Byrness to Jedburgh
Bad night’s sleep last night. Even though I didn’t have anyone snoring throughout the night as I had the room to myself, it was way too light and the curtains were rubbish. To be honest I suspect the walk ahead of me was probably playing on my mind as I knew it was going to be a hard one.
As I’d been told last night that there wouldn’t be any form of cooked breakfast – this was an independent hostel and not like the one I stayed in the other night – there was no point in hanging around, so when my alarm went off I got myself up and ready. I grabbed a pasty from the fridge, leaving my money, and headed out the door at 7:45am, a good hour before I would normally be leaving.
I walked along the road to pick up the Pennine Way again which immediately turned in to a complete nightmare. The first part of today’s route was up Byrness Hill, a three quarter’s of a mile 500ft climb, the majority of which was up through the woods.
Even though the morning was cooler and there was a little bit of rain in the breeze the slog through the trees, with no air movement, was torturous and by the time I reached the final bit of the climb I was dripping with sweat and exhausted already.
The final part of the climb to open land was even worse. The path, of sorts, wound round through the ferns and then turned in to a rock climb. This would have been bad enough with a small day bag on but with my pack I ended up scrabbling up pretty much on hands and knees. Not a good way to start a long day’s walk!
The route took me over Houx Hill and Ravens Pike but the climbs were a lot more gentle than the one first thing this morning so I wasn’t feeling too bad. I was careful to stay on the used path though as I was walking along the side of an MOD training area and there were some rather large signs warning you not to touch anything you may come across and to stay on the path. The weather was definitely in my favour too as there was a good breeze and a little bit of drizzle: perfect walking weather.
I was really looking forward to today’s walk as it was going to cross a major milestone: crossing in to Scotland. The crossing point is where the Pennine Way meets up with Dere Street – an old Roman road – but it seemed to take forever to get there.
I walked past an old Roman camp and fortlet at Chew Green, not that there was anything to see other than some lumps and bumps over the landscape. I could have taken a shorter alternative route but it was nice to see where they used to camp all those years ago. Much like Hadrian’s Wall, you could see why they camped there, protected on two sides from the elements by the hills.
Although I was beginning to get a little peckish by now I didn’t want to stop for lunch just yet. I wanted to have my lunch in Scotland! I stopped for a bit though just past Chew Green and ate a mars bar to keep my sugar levels up and to take my boots off for five minutes.
I pushed on towards Dere Street finally getting there shortly gone 11am. Proud doesn’t get anywhere near to describing how I felt at that point, knowing that I’d walked the entire length of England. What the hell would I feel like when I finally reach John O’Groats?!
I took my picture at the sign post and another of the gate in to Scotland and pushed on to find a spot to have my lunch.
I didn’t go too far before stopping for lunch, choosing to sit on the side of Blackhall Hill with a fantastic view. I sat there for a good half an hour eating my lunch, soaking in the scenery and sending numerous text messages to people harping on about being in Scotland.
I still had quite a way to go so I headed off over the hills following Dere Street for almost the rest of the day’s journey. There’s not a lot to say about Dere Street other than it was pretty straight and that it was a mixture of lanes, gravel track and farmland.
Walking along the lane section of Dere Street, at the junction with the road to Upper Samieston, I knew I was running on empty, I could feel it. I found a spot on a moss covered wall, took my boots and pack off and had some more chocolate. The day was beginning to warm up a bit now too and that wasn’t helping. I still had seven miles to go and I was a little concerned about whether or not I’d make it, but only a little at this point.
Rested, I put my gear back on and headed on up the road and down a dirt track section of Dere Street. Half way down the track I could just about put one foot in front of the other and stand up straight. I was beginning to suffer badly and as the track was pretty poor I started to get worried about taking a fall and twisting an ankle. I had to stop again.
I sat there on the track, pack and boots off again, and scoffed down three – yes you read it right – three mars bars in quick succession, immediately feeling like I’d eaten absolutely nothing at all.
At this point I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make the final three miles or so and for the first time since I started this walk I was worried, really worried, that it had finally broken me. I’ve pushed myself beyond my limits so many times over the last two months there had to be a point where my body would say “No!” and just give up, and I thought this was it.
I sat there, head in hands, despairing slightly. I gave myself a serious talking to, not to be repeated on hear that’s for sure, put my boots and pack back on and went for it, determined not to let today’s route beat me.
I wasn’t doing too badly, even up the hill on the final stretch – why is there always a bloody hill?! – and with only a mile to go, the end in sight, I started to get quite light headed and felt like I could faint at any moment. Not good, especially as I was walking along a road that the cars were shooting down at stupid speed!
I found a bench to sit on and hit the emergency rations in my pack to try and get myself sorted out. This really wasn’t good, but I was determined to make it to the end one way or another, but definitely under my own steam even if that meant crawling it!
Finally, I made it to the Royal Hotel, checked in and collapsed on the bed. I didn’t have much time to relax though as I had to get cleaned up and phone the girls in the next fifteen minutes. It was probably a good thing I had a deadline otherwise I probably would have just lied there for the rest of the night.
It was lovely to hear the girls’ voices after the day I’d just had but it was only for a short time as neither of them seemed particularly chatty. Great to speak to them though that’s for sure.
I intended on heading out straight away for something to eat but I just couldn’t get myself going. I sat on my bed watching the TV until 7:30pm when my stomach was really beginning to complain about lack of food so I headed round the corner to a restaurant and had a fantastic lamb shank with haggis mash. It was divine! I was tempted to get a bottle of champagne to celebrate having walked the entire length of England but didn’t in the end, champagne’s much better when shared with someone else, plus the fact that I know I’d regret it the next morning if I drank a whole bottle on my own. I had a couple of beers though, not exactly a great substitute but it was nice.
I went back to my room as I was feeling completely shattered by now and chilled out for the rest of the evening.
Much like after reaching Hadrian’s Wall, the elation of reaching Scotland was short lived due to the complete nightmare afternoon I had. I’m so proud that I’ve made it this far and to think that I’ve walked 680 miles now is just mind boggling.
I’m so looking forward to having a day off tomorrow, a well earned one for sure, and seeing what Jedburgh has to offer. Hopefully the weather will be ok so I can take a stroll round.