Scotland Day 3 - Jedburgh to Melrose
One of the side effects of walking vigorously every day is that I'm ready to go to bed early. Last night was not as early as some, but because we're so much further north it was still radiant outside. It felt like being a child again, trying to sleep when the bedroom is full of light. Also in our room was a stuffed dog that's used as a doorstop. It is very like our lovely dog Saffy, and in the moments between sleep and waking in the lit bedroom I more than once thought that she had somehow made the journey to see me.
In yesterday's blog I mentioned the bunting that was bestowing Jedburgh with a very jaunty appearance, wondering what the significance of it was. My friend Nick brilliantly took up the challenge, and his research tells me that it was connected with the Jethart Callant, which is a festival that re-enacts a historic battle between England and Scotland, the 1575 Raid of Redeswire in the Cheviot hills. It was won when the men from Jedburgh arrived, shouting their war cry: 'Jethart's here!' The festival is a big deal in the town, with a young man named the Jethart Callant (boy) for the year, and then there are many further festivities, including a ride out today that took in various local villages, and is due to end up in the town square tonight. We were very sorry to miss it. There's also a song that's sung at various events, which is here if you'd like it!
My clothes, soaked yesterday, had imbued the room with a distinctive fragrance, but I put most of them back on anyway. Keeping everything at least moderately clean is always an issue, and I find that my normally perfectly acceptable standards drop somewhat. The others in the breakfast room didn't wince too noticeably. It was lovely to thank Paige and Fiona for their kindness at Allerton House B and B last year.
Waiting for my lift back South, I was looked after wonderfully, with them coming up to check on me regularly, and the owner of the B and B even buying me a dinner that they then served in my room. They are another pair of diamonds, and the B and B is tremendous.
David took me back to the side of the road where Alison and I finished up yesterday, and I continued on the trek down Dere Street. It immediately plunged into a wood, which was dank and dripping, with the rain steady if not strong.
Dere Street continued to share the track with St Cuthbert's Way, and I was to stay on the latter for a lot of the day. I kept a better eye out on my map today, looking for the standing stone mentioned. It was something of a disappointment really, with the cow on the horizon making more of a dramatic statement.
The woods turned to more arable land, and the path was green and springy. Wet though, the long grass soaking through my not completely dry boots again, and making me glad of my bulky but efficient waterproof trousers. I was thinking of synonyms for verdant whilst walking through ferns bursting with green. Verdant is the best word. I felt I could see them growing, with their ferny vigour.
I walked past the site of the Battle of Ancrum Moor. There's been a lot of battle activity round here, with the English and Scots tussling over the border. Ancrum Moor was in 1545, and in 1743 a local vicar ascribed the name 'Lilliard's Edge' to the area where the battle took place. He claimed that she took part, and the explanatory board that I read at the site made me laugh out loud:
'Fair maiden Lilliard lies under this stance,
Little was her stature, but great her fame
On the English loons she laid many thumps
And when her legs were off, she fought upon her stumps'
Although the poetry possibly leaves a little to be desired, the board continued to reflect on the suffering and heroism of thousands of women on both sides of the border, who put up with so many wars over the 14 - 16th centuries. Poor old Lilliard though.
Eventually I turned off Dere Street, and left the rigorous straightness of the Romans to start on a much more fluid path on St Cuthbert's Way. I took a break with my thermos at a convenient bench in Maxton, and was delighted to have a chat with Marietta and Johnny from outside Glasgow. They are devotees of this Way, having walked it many times, and it was as always good to talk to walkers about routes travelled, and those we hope to do.
I could see why they enjoy the St Cuthbert's Way, the little time I've been on it has been lovely. Most particularly as it ran alongside the River Tweed, which I first glimpsed through trees, and then had the pleasure of seeing it open out in front of me, confident and wide. More flowers to admire and hopefully have guidance on too!
Together with Nick's bunting research today, my mum has been very busy for me too. I asked her if she knew anything about St Cuthbert, and she sent me some excellent info:
Cuthbert was a friend of Alcfrith, who adopted Roman customs in the monastery in Lindisfarne. Cuthbert became Prior of Lindisfarne, then lived as a hermit. Mum went on to say that he's a big hit on the Farne islands, and did not decay after death for centuries, which was pretty miraculous. She wonders though why all of this makes him Northern England's most popular saint. It does explain why his Way ends up in Lindisfarne though.
