Welcome to LEJoG Day 61 – drying out slowly

Day 61 pre-amble

Obviously Airplane II: The Sequel isn’t as good as the original Airplane! But there are some memorable moments, of which one is the “Over Macho Grande” sequence. Watch in full (it’s under a minute) to understand the full context, but the key exchange is:

Prosecuting Attorney: Over Macho Grande?

Witness: No. I don’t think I’ll ever get over Macho Grande. Those wounds run…pretty deep.

“Over Macho Grande” was my original working title for this post. As in, “I don’t think I’ll ever get over [it].” I didn’t feel like I’d recovered from yesterday’s trauma before striking out for Peebles this morning. The walk proceeded in a daze, with memories of Melrose to Traquair still vivid, and both fitness and morale noticeably affected by 20 miles in Tuesday’s rain and wind.

But, turns out that the gag from Airplane II was also a contemporary in-joke about this movie, as in “I don’t think I’ll ever get over [seeing this gay porn flick].” So I looked for an alternative way to express the sentiment, ideally in Spanish and referring to wind and rain. Nothing worked, so I resorted to using Scottish dialect for the first time. For “Over” read “Ower“, and for “Macho Grande” read “Dreich and Drookit“. The best possible way to convey “wet, dull, gloomy, dismal, dreary or any combination of these. Scottish weather at its most miserable” and “extremely wet / absolutely drenched”.

LEJoG Day 61 (Wednesday 5 August 2020)

Traquair to Peebles (9 miles)

Cumulative: 868½ miles

Facts: Time on walk: 3 hours 40 minutes. Average speed: 2.45 mph. Weather: Cloudy, rain on highest ground, mild and becoming warm mid-afternoon.

Practicalities: Breakfast at 8:10 – already consciously dreading another day like yesterday and anxiously checking the weather. Lynda said the walk to Peebles was “a nice stroll by the river”, but I knew the Drove Road route was taking me above 500m again. Checked out at 10am. Timing was tight due to me re-arranging all the wet stuff in my pack. Walked from Innerleithen to Traquair. Stopped at the bench for water, and to make notes on dry paper, before setting out along the Southern Upland Way again.

The walk

Start: Cross, Traquair, 10:50am. End: Parish Church, Peebles, 3:15pm.

Today’s walk uses only OS Explorer map 337 (Peebles and Innerleithen), linked yesterday.

Having already walked south and south-west for 1½ miles out of Innerleithen, it’s galling to continue in that direction for another mile after Traquair. The Southern Upland Way heads SW along the B709, and it’s another road without a verge. To be honest there has been way too much road walking in Scotland so far. Of course the Pennine Way spoiled me for most of 2019. But, in spite of following waymarked paths all the way, the first four days over the border have seen probably my highest concentration of road walking since Herefordshire. I think even Staffordshire had more off-road paths. Disappointing.

As you leave the B709, you also leave the Southern Upland Way and join the Cross Borders Drove Road. This will be my companion until a mile or so north of West Linton, late on Day 62. And, for anyone who thinks I’ve done too much greeting in Scotland so far, I can tell you this route makes a major difference. More on that tomorrow.

Initial impressions weren’t great, although that had more to do with insects and humidity. The road winds towards the Glen Estate – shortly before entering the grounds there is a footpath on the right which marks the start of your ascent into the hills. The climb proper starts when you reach Glass Burn. I stopped for 20 minutes here as I really needed an energy boost and some self-motivation before tackling a serious hill. Made a minor navigational error, and it was a slow push, but once up to 350-400m I started to enjoy it. The section skirting the south-western edge of Cardrona Forest was not dissimilar to a moorland/ridge walk on the Pennine Way.

There was one more climb to come, northwards to Kirkhope Law. It was only another 100m or so and I barely noticed the ascent to be honest. It helped to have some good views of nearby hills, after being deprived of such rewards on Tuesday.

611 Hills before Peebles

Emerging from SW tip of Cardrona Forest, first view north towards Peebles

613 Triple hill off Drove Road

Craig Head, from just after Kirkhope Law (the Drove Road will pass below the peak)

The rain came down on the way to the summit. Passed a group of women coming down the other way – they asked where I’d walked from. Saying “Innerleithen” seemed to undersell it after yesterday’s shenanigans, and I momentarily recalled my original bookings for April. I was supposed to walk from Galashiels to Innerleithen (i.e. all bar the easiest 4 miles of yesterday’s walk) and then Innerleithen to Carlops IN ONE DAY! This would have meant facing well over 20 miles (not 9) the day after the “hellwalking”. Sure, I’d have probably chosen the river route to Peebles, but even so that would have had serious abandonment potential. I have to say I’m grateful that the April plans were cancelled.

614 Under cloud approaching Peebles

Rain cloud and countryside to the east of Peebles

This was the only real downpour of the day – there were intermittent showers afterwards. The last came just before I stopped for protein bar and Quality Street, just before the descent to Peebles. This descent wasn’t as agonising as yesterday’s to Traquair, but there was a lot of wet and slippery ground which slowed me down considerably, and some steep sections. By now my arms and shoulders were starting to suffer from carrying a separate (wet, heavy) bag in one hand. As a result I took very little pleasure in the last mile or so on minor roads through Kings Meadows and into Peebles.

The walk ended right after crossing the Tweed, at Peebles Parish Church.

After the walk

I can tell you that a 3:15pm arrival at your destination is immensely preferable to a 7:15pm arrival. Freedom stretches out before you; it’s so much easier to relax and to plan your evening. Checked in at the Green Tree Hotel. Masks and sanitiser very much in evidence. I thought this was probably the best accommodation of the week. Certainly the best value for money at £55 per night and 50% off (due to ‘Eat Out to Help Out’) in its terrific and clearly popular restaurant. Ate quite early, at 6pm. After settling for a takeaway pizza yesterday, I indulged myself with chicken nachos, a lamb and mint burger and two beers. Might have had dessert as well but there was chocolate from yesterday still to eat.

Continued with the Breaking Bad 101 book in my room. Also rearranged the backpack and bag, and decided to hook the bag around my chest straps so I didn’t have to carry it in one hand for the next two days. Went to bed knowing I’d be much fresher and more motivated for tomorrow’s walk.

Postscript – My Listening Pleasure

Back to Girls Aloud for the climb from the Glen Estate to Cardrona Forest/Kirkhope Law. First my ‘Gold’ collection, followed by their best album, Chemistry (minus the unnecessary cover of ‘See The Day’). The ‘Gold’ collection consists of my 14 favourite GA tracks, quite brilliantly sequenced as follows: 1. Intro-Models 2. Biology 3. Call the Shots 4. Close To Love 5. The Show 6. Graffiti My Soul 7. Miss You Bow Wow 8. Untouchable (album version) 9. Something Kinda Ooooh 10. She 11. Memory Of You 12. Sexy! No No No… 13. Swinging London Town 14. The Promise (single version). I swear, if this were an actual studio album, it would be in my top 20 of all-time.



Picture (taken 5 August 2020) shows the first sighting of Peebles through the hills on the approach to Kirkhope Law (537m).

Next: Day 62 (6 August 2020)… in which Ben actually enjoys a walk in Scotland from start to finish! Crazy days…

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