Friday, 31 August 2012

Day 16 Scotland begins


Day 16 Scotland begins

The odd sensation that I was touching the side of the tent was confirmed as I woke and realised that I had company. They tiny tent had withstood the demands of accommodating us both and I was pleased that the investment had proved worth its weight. I am sure that Lynn is not going to cope with such lack of comfort for very long, who would? Oh yeah, me. But at least we hadn't been too cold. It would seem that Lynn had felt the cold somewhat despite the matting beneath. Camping is a very lovely and scenic option for seeing Great Britain but far from anything remotely called comfortable. I sympathised with her experience and looked forward to the chance of a dry bed off the floor this evening. I was sure she would not like to repeat the challenge a second night in a row. Later she said that we could check into a b&b rather than have to do this again. It had rained before we got up this morning and I had to pack the tent away wet, so hoped there would be a dry patch in the weather later on. Though it wasn't raining yet I could see that it would so we both suited up ready and set off to find food and a cup of tea.
We arrived back into the village and found a lovely little cafe, used by all the villagers and many people passing through. Ashley the lady running the cafe took our order and soon brought our egg sandwiches and tea, with smiles and many questions about where we were headed and the aims of the walk. She even recommended a campsite on the west coast of Scotland which I may visit later in the year. She was impressed that I had walked so far and even more so that I was passing this village as most walkers would possibly stick to the coastal path all the way. But of course I am all about seeing the real Scotland and places where I travel as naturally as possible, so inland as well as coast is part of it. We chatted with lots of interested people before we had eaten and left. Lynn was still surprised at the reception we were getting despite being two travellers.
Back on the road again we had a target of Glenrothes but no footpaths. Walking at the side of small and fast moving roads was scary as I wasn't sure Lynn could see past me, what might be coming our way. Fortunately the good old motorists were being courteous and gave us room. I mean in truth we have right of way, but it is almost impossible if not dangerous for us to walk in the long and thorney grass at the side of the roads all day. We reached the town and walked in a riverside park before hitting the center, which was in full bloom. Amazing arrays and colour everywhere. Lynn had taken to walking with my poles as an extra support and had found them invaluable. I decided that I would try and get some more from a shop in the town, as I have become accustomed to walking with them now.
There was a large shopping precinct which seemed to fill the town, and we found the very things we needed. Poles and refreshments. Lynn seemed to eb coping with her feet, and had been walking well, but I knew there was still a big chunk of the walk left if we were to reach Leven and the chance of a bed and breakfast accommodation. I tried to blur the details as to how far it actually was. Along the route we came to a chance to get off the main road at Milton of Balgonie, which we took and passed through the village. I spotted a van similar to the one my brother drives for his work and rang him to see if it was him parked here. Lynn had not met Ben, and it would have been strange to have randomly met him so far from his home.
Out side a village pub stood a group of people smoking, but they happily welcomed us in for a drink and one man Bill Brown had made a donation before I had a chance to get in through the door and the others closely followed with their kindnesses. Lynne Collins the Lisencee and Sean and Karen who all made us very welcome shared a happy hour telling us about the village, some of its history and goings on of present day life. I was happy but not surprised at the wealth of giving people would show in support of my efforts to raise money for worthy charities and walk around our wonderful countries. I feel constantly humbled by the love and thought behind such giving and participation in something bigger than us the individuals. Lynn and I waved our new friends goodbye setting off into a storm approaching on the horizon.
Before too long it was testing us to the limit, Lynn was taking it well and I kept smiling as I have habit. Not much point being down about water falling. We have wet weather gear and my spirit was strong to reach Leven only 4 miles away. Lynn announced her surprise when we shortly reached a sign to the small town, but it was still over a mile before we entered the heart of it. A few cars took some puddles really close and poor Lynn copped for it on more than one occasion. I didn't laugh you understand, merely vented some trapped air from my lungs....
The first two attempts at accommodation were a kings ransom, and even though Lynn had offered to support me with this type of help I was pleased that she didn't want to spend huge amounts at this stage. We were helped by a young man on the desk of the Caledonian Hotel, who found that a pub called the Windsor Arms had some reasonably priced rooms above. We thanked him for his kindness and walked around the corner to find that yes a room was available and at a fantastic rate. Lynn booked us in and we went up to shower and change and get ourselves dry. When I returned from the shower Lynn had fallen asleep but woke and said that she didn't fancy going out again to eat, so I went to the supermarket and brought back some supplies for a late meal and preparations for the following day. Lynn was having a drink in the bar downstairs and Mel the girl working on the bar, asked me all about the walk and why and said that she was impressed at our courage to walk and my dedication to have walked so far and for so long.
Once dinner was eaten we were looking forward to sleep, but I still had chores to do. I hung the tent in the room from the curtain rail as it was still damp, but it should be dry by morning with the central heating on full blast.
Lynn was asleep faster than you could say night night, and I closely followed. Day 16 Scotland came to a humid and warm end.

