Monday, 22 February 2016

No Roman around today it's a long 'un!

Sat 20th Feb 2016
Byrness to Jedburgh - 28km
No Roman around today it's a long 'un!
My accommodation in Bryness was a strange but very nice affair. Given that its name was Forest View Inn I expected just that, an Inn. But as I walked through the small hamlet of what was originally for forest workers' houses, my accommodation turned out to be just that. Two forest worker houses side by side with an authentic Inn sign swinging in the breeze. When I arrived I was immediately bustled through into the conservatory and plied with a hot cup of tea. While I recovered, my boots and all manner of wet things were kindly taken away and put in the drying room. Oh and the boots were even stuffed with paper, how's that for service?
I settled into my room and continued with my usual routine until it was time for me to order my evening meal at 5.30pm. Once ordered I returned to reading my iPad book, keeping an eye on the battery level as I had foolishly left my charger at my mums. I blame that error on her forcing me to drink whisky until I got squiffy!
At 7pm dinner was served, a steaming bowl of vegetable curry ontop of which I put two boiled eggs for extra protein. The hard boiled eggs had been carried from Bellingham, an emergency ration I often carry. My main course was followed by plum crumble and custard and I couldn't help but reminisce of the apple crumble or pie my nana would always have ready for me when I went to see her. My nana is never far away from my thoughts, I really miss her.
Now the Inn had another peculiarity. Not only did it have a fully stocked bar in the lounge of one of the houses, it was also open to the public. Just before 9pm a group of the locals wandered in like they owned the joint, well I guess that's what you do when you go down to the pub! They promptly ordered drinks and once in hand proceeded to chat away to my hosts. I managed to understand some of what was being said, hoos, noo, yer ken etc, all new words to me.
I bid everyone goodnight and retired at 9.30pm and had another restless nights sleep. I don't know about you, but I find it really hard to sleep in a single bed nowadays, surely they're for children? I like to spread out from corner to corner like a big beached star!
I had cheekily asked for an earlier breakfast the previous day and the response was, well we don't usually serve until 8am but I will as you want to get off earlier. Now I was the only guest and I really would prefer my hosts to just say yes or no when I ask for breakfast outside the allocated times, because any more information just leaves me racked with guilt. By 8.30am and with the rain falling I was once more in waterproofs and heading out of the door.
There really were not many routes to choose from to reach Jedburgh so I decided to take the most direct one, straight over the top. Within two minutes of me starting the long day I was huffing and puffing like the three little piggies and slipping and sliding like Bambi on ice, straight up through the woods. There were two very brief flat bits as I crossed the forest tracks but aside from that I just kept climbing and climbing, at one point I thought I saw some pearly gates but it was just my eyes deceiving me. The final leg up the uphill struggle was over a craggy outcrop of boulders that meant either some serious concentration or a certain long tumble backwards and more than likely something hurty!
As my head crested the top it was nearly blown off and as the rest of me followed I too nearly got blown off my feet. Now I thought the previous day was windy but today I was very likely to get blown off my feet or into the next continent. I strapped everything down tight on my bag, gloves on, hood up and continued along the ridge line thankful that the tank range down the other side of the valley bottom was not in use this morning. The first time I had heard it go off the previous day I nearly jumped out of my skin and that was when it was about ten miles away.
As I ambled along I was buffeted continuously from the left side, grateful that it was not a head on wind. The route was isolated, boggy and very bleak, every now and then I had the feeling I was being followed but when I turned round there was no one there. I guess it must have been a Roman soldier from one of the many camps and the hill fort nearby keeping me safe.
I followed the Pennine Way past the large Roman hillside fort of Chew Green. These days there is nothing but large mounds of earth that depict the outline of previous buildings. I would not have liked to have lived up there or for that matter walked in the clothes the Romans once wore. The wind must have fair whistled round and up their uniforms. Brave men indeed..........or very very foolish.
From the hill fort I joined the Roman road of Dere Street once again, but again here there was very little to see except for a faint outline. The road continued to climb once more before disappearing only to reappear more formally with a gated entrance, a warning notice to motored vehicles, and swampy green swathe of grass ahead. Again I was buffeted by the wind, with the hillside falling away steeply to my left and the ridge line of Mid Hill and Gaisty Law again dusted with snow. 
I had been advised that the previous day there had been knee deep snow up here so I was pleased to see that the previous night’s rain had got rid of most of it.....Gott Sei Dank! After a brief section of Dere Street, once again it disappeared. My path took me left along a faint path and down a very steep hillside to rejoin Dere Street. By now all around me were beautiful hills dotted around like pimples sticking out of the valleys.
After being nearly blown of my feet and drowned in a bog once more I was relieved to reach a road and some safe passage. Ha ha, that was soon short lived as at the top of the road after passing a Roman encampment, minus the Romans, I rejoined Dere Street . Again there was notification that motorised vehicles were unauthorised as it was out of season.......out of season, formidabla! I walked through Italy last year along all manor of Roman roads that just looked as if they had been freshly laid. Here Dere street in places was a swampy, rutted, travesty of modern civilisation. If one considers when these roads were made, then view how long we have had mechanised transport it does not take much maths to work out how little time modern man has raped, vandalised and destroyed this historical creation. Am I mad.....no I am absolutely fuming!
Rant over, no! I continued on my merry way and was nearly mowed down by a farmers hand on a quad bike with a young giggly female on board! Then with hounds barking in the distance I knew that either a hunt was around or the dogs were out. The former rather than the latter was the case. I observed the local toffs all clad in black or red tearing across the hillside led by a quad bike,  and with further quad bikes bringing up the rear.
OMG, they reached Dere street and turned right straight towards me. Bounding and charging along tearing yet more of the road up. ‘What oh smelly walker' I am sure they wanted to utter as they charged left and right of me. 'What oh you upper class vandal monied toff' I wanted to shout, followed by 'I hope you fall off your horse and get eaten by a carnivorous sheep’ ! Rant over......NO, And then the cavalry came charging along on their quad bikes tearing more of the road up, ‘ I hope you hit a rut, and get thrown off I wanted to scream '! But I just nodded like the coward I am. RANT OVER.......yes.....meow!
I carried on my way spitting and snarling at the state of this ancient monument and once more was grateful for a brief interlude of a Tarmac track that was still Dere street. From the road my journey continued back onto a deeply rutted, horse trampled, vehicle rutted, vandalised, swampy Roman road. I passed numerous more Roman encampments minus the Romans. The former camps were just green fields interspersed with mole hills. Look, look, LOOK, even the moles are at it....hrmpf!
Thankfully after four more miles of this road I decided enough was enough. I am not a person to walk the same path twice and I had decided that the St Aelred's Way would not go almost all the way to the Borders Abbey Way to Jedburgh. Instead I had decided to take a more direct line and avoid two sides of a triangle, and so at the second country road I decided to turn left and take a straight route into town. I headed straight to Jedburgh Abbey to complete the stage and despite still wearing waterproofs and sweating like a sweaty thing, I was a now a happy bunny once more. Journey complete!

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