The Journey Part 5 – Glasgow to Newcastle
“You have got to be kidding me!” I huffed to myself, letting out a frustrated sigh. With outstretched arms I bashed my way forward into the tangled undergrowth. Bracken crawled along the soil, its tentacles wrapping themselves around my ankles. I tripped and grabbed onto the ferns, their small leaves snapping in my hands. They fluttered to the ground as my body plummeted down with a thud.
“Scotland obviously doesn’t want me to leave!” I quipped to no one other than myself. I was making my way to the border with England on a ‘track’ that clearly hadn’t been used for years. I’d done everything in my power to avoid the bog-ridden Pennine Way trail, that even its creator, Arthur Wainwright, said wasn’t pleasurable. Now I was wishing I’d taken it. But having a new addition to my hiking team meant that I had to have firmer ground underfoot.
A few weeks earlier I’d left Glasgow with painful knees. My daily mileage was pitiful, 10 miles if I was lucky. Pain shot through my patella and I was attempting to stretch out my IT band, the big muscle running down the outer thigh, each night. It helped. Slightly. Yet I knew the answer to my problem lay with the invention of the wheel. Without getting the weight off my back I realised Edinburgh would be my end destination, and I certainly had no intention of giving up.
“Try a second-hand buggy shop,” my friend and mum of two, Laura, said when I asked everyone and their dog what I could do. Five days later, a magician had conjured up a buggy for my bag that took the weight completely off my knees. I left Edinburgh, in full Fringe swing, pulling my chariot down Princes Street. No one battered an eyelid. If only I’d had a pantomime horse costume, I could have made a killing during Edinburgh Fringe. With my knees taped up after a physio session, and a BBC Radio Scotland interview under my buggy belt, I left the Scottish capital smiling.
I walked to Iron Age brochs and hill forts. I was amazed at how easy it was to pull the buggy. Golfers stared, I’m sure, with envy as they hauled their golf bags on their shoulders. People stopped me to find out what I was doing. Cows rushed to the fences separating us to watch my curious shape. The buggy was becoming famous!
I left the Iron Age and moved into Roman Scotland. Beneath the fields hid the past and probably thousands of artefacts in unexcavated land. Oh, what I could buy with a find! A four-season tent would be the first thing. (Not that I’d actually keep anything, besides it belonging in museums, I certainly don’t want extra weight!)
From Melrose in the Scottish Borders, I made my way towards England. Although both part of Britain, I felt a sadness about leaving Scotland. The land is different, the laws for hiking and camping are too, and the population is fabulously sparse. With far tighter camping regulations, a sudden unease came over me about crossing the border. If I could reach the bloomin’ border, that was.
Crossing the Line
After three hours of fighting my way south, I saw England and all melancholy raced from body. I would soon be in familiar territory. Nothing demarked the Scotland-England border other than a locked gate and a fence that I had to jump. My OS maps suddenly had green lines denoting public footpaths, in Scotland there are no need for these as hikers have the right to roam.
People’s accents were no longer the ear-pleasing Scottish tones I’d grown used to (I could only tell three different ones: the Hebrides, thick Glasgow and everywhere else!), but the pleasant north-east English dialect. The Northumbria landscape reminded me of Yorkshire. In fact, the scenery of rolling farmland south of Edinburgh looked far more English than Scottish to me.
I reached Hadrian’s Wall built by the notorious Roman emperor in 122AD. I glared at its undulating silhouette and decided it would be easier to hike with my bag/buggy on my back. I struggled to find any water sources en route (10 miles one morning until I could get a drink) and knew my one-litre water carrying days of Scotland were all gone. Three litres would become the norm. My mileage was increasing massively, with several 18-20 mile days. I dreamt of a shower after a week of wild camping and before I knew it I was in the land of Geordies and the brilliant city of Newcastle.
Jane Batchelor is currently hiking 2,500 miles through Britain, looking at the history of the country in chronological order. For more photos, follow her Facebook and Instagram pages. To find out more about her journey, click here.