Day 15 Scotland begins


Day 15 Scotland begins

I woke early as I had a few things to organise before I met with Lynn & Margi at 10 am. This was my last day with my brother Ben & his family & possibly the last time I would see them before they move to Australia. I was going to take Hannah my niece to school for the last time, which was a great chore in the morning. She is such a chatterbox but great wisdom comes from her young mouth. Ben was up already and ready to leave, we gave each other a big hug and he told me how proud he is of me for doing the walk and all my efforts to share my hopes with people who get involved with Imagine. The girls got up and I helped make breakfast for Grace & Hannah and shortly afterwards Vicky came sleepily into the room. She works hard raising a family, teaching Spanish classes to the local children and some of the adults too, and being one of the Kincardine Harriers running club.

Later we walked Hannah to school and I said my goodbyes to her. She said, 'I look forward to seeing you in Australia, Uncle Peaceful!' Using my chosen name seemed to roll off her tongue. Younger people didn't seem to have any problem with this, accepting my choice more easily than some.
When we arrived back at the flat,Vicky & I had a good chat over a cup of tea, before Lynn rang to say she was outside. Margi had driven her over from Alloa and then take us to Dunfirmline which is very close to Rosyth where I had stopped walking a week before, wanting to spend this time with my brother and his family. We loaded the car with my bags, and I said my goodbyes to cutie Grace & my adorable sister-in-law, Vicky. Ben and Vicky are two of my closest friends and I have craved the inspiration that they share every time I see or hear from them. Ben is working on a song writing career, and had already produced early formats of a song that I had written and also two of dean our other brothers great lyrics. Along with a friend Jondi from the village he had been creating a wealth of new and exciting material. Vicky had been describing a teaching technique that she has been developing and that has been helping many people in this part of Scotland.
Margi drove Lynn and I over to Dunfirmline to start our days walk. I was hoping Lynn was prepared to walk come rain or shine, as although the weather looked good for walking today, rain was promised at some point. Yesterday I had been with Lynn & Margi to buy some new equipment and Lynn decided to buy a better waterproof jacket. One thing I have learnt is that you should not compromise your comfort when walking prolonged distances, though having said that I had recently returned both my boots & waterproof coat for reasons of incompatibility of the supposed hard-wearing and waterproof values of said items. Once we'd said our goodbyes to Margi, we set out from the town centre in the general direction of Cowdenbeath, which is east of Dunfirmline and towards the coast. Before long we were wrapped in conversation, catching up as we hadn't seen each other for quite a while. Barring a brief stop for the loos at Asda and within the first few hours, we arrived at Cowdenbeath looking for somewhere nice to have lunch. After the lite lunch, we went looking for the golf course and the path was very wet & muddy, christening our new boots! A lady saw us coming along the path and helped us to find the way ahead. We were working our way across a housing estate to find one of the roads that ran parallel to the main highway which hopefully would give us an easier task of walking without interruption. I was trying to observe how Lynn would cope both with her heavy bag and on longer distances than she was used to. Walking on busy roads was going to be awful too and so I was keeping an eye on the possible targets for arrival, before settling down for the evening. Later in the afternoon we came to a village called Kinglassie at around the 13 mile mark and this seemed the ideal end for the days walking. I was proud of Lynn for doing more than double her normal daily walk and with coping with the bag.
On entering the village, we saw a public house called the Braefoot Tavern so we decided to go in and see if we could get some dinner. Unfortunately they didn't serve food but the lady behind the bar informed us that we could buy something from the local shop and she would be happy for us to bring it back to the pub to eat. She recommended the local fish & chip shop which was close by. We went along to the chip shop and placed our order. When the food was served we almost fell over in surprise when the lady behind the counter called Carol said there was no charge. Apparently Trisha from the pub had rang ahead and offered to pay for anything we purchased. We had a brief chat with Carol & Melanie about the project Imagine and said our grateful thanks and headed back to the pub. Lynn was verbal about how touched she felt by the kindness of complete strangers towards not only myself but towards Lynn too who is walking with me for a short while to support the project Imagine. When we returned to the pub to eat our dinner, we both thank Trisha for her incredible kindness and generosity. She also brought me tea which she would not accept payment for and some cutlery and even some wipes for our hands. Once we'd eaten our dinner, we returned to the bar to chat to Trisha, Tom & Margo the licensees and many of the local people at the bar. This tiny little Scottish village was seemingly full of people exuding kindness and some very kind donations were made to charity. The man at the end of the bar directed us to the local recreation ground where we could find a safe place to put our tent up for the night and as it was getting dark, we said our thanks again and good nights and went off to erect the tent. I was wondering how we would cope as the tent really is only for one person but as it had been a good day weather wise and had not been raining, it would probably be the best opportunity to accommodate two people in the tent. One of the rucksacks had to remain in the small overhang outside the tent but the operation went according to plan and space was found for both of us. Lynn and I chatted briefly reviewing the good fortune and wonderful experience of the day before we turned the torch out and drifted off to sleep. Day 15 came to an end.

