Against The Wind

LETJOG – Day 39: Friday 25 June – GALASHIELS to INNERLEITHEN (17 miles)

A spectacular pine-tree-in-bloom, on Minch Moor, above Traquair

One aspect of my LETJOG trek that a number of friends and family have enquired into is around my personal security. I hope that I’m not speaking too soon here, but both on this trek and on all previous treks, both home and abroad, I have never once felt physically threatened by others. It must help being a fit six-foot male armed with two sharp poles (and possibly deemed to be carrying nothing more than a backpack of well-worn clothes), but nonetheless it is most reassuring to encounter just the best of humanity when out walking in the countryside. I did consider all the personal risks whilst planning my walk, and the precautions and mitigations are included in the requisite risk assessment, but this is not an area that has given me any specific cause for concern on LETJOG thus far.

Not so insects! I am told that a wind speed of 5 miles-per-hour is sufficient to deter midges. This does indeed seem to be the case, as nuisance from these pests has been limited to sheltered lowlands, and I have learnt quickly to avoid such places when taking a break for water or lunch. Biting flies are possibly worse, and partly for that reason I have worn long walking trousers throughout, and long-sleeved walking tops as well on most days. Ticks are the other real danger, and I understand that these are most common where deer abound. These insects can cause quite serious incidences of Lyme disease if not dealt with correctly, and hence I keep a tick-remover handy in the top pocket of my pack, just in case!

A tick warning sign in Northumberland, that might be similarly applicable along many of the remaining parts of my trek

Anyway, back to my LETJOG walk itself. I know I’ve used the word ‘wow’ more than once recently, but I really was wowed by the scenery and views today. Despite having travelled through the area on several previous occasions, this was the first time ever that I had done a full-day walk in the Southern Uplands. What an oversight on my part, and how good to be able to right this wrong, at least until I can return with a bit more time: this is truly most wonderful walking country, even under leaden skies!

Not that I should moan about the cloud cover, nor even the strong north-westerly headwind that blew straight into my face for much of the day, and sounded loud as a train as it lashed through the conifer stands along the path. The forecast had been for heavy rain throughout the day, but somehow these downpours missed me completely, presumably being blown south-eastwards as I know that Newcastle had a prolonged deluge. Furthermore the clouds were high enough to allow some majestic views from the tops, back over to the Cheviots many miles behind me now, and forward to the hills around the headwaters of the upper Tweed.

My day was spent almost wholly on the Southern Upland Way, also known, evocatively, at least in part, as the ‘Cross Borders Drove Road’. Today’s walk is within my ‘top half dozen’ LETJOG days in terms of ascent, with around 1,000 metres of climbing. Beginning with a long rise over rich pastures ringing to the cacophony of hundreds of bleating sheep, the path then descended equally steeply to Yair Bridge over the Tweed. Then came the big climb, up alongside a small tributary and through deep forest onto the moorlands of heather. The first peak, Three Brethren (on account of its three cairn towers), was followed over the subsequent five miles of undulation by a number of rounded summits, peaking with Brown Knowe at a height of 523 metres. What views along the way, and I had all of this beauty pretty much to myself, with just a couple of runners and one small group of local walkers for brief company!

Looking back, over to the now-distant Eildon sisters, who seem to have guided my progress these last three days
Near Brown Knowe – a lonesome stile seeking a boundary to surmount (and those sisters again, making a very final appearance in the background)
Descending towards Traquair, and a glimpse of the Tweed
The Southern Upland Way, as it prepares to leave the moorland on its descent through the conifers to Traquair

I had a recommendation previously on the walk, to book into the Traquair Arms in Innerleithen, my overnight port, for dinner. As I write this, Tempest IPA in hand, I can certainly say that their fare lives up to reputation. An early night beckons now!

3 thoughts on “Against The Wind

  1. You’re doing great Nick…..
    Enjoying you’re daily reports and descriptions.
    I can see a good book and guide coming on.
    Stay safe
    R&G x

    Like

  2. Fantastic progress Nick. Didn’t realise you were going to be passing so close to my brother who moved to near Pebbles in Nov 2019. He probably could have sponsored you a very comfy bed & a beer!

    Like

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