Scotland day 11 - Castlecary to Lenzie
The forecast was that the rain might not start till 10, so I got up very early (for me!) to be at breakfast by just after 7. Expecting a chilled meal, it was a surprise to find the restaurant filled with German tourists. I was assigned a place with them, presumably I was looking similarly Teutonic. I extricated myself and ate my hearty porridge in peace. And then the rain had already started by the time I got outside anyway.
Not to worry, my waterproofs are increasingly feeling like my second skin. I had decided to change tack today, and instead of sticking to the canal all day I would go up into the hills and follow the Antonine wall on the old Military Way. This plan was almost scuppered from the outset, as the path down to the Way was barbed wired. Again, not to be downhearted, I thought that maybe the canal would be fine anyway, and set off through Castlecary village. Passing a memorial park, I realised that this village has suffered far more than would seem fair. It was the site of a rail disaster in the 1930s, killing 35 and injuring many more. There was another rail crash in the 1960s, and horrifyingly two children were killed in the village in 1958 when an old mine shaft opened up under the play park.
Rather thoughtful, I walked through an industrial estate to where I could get back to the water. There were rabbits everywhere, some quite bold. I watched a standoff between a big buck and a magpie, in the end the mammal sensibly withdrew from the bird's beady eyes.
And then brilliantly there was a footpath signed for the Antonine Way. I viewed it with caution, but it seemed well maintained and corresponded to my map, so I launched onto it. It felt good to swerve off the planned route for a bit to go and touch base with the Romans again.
The construction of the Antonine Wall was started in AD 142 by Antoninus Pius, the Roman Emperor at the time, and adopted son of Hadrian It is thought that he re-invaded Scotland to perhaps consolidate his position in Europe and demonstrate military might. Whatever the reason, the wall didn't last long after he died in AD 161, as in AD 165 it was abandoned and troops re-occupied Hadrian's Wall. It wasn't a stone edifice like its more famous cousin, instead it was mainly constructed out of layers of turf to make a rampart. This was then punctuated with fortlets, barracks and other buildings. On the stretch I walked none of this was visibly remaining, but there were some great information boards that allowed me to imagine the space. And to give me interesting facts, such as that ground elder, the cursed weed of the gardener, was brought to the UK by Romans as a pot herb. The leaves are the tastiest in April.
My feet and legs were very pleased to be on grass again after two solid days of hard footpath, and the initial stage followed a rough path through the long grasses of a meadow, with the mist hovering on one side and the incongruous Cumbernauld airport on the other.
The path was excellently marked until it suddenly wasn't, leaving me wandering around a small copse whilst talking to David about the annoyance of it all. My nearest and dearest often put up with telephonic cursing whilst I extricate myself from some situation like this. Must be pretty annoying. He eventually listened to me having to climb over a fence to find my way out. However, the plus was that it gave me a very satisfying vista of the juxtaposition of this ancient Roman line next to a flock of sheep and a ScotRail express.
Passing a horse that seemed to be expressing its displeasure at me, tongue sticking out, I met a farmer with whom I exchanged pleasantries about the weather. At least that's what I think happened. He had few teeth, and his accent meant he had even fewer words that I could understand. But he was smiling, so I presumed his message was benign.
I could have gone back to the canal at this point, but the signs were pointing onwards, and so instead climbed to the top of Croy Hill. On the way is the most brilliantly enormous centurion's head, created by local art students, together with a replica of a Roman distance stone, erected as they built the wall to record each section, always containing carvings that gave political or social messages about the might of the Roman army. The locals must have loved it.
The hill used to have the most northerly fort in the Roman Empire. I could see why it would have been chosen as the spot, the views were long and the soldiers would have been able to see insurrection forces approaching with ease.
I loved the quote from Auden's Roman Wall Blues:
Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've luce in my tunic and a cold in my nose
The rain cones pattering out of the sky
I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.
I wouldn't know why either, it would be a tough place. But today it was a joy to be up high again, despite the extra climbing exertion. My legs enjoyed having some variety too - steady state flat walking is tough on the calves.
But eventually the path climbed down to the canal side, where I stayed for most of the rest of the walk. As soon as I got back to the flat trudging I started to feel tired and a bit wobbly, and I had to have regular stops to have a sit down and something to eat.
The walking was much as yesterday, though I enjoyed the Constable-like diversion of the cows in the water.
And my sponsors' music was great today, chosen by Anne and Liz whom I met walking yesterday. I was so pleased that they'd chosen music by two Scottish bands. What great songs. I loved the fusion of singer/songwriter with traditional folk instruments. I'll be listening again tomorrow!
Eventually I peeled off the canal into Kirkintilloch. It feels quite a tough place, but very soon after hitting the high street I found The Greenhouse. This is a church run cafe, and was a calm and cheerful oasis, with the lady making the salads singing loudly throughout the time I was there. It was also the first of three cafes today that offers paying clients the chance to add a bit to their bill to support someone who couldn't afford a meal. Whilst eating my excellent lentil soup I noticed my hands shaking, presumably because I've not eaten enough today. Fuelling properly is so crucial, and so easy to get wrong. I've had three more meals this afternoon!
I walked out of Kirkintilloch through Lenzie, a rather more genteel place which makes its own gin, to the station where I got the train to Glasgow. I'm basing myself here for three nights, going out again tomorrow for a walk before a rest day with my lovely friend Philip on Saturday. I felt extremely obvious in my dripping waterproofs and large rucksack on a busy commuter train, suddenly I was out of context. I was delighted to get dry in my hotel, and even happier when the delightful lady who checked me in arrived at my door with some drinks and chocolates because she thought I might like them. She had obviously seen the desperate sogginess in my eyes.
Then three excellent things. The first was a nap, as I'm going to have a later night than usual - sleep is as important as nutrition! Then a wonderfully helpful session with Damon of Glasgow City Physiotherapy. My legs have been holding up well, but I have definitely been feeling the effects of ten days of intense walking and I thought it would be good to have a preventative session. He was so kind, so helpful, so skilled. I came out feeling enormously reassured, much looser, and having had a very pleasant time with a personable and interesting person too.
And finally the treat of going out out. I love comedy, and a month ago there was one ticket left for Russell Howard at the Theatre Royal. It was talking to me.... His set was very good, both funny and thoughtful, in a lovely old theatre with plenty of women's toilets! And then as we all left the building it was still light outside - I'm very far North.
Total distance: 12 miles
Total ascent: 670 feet
Calories burned: 1450
Local tipple - free water at the Theatre Royal (I know how to have a big night out!)
Second of two light dinners eaten either side of the physio: Social Bite on Sauchiehall street - very good
Feta, falafel and couscous salad with hummous
Apple and then lovely free hotel chocolate
Sponsor's music, thanks to Anne and Liz
Skerryvore - Take my Hand
Skipinnish - Walking on the Waves
Video of the day