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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Day 4 Scotland begins


Day 4 Scotland begins

The bed was so comfy I hardly wanted to believe it was time to get up for breakfast. I stretched and went out to shower, making sure that I would get to use the facilities to the max before I had to go without again. Greedy I know, but it was a small luxury that I had allowed myself and was glad to have made the most of it.
At breakfast I became head of the table, and was sandwiched between a couple of lovely young ladies.
Linda from SouthAfrica and Elizabeth from Ohio U.S.A. They were both having a break from studying and enjoying the last chance to see Britain before their masters courses ended and they returned to their respective countries after the final exams in a few weeks time. We chatted for ages and they had to rush in the end to catch a bus to Edinburgh. Also at the table were a young Spanish couple who had come looking for work and a home and a new experience of life. We chatted briefly, but time was getting on, and I too had tracks to make if I wanted to get to the Museum and see something of the tour I had been promised by Rowan. I said my farewells to the girls and Ann my gracious host, before setting off suited for the rains that had descended with a vengeance this morning.

It hardly let up at all, and the spray from the lorries and coaches passing on the main road was drowning me, so I hurried to get onto side roads and head west. I was making what I considered to be good progress, and soon enough popped out onto the main A7 leading to Edinburgh via Newtongrange. There was no pavements for walkers here so I dodged the traffic as usual and remarked at the good behaviours of the motorists coming towards me.....!!

Fortunately there was a break in the storm and as I passed a group of workers outside a nearby inn, they began asking me where I was off to and all about the walking. A really nice bunch of lads who quickly offered me a cup of tea, some biscuits and a chocolate bar and a can of drink for the road ahead. They were from a scaffolding company in Edinburgh (Weemans Scaffolding) and erecting a tower around a chimmeny. Thomas the man in charge was a lively man and keen to share a story or two about his observations of the subjects of my investigations, which helped me to get a new understanding about a lot of the culture and thought processes of some of the Scottish peoples. Steven a new employee was happy to tell me all about how Thomas had been a great help to him both in the chance of a job, but with regards to an interest in boxing which was also a sport his boss had been involved with for many years. He told me that the help had really put him on the right track with his life and taken away some of the futility that had been evident previously. I could see the respect he showed and that was evidence of a new hope. He seemed to respond meditatively when I talked about my experience of Leopards changing their spots. Andy was the other team member, more shy and retiring, but busy with the work at hand. I think that Johnnie was actually the customer, he being the one who brought me the can and chocolate bar, out supplying the workforce with refreshments. It was a great opportunity to have met kind and generous strangers, I thanked them all and they shook my hand and congratulated me on my efforts to raise money for the several charities. But in truth all I can do is ask you the readers to send what you can afford to the charity of your choice, via the just giving links on the website, as I carry on walking for peace and harmony.

