After yesterday’s failure with the magic from the stone circle, which turned out to be a malevolent puncture curse, Louise, a former colleague at Thomas Rotherham College, sent me a gaelic blessing: ‘May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your field and until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of his hand.’ Would this work any better?
After a hearty breakast at the Cornerways Guesthouse in Carlisle, I loaded up and headed to a garage. The tank was almost dry and took nearly two and a half litres of petrol and the necessary oil. The A7 was nothing like as dangerous as the A66 the other evening but the surface was very rough. It was about 6 miles north of Carlisle that I finally entered Scotland after crossing the River Esk.
Apart from at traffic lights, this section had involved no pedalling at all. I turned off up the A6357 which goes through Liddesdale. After Canonbie Bridge I had to start earning my ride. On one section of 1:8 (12%) I was off and pushing. The hills had started again and we were in Reiver country.
The modern statue of Lang Sandy, a tall member of the Armstrong clan stands in the village of Rowanburn.
Further along the road stands 14th century Milnholme Cross put up by the Armstrongs. What you can’t hear in the picture is the call of a curlew overhead. The noticeboard gives a date of 1611 for the hanging of the last chief of the Armstrongs in Newcastle. Lang Sandy and his 11 sons met the same fate. Once James VI of Scotland came to the English throne the usefulness and opportunity of the border raiders was at an end. Like the cyclemotorist they became redundant and failed to adapt to the flow of history (although I’m hoping they’ll stop short of lynching us). Further on I photographed another obsolescent mode of transport.
It was the day of the farmyard animal. I saw goats grazing freely on an unfenced section, the cutest litter of piglets, highland cattle and fields of ewes with lambs. This a sign of how far we have come. Lambing was already just about finished in Devon.
A number of people have been very kind about my supposed stoicism in undertaking this but in reality I do worry and the A6399 had been a focus of concern since I arrived in Carlisle. The map shows precisely nothing by the side of this road except the peaks of some quite lofty hills. Would there be too many steep inclines? Was there a phone signal if I broke down terminally? Would anybody find me crying by the side of the road if all else failed? The real stars of this show are the almost 70 year old bicycle and the 66 year old engine (and, of course, anyone who actually cycles the whole of this). As Churchill said unkindly and untruthfully of Attlee, I have a lot to be modest about. I am like the guest at a wedding who has to tell anyone who will listen that he was the one who introduced the groom to the bride.
The throttle started to stick on before I turned onto the road. This can mean that the cable is fraying inside the outer and will jam so I decided to stop and investigate. It seemed to be a stickiness in the throttle lever itself. Then I dropped the set screw out of the centre of the lever and it hit a spoke and pinged off into the dust. Curses!! Eventually we were all re-assembled in order and restarted.
In reality the A6399 is a delight. It climbs steadily up a stream course to the summit and then down another stream course towards Hawick. The little motor fairly sang up the steady slope with some light pedal assistance from me. At the top was a small railway museum.
The Borders are lovely and it’s a privilege to be out in an almost sunny day in them. The map showed the Melrose road (A6359) going around the Eildon Hills and I’d expected it to be quite high.
I was not disappointed and it was the hardest, longest on-the-saddle climb of the day. Coasting down into Melrose I thought to myself that the gaelic blessing seemed to have done pretty well. The motorhome was where it was supposed to be. My support was back.
I started the ride with the hope of raising at least a thousand pounds for Alzheimer’s Research UK, although I put the initial target at £500. Now the £1000 target has been met and I’ve put target up to £1500. I would like to thank everyone who has donated so far. If we could make this next step and get to raise the target to £2000 the project would have far exceded my original expectations. (https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raleighrudginit)
Tomorrow Edinburgh and a rest.