It's been a chatty day today, having had a couple of lovely phone conversations, and then meeting new people too. As I continued to walk though, it was quieter again, and rainy, and so I started to listen to music. I've got a couple of new pieces that I was sent before I left that I'm loving, and then having seen Lizzo at Glastonbury I'd added a couple of her tracks to my cheer me up list. 'Good as Hell' had set off my music endorphins, and even provoked me to break out a few very cool moves, despite soggy waterproofs and rucksack. It is to everyone's benefit that I had just paused my excellent dancing as I rounded the corner to meet an angler. I segued from my routine into a sober wave to respond to his, and thought it was best to listen to something less incendiary. I was kindly sponsored by Sally from my choir yesterday, and she suggested that I listen to 'Soon' Has Come, from the soundtrack to 'The English'. I enjoyed this very much, walking along the banks of the river, approaching a sturdy red brick bridge over which I would cross.
And then there was David. He had moved the car to Melrose, our final destination, and then had walked my route in the other direction to meet me. Although he has no desire to do the entirety of the walk, he enjoys the process in small quantities. It was lovely to see him, and especially as he then knew the route back and I didn't have to think much about the navigation.
At this point we left Cuthbert, and joined instead the Borders Abbeys Way, with a new icon to follow.
The first Abbey for today was at Dryburgh. It was a little detour, but I have always felt that this trek is about seeing the places as well as walking the miles, so we popped in. What an amazing place, a beautiful ruin surrounded by extraordinarily mature trees, including a 1000 year old ewe and a really special blue cedar. We settled at a bench to eat our lunch, relishing the invigorating drizzle running into our drinks and over our sandwiches. As we ate, we were joined by Ian, who works at the Abbey. He was interested in my expedition, and very kindly became the first person to give me a cash donation on the trail, having heard I was supporting the Samaritans. Thanks, Ian. We also met Heimdall, a Pyrenean guardian dog named after the watchman of the Norse gods. He was utterly gorgeous, very chilled, and his owners told us that he is much happier wandering round ruined abbeys than a long walk.
We took in the important bits in the Abbey, stopping at Sir Walter Scott's tomb, and I realised to my shame that I've never read anything by him. There was great detail on the boards about the life of the monks, how they would be punished for being late to services, and not allowed to be sleepy, even though the first one of the day started at 2am.
On, following the river, passing a folly called the Temple of the Muses, a tribute to James Thomson who was a Borders poet. Revered in Scotland, he also rather confusingly wrote the words to Rule Britannia.
We crossed the river again, and the rain became more persistent, and frankly wetter. We walked through another jungle like area, with giant rhubarb like leaves, maybe Butterbur?
Then a longish section of road walking, initially through Newtown St Boswell, a dour looking village that seemed to reflect my less ebullient mood, and then there was a climb by road for a couple of miles. Inside my hood, the music went on again, and it helped enough for me to be distracted from which direction to go, so that David had to run up to redirect me as I marched past several turnings. But it wasn't the best bit of the day, to be frank. This blog is about the bad bits as well as the good bits, and the photo David took of me shows clearly how it was all feeling.
However, the thing about doing a long distance walk is that even if stuff feels hard you've got to keep going. So we did, and a couple of miles later we finally got to Melrose, a lovely little town that was itself festooned with bunting, this time blue, white and yellow. I look forward to hearing from my bunting expert whether there's a significance to these too! We were given the use of an excellent drying room, I had a restorative peanut protein bar and a cup of tea and things felt a bit better. And by the evening the rain had stopped, dinner was great and the forecast is much improved for tomorrow.
Distance travelled: 13.2 miles
Total ascent: 1700 feet
Calories burned: 1862
Local tipple: 'La Berra d'Abbazia' from Montecassina brewery. Not very local - I haven't really encountered a local beer yet.
Dinner at Monte Cassina restaurant in Melrose - fantastic, best so far
Caprese salad with focaccia al balsamic
Ravioli al ricotta with salad
Sponsored piece of music, thanks to Sally
'Soon' has come, from the soundtrack to 'The English'
Video of the walk