I was sweating now as the day had warmed and the rains held off, and needed to remove my coat and fleece, but the road was still long and tough. By early afternoon I was finally at the approach to the small town of Newtongrange, home of the Scottish mining museum, and to be honest I was feeling rather worn out, despite a good nights sleep.

The Colliery long since closed, now a museum was just off of the main road and visable by its lift wheels and huge signs. I asked for Rowan, even though she may not be here, and was told that she was with a client but had sent word to grace me with a complimentary pass to all attractions. Emma and Patricia looked after my bag and made me very welcome, and sent me off on the mine tour through the doors to the right of the reception, where I was met by John Kane the man who had worked at the pit for over 38 years prior to its closure in 1981.

John was a lovely man and a great tour guide. He had lived and worked in the mines for a very long time and now was back here taking us all round and demonstrating the ideas and suffering behind the task of bringing this fossil fuel out of the ground. I had my picture taken with John for the record and thanked him for a most excellent afternoon.

I briefly met with Rowan who was working and she asked if I had enjoyed the chance to see the museum. I had and thanked her for her kind offer before setting off to try to reach Roslin before dark.
I made it to a place called Bonnie Rigg where I went into the Castle restaurant/hotel/public house and ate and used their internet for a few hours.

By the time I left it was getting dark so I headed out to find a nice quiet place to get my head down. An old part of the road had been bypassed and that left an area away from the road noise and cars, so I set up behind the hedge.
A few people passed by as I set up but no-one engaged with me, they probably thought me a tramp. A tramp with a very technical tent and walking poles.

The evening made a lot of noise but I slept for Great Britain and was soon dreaming of drier days ahead, and day 4 Scotland came to an end.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Day 3 Scotland begins


Day 3 Scotland begins

The sound of tractors passing woke me up, but where I lay snuggled into the trees, no-one could see me and the tent from the road. I roused and thanked my lucky stars for such a nice little spot. It hadn't rained from what I could tell, but it may at some point later on. The wind was strong so I hung my clothes and waterproofs out on the tree branches for a while to hope that they might get less damp before I would need them again. Packing away didn't take too long so I was soon ready to hit the highway. I figured the nearest village would be a place called Gifford.

Before too long Gifford was in my sights and I hoped for a brew and something warm to eat. There were a few shops here and a buzz about the place, as I saw a huge marquee being erected on the village green. A flower show was advertised, something common to summertime in many places. I saw a cafe advertising Love Coffee and Love Food, which I do as you will all know, so popped in to find a few of the local people nattering away. I ordered a small breakfast and tea, which was promptly served as I began interacting with the locals and many were keen to know about my aims. I sat chatting with a farmers wife before she needed to rush off to pick a toddler up from the nursery. Mandy the cook and waitress with a sunny disposition was animated and interested also in my travels, wanting to know what I could hope to achieve by such a long walk. I asked if I could possibly get her to fill my water pouch and she offered me some Black currant cordial to add some diversity to the taste, and I thanked her for her thoughtfulness. I do actually love water, especially when walking as it can do more than just hydrate me, it refreshes my parched mouth.

I thanked Mandy and set off again towards the west, hoping to maybe reach Newtongrange this evening. I wouldn't be in time to see that mining museum until the following day but that would be alright as it was only Thursday today. Along the way I felt like sitting to read and write a bit of poetry, as is my custom whilst travelling. I found a gateway and sat on my plastic bag so as to avoid dampness and wrote about the great and wonderful surroundings and my thoughts so far. Creativity is a big part of this journey as is meeting new and kind individuals that are reaffirming my joy of the wonderfulness of humanity.
Yesterday had been a hard slog over the mountains and I wasn't sure I could do anymore than just kick stones along the roads today. I seriously needed a bit of comfort and some clean hot water all over my body, but this was a pretty remote environment, other than the hotel type accommodations. I came through a tiny village called Humbie and sat at a cafe/shop/postoffice for a while considering my options and enjoying a brief burst of sunshine. The lady who ran the shop was soon to be closing up but she didn't mind if I kept on sitting out on the front. The day had become a bit slower than I had wanted, but never the less I had a respite from being drowned again.

