to Rockcliffe and Kippford.

Along this lovely cliff top and hill climbing seven mile section I got a proper view across the Solway Firth (photo) and found myself reluctantly droving cattle along the path until they ground to a halt at the first stile. I stepped to one side and encouraged them to back track with a few confident farmer-like shouts and a wave of my trekking pole. It seemed to work and I am now considering whether droving might have any career openings.

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Rockcliffe was a very pretty village with most of the rather well proportioned houses having a grand view across Auchencairn Bay. I thought it a rather undiscovered gem of a place which was only topped when Ben of the Mr Whippy van kindly poked a free flake into my truly excellent double sherbet cone.

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After that it was back to roads and that A710 again into Dalbeattie to cross Urr Water and enjoy the equally pleasant experience of walking down the A711 to Palnackie and a rendezvous with Phil parked up in the campsite.

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