5495 miles already walked

England into Scotland

At long last, having walked 1,367.5 miles since leaving Portsmouth, I crossed the border into Scotland at 1220 on Sunday 29 April: it was a day that I often felt would never come!

By now, walking the Berwickshire Coastal Path, I was blessed with glorious weather in the Borders, with sweet smelling gorse and fantastic scenery that has changed dramatically since my last Victory Log entry written in County Durham. Here I moved from a coal mining area to the rivers Wear and Tyne, once both famed for their shipbuilding yards.  The Wear alone used to have over a dozen yards and the Tyne yards had produced many famous ships, including RMS Carpathia whose crew picked up survivors from the RMS Titanic disaster, including my great aunt Edith.  Arriving at South Shields I enjoyed a brief bit of sea time aboard the ‘Pride of the Tyne’ as I crossed to the north side of the Tyne, where a huge monument of Admiral Collingwood dominates the skyline.

I entered Northumberland shortly after passing the lighthouse island of St Mary’s and almost immediately noticed another change of scenery. By the time I met up with members of the Association of Wrens, Tyne branch, in Druridge Bay, I’d joined the Northumberland Coast Path. The route offers 64 miles of magnificent landscape: long, sweeping deserted sandy beaches, caves, tiny fishing harbours, stunning rock formations, secluded coves and clear blue seas. 

Offshore lie the Farne Islands, a sanctuary for sea birds and seals, and the famous Holy Island of Lindisfarne – a tidal island linked to the mainland by a causeway. Despite a multitude of warning signs about tide times, I noticed a car stuck on the causeway with an incoming tide lapping around the top of its wheels.  Presumably its occupants were sheltering in the ‘house on stilts’ making up a convincing story for their insurance company!

The beauty of Northumberland is complimented by many old castles perched on vantage points, and perhaps one of the most majestic is Bamburgh.  Its pink stone walls and battlements tower over the small village in which a memorial to Grace Darling can be found in the peaceful churchyard of St Aidan’s.  A lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Grace became a national heroine in 1838 after she and her father rowed out to rescue the crew of the paddle steamer Forfarshire.

Although the origins of golf reputedly come from Scotland, Northumberland must have caught the habit too. I walked by at least ten courses and we were also fortunate enough to park-up at a couple of clubs overnight where we enjoyed uninterrupted sleep and good seats for watching early morning play.

Over the centuries beautiful Berwick-upon-Tweed has passed back and forth between England and Scotland, but today it is England’s most northerly town. Crossing the river Tweed on its oldest bridge dating from 1635, I was able to get good views of the town’s two other bridges – the road bridge and the impressive railway bridge with its 28 arches, designed by Robert Stephenson. This was an exciting crossing for me because I knew I was at last within striking distance of the Scottish border.

Victory Log despatches are never guaranteed, and the past week was no exception.  When planning a ‘rest day’, we must assume that both a wi-fi and mobile phone signal will be available.  Our gambler’s luck ran out last week. Not only did we find it almost impossible to communicate with one another during the day, on our ‘rest day’ stopover we were presented with a set of blank screens!  

There’s not much you can do with a blank screen, so we chose to go to the laundrette instead!

 See Photo Album No 30 – England into Scotland