As I came up to the A68 at Fala, I found just the place I was looking for. It wasn't exactly ideal to my budget but it was about time for me to get a clean and decent sleep. My boots were letting in water so my feet are wet most of the day, which is de-motivational, and my knees and back were aching from the weight of the bag.

The Fairshiels guest house/bed and breakfast is a most magnificent building with oodles of character and old features, especially the curved staircase. Ann Gordon, my host showed me to a lovely airy room on the top floor and I quickly began making use of all the features of this luxury bed and breakfast spot. The shower was divine, I felt almost holy and the aches washed away with the soapy water. I had a few items left over that needed eating up so made myself a small meal and then went downstairs to make use of the readingroom/lounge.

A few other guests were just arriving and I spoke with a man from Stornoway the Isle of Lewis which is off of the west coast of Scotland, who was here taking a break.
Ben my bother rang me to see how far away I was and when I thought that I would arrive in Kincardine, so I excused myself to speak with him. When I came back into the room the gentleman had gone, but I carried on writing the events of the past few days, doing my work as it were, recording the travels and extent of your, the readers constant kindnesses. Scotland was proving to be just as accommodating as England though I had only been here a few days and have still to do and see much.
Later in bed I thought of just how far I still was from reaching Newtongrange, that I had wanted to reach this evening. Well there is no major hurry of course, it is just that I wanted to learn all about the old mining communites of this part of Scotland, as they have fashioned a huge part of our modern culture, as does oil today.

The doors were solid and probably oak, and the sense of peacefulness was deep and satisfying as I slid into dreamland as day 3 Scotland came to an end.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Day 2 Scotland


Day 2 Scotland

The woods had made some odd noises through the night or at least what lived there had. I was surprised to find that I couldn't see anything when I opened the tent flap. The mist was so thick in the glen below me and only the sound of the birds talking could be discerned. Later as I was packing away, the mist began to lift and I had a great view of the lakes on the grounds of Duns castle. A few people were now out walking their pets and children and I walked down across the fields towards the lake to see for myself all the goings on here.

As I began to walk back to the town of Duns, a man came alongside, who had neither dog nor child but was walking briskly. He didn't seem dressed for a walk particularly and I thought maybe he was a member of the castle administration staff. His name was Alan Moore and he was great company for the mile back to town. He shook my hand and wished me well as he set off to work I guess. He like many others, was keen to let me know what was worth seeing here at Duns and I thanked him too for this information sharing.

I went into town with writing to do so chose the Trotters tea rooms, and half expected Delboy and Rodders to pop over with uncle Albert carrying the tea and scones. The staff were friendly here and they asked a few things, but I got the sense that they were a little shy and reluctant to get into deeper conversation, or just not that interested in a guy walking around Great Britain. I thanked them for the tea and sandwiches they packed me of with, and got out onto the road to the hills.
I had decided that I needed to see a bit more of the world and what better way than to get to the top of it, litterally...!!!
The road out towards Longformacus had been sold as one full of great scenery, wildlife and oh yeah, hills. The first few hours was glorious as I picked and ate fresh wild Raspberries and chuckled at my good fortune to be here at the mercy of the elements and mother nature.

Later I renounced this theory for a rather more concerned one as things changed rapidly.

Nothing to do with this old girl either.

About two hours into the hike I was approaching the area where the road had been closed for repairs, thinking it would be a mere blip in my day. It was like an assault course trying to navigate my way through the fences and over the obstacle of the new drainage pipe they were laying. Anyway, that was the least of my worries.

