First let me set up all my excuses. There was time spent job hunting, you’d be amazed how long it takes trawling through all the different websites looking for something that isn’t temporary for Christmas, too far to travel or just plain awful. Then there was the weather. November seemed to be mostly about rain or ridiculously high winds or a combination of the two and, without the necessity of going out to go to work, it was easy to stay indoors. Finally, there was the need to keep driving to build up my rather shaky confidence. Right, so now you know why I didn’t walk, I suppose I’d best get on with telling you how many miles I actually fit in.
Week One ended with a fairly poor 23.70 miles, mostly along the river looking for black swan cygnets on the one day with blue sky. These miles took me up the river Ninth and across of St Michael’s Bridge, in Dumfries. Dumfries is the largest town in south west Scotland and the administrative centre for Dumfries and Galloway. Both the town and its football club are known as Queen of the South and the townspeople are called Doonhammers.
Founded as a Royal burgh in 1186, it suffered many raids between 1300 and the 1640’s due to its proximity to the English border. The town has quite a bloody history and not just due to the English raids. In 1306, Robert the Bruce murdered John III Comyn, his rival for the crown of Scotland, in the Church of the Grey Friars. Killing someone in a church was obviously frowned upon and he was excommunicated. Even so, he went on to become the King of Scotland. There is still a church called Greyfriars but it is not the original although it stands near the spot where the murder took place. Then, in 1659, nine local women were burned as witches. Dumfries was also the site of Scotland’s last public hanging.
Burns spent his final years in the town and died there in 1796. His house, 24 Burns Street, can be found south of the High Street and his favourite watering hole was the Globe Inn, just south of the main shopping area. His final resting place, a mausoleum, is in St Michael’s Churchyard.
Week two was even worse with just 21.52 miles coming mainly from a walk to the military cemetery in Netley. The walk took me back down the River Nith and along the coast to Newbie on the banks of the River Annan. Gretna and the border was almost in sight.
Newbie has just three claims to fame. It is home to Pheonix Chemicals, a pharmaceutical plant and the trailhead for the Annandale Way, otherwise known as the Great Trail, also world’s first submarine was built there.
Week three gave me a measly 23.76 miles from the Gosport half marathon walk and a wander in Shawford. The miles did finally take me through Gretna and back into England. If I’d been there for real I probably would have made a small detour and popped into Langholm for coffee and a drop scone or a slice of cake with Mr Tootlepedal. The week ended with me standing on another bridge on the river Eden at Grinsdale Bridge just outside the city of Carlisle, the county town of Cumbria. Sitting at the confluence of the rivers Eden, Caldew and Petteril, 10 miles south of the Scottish border, it is the largest settlement in the county of Cumbria.
The first recorded inhabitants were the Carvetii tribe of Britons and later it was a Roman settlement serving the forts on Hadrian’s Wall. At the time of the Norman Conquest Carlisle was under Scottish rule. Then, in 1092, William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus, brought Cumberland and Carlisle back into England when he invaded and built a castle on the site of the Roman fort making it an important military stronghold. The castle was rebuilt in stone in 1112, along with a keep and city walls with three gates, Irish or Caldew Gate, the English or Botcher Gate, and the Scotch Gate. This castle once imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots and still stands today, housing the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and the Border Regiment Museum.
Rufus’s conquest of Cumblerland saw the beginning of a war between Scotland and England during which the region changed hands numerous times. Even during brief periods of peace tension remained high and this uncertainty was difficult for the locals. Seeking security, many banded together to improve their lot at the expense of their enemies both Scottish and English. They were known as the Border Revivers.
By 1525, these Revivers had caused so much trouble that Gavin Dunbar, The Archbishop of Glasgow, cursed all the reivers of the borderlands. It was a comprehensive curse, running to one thousand and sixty nine words, beginning with “I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without.” Whether it worked or not remains to be seen but Carlisle survived.
My miles for week four were better, with 34.96 in total, but this was still nothing that could really be called good. Even so, the month ended with me back in England at Skinburness, a village in the Allerdale district of Cumbria. The village has wonderful views over the sea to Dumfries and Galloway, where I’ve already been and the area is of special scientific interest due to the miles of unspoilt coastline.
There is a sandy shingle beach, Grune Point, to the north with an eighteenth century pub, the Greyhound Inn which was used for smuggling whiskey from Scotland. Sadly the in closed in the 1860’s ans is now a private house. On the eastern side thensheltered saltmarsh is a great area for birdwatching but local roads can flood, especially at high tide. The Allerdale Ramble begins at Grune point so the next fifty five miles of my walk will be along the West Cumbrian coast towards Borrowdale on this.
November turned out to be the most disappointing month of the year in terms of weather and, consequently, walks with the lowest mileage of any month this year. Looking at the bigger picture though, tells a different story. Back in January, I said I’d try to walk one thousand five hundred miles this year, five hundred more than I pledged the year before. It seemed like a huge figurative mountain to climb at the time but, when I totalled up my miles this month I discovered I’d done it already. In fact, although I may have only walked 103.94 miles this month but it brought my total for the year to 1540.44. December’s miles will be a bonus but I’m still hoping the weather is better.