Soon I found a nice spot in the trees where I had my lunch picnic and was just about to set off again into the village of Longformacus, when I felt a few spots of rain on my face. Now those of you that had read my previous journey from the old journey blog, will know just what foolishness it had been for me before to underestimate this warning, lite as it was. The sky had clouds in it but nothing close enough to worry me unduly. Still I finished my lunch quickly and got out all the wet weather gear and suited up for the tempest that must be coming even if I couldn't directly see it. This is what intuition is for sometimes.
As I stepped out back onto the tarmac and began towards the village, a crack of thunder peeled across the sky above me and I braced for the onslaught. Holy mother of god did it come down...!!!!
Like I said, past failure to adhere to the warning had left me soaked in about five seconds, so today I would possibly miss this fine opportunity. The Goretex jacket I had bought was going to get a severe testing now, as too the overtousers, both made by Berhaus. Within about I would say 200 meteres I was beginning to think it would have been better to have erected the tent, as the water was bouncing off the road and I was getting seriously damp. The boots were wet within the first ten minutes, those that are sold as waterproof and hard wearing hiking equipment. My ass...!!
Anyway the scenery was gone behind the wall of water and all I could focus on was moving ahead.

The village appeared as if by magic as I couldn't have seen it for the rain lashing down. I stopped briefly beneath a shelter telling me all about the routes to walk around here, and the Scottish coast to coast path. It was futile to stay here all day so I headed out for the mountain and the great views over the surrounding area, and a possible kind person to take me away from this and offer me lodgings and warm drinks, or at least a lift..
I looked longingly in through windows of cosy houses were people sat drinking hot tea and meals. It was I realised late in the afternoon now, and I had no idea exactly how far the next place was, but as I intended to follow all the rules of the mountains, I was at least prepared with food and supplies and warm clothing. Well the clothing was presently warm because of the sweat building as I climbed the first long gradual incline out of the village and into the higher open grazing lands where the sheep roamed almost free.

After what seemed like hours I was way up in the mountain but could barely see my feet or further than about 20 meters ahead. Occasionally a gap appeared and I could glimpse a lake or a valley, or a car....
Now as I said before about my road survey, the people in vehicles do the most weird things. Except stop and help or offer help to a stranger walking in the mountains when it is clear that his safety is being marginalized by their road manner. What I mean is this. I step out of the way for my safety and every one assumes that is my obligation. They seemed to look away rather than have to acknowledge my presence, or even be aware that a smile or a wave would be appreciated as a token of respect for my actions. Then again, I shouldn't expect anything then I wouldn't be disappointed. Who in their right mind would offer a lift to someone clearly dripping wet and carrying a large bag? Oh yeah, the two older ladies on my second day of walking across the lanes north of Newark upon Trent. The only ones in 2 months of walking, apart from people I had previously met, to actually see my need as something that they could help with. Surely they knew what I didn't and that I would run out of daylight before the road came out of the mountains on the Haddington side. By about 9.30 pm it was actually bleak and I had now ran out of water. The temperatures had dropped and every road was a flowing river. I was warm if nothing else but the breathable coat was not breathing, and it was leaking, as I felt water dribbling down my arms from the top of my shoulders. So much for Goretex coats. These people must test them in a desert environment. I wondered if in my naivety to spend so much on a decent waterproof coat, I had missed something that said only works if you are not carrying a bag. I mean how many walkers do you know that don't carry some kind of day pack if not a back pack? As the coat is held against my body by the straps of the bag I considered that this might have an impact on the workings of this design of jacket, but when I consider the cost of the item, I'm sure I could have gotten just as good a performance as from a much cheaper coat. Be warned, this gear is not always as good as the claims. Waterproof Goretex boots that are as waterproof as flipflops and a coat nearly as bad.

Rant over....! On with the trials....

By about 10.30pm I could see some strange light gathering at the top of a hill I perceived ahead, and nearly wept for joy as I began to see the lights of civilization once more below the crest of the mountain. My calf muscles were beginning to show signs of my lack of fluids, cramping a bit now and again. Lack of fluids what with all this water about me? If I would have been in grave danger I would have just drank form the burns, running water from this height is normally pretty free of toxins, being directly out of the sky almost minutes before.
The festivals of Edinburgh were underway I could make out the fireworks displays away in the distance, maybe 25 miles north north west of me. It was a spectacular view now that the rain had finally stopped and the clouds had moved on. Dunbar to my right and North Berwick directly ahead as I left the top of the Monadhliath mountains.
About another hour later I found a suitable shelter for the tent beneath a mighty oak tree and set myself up for a damp nights sleep. Most of my clothes were very damp, so I changed and got as dry and warm as possible. Fortunately the outside temperatures had risen again and so I wasn't going to freeze.

Below an ancient tree I ended my second day in Scotland.