In which OM fails to find a Roman road and other minor misadventures on an otherwise lovely day.
Well, the weather has been pretty Octoberish , and Tuesday seemed to present a bit of a window. The plan was to walk from Soutra to Lauder via the Girthgait and a section of Dere Street. This was going to be a tight schedule for me, involving about 13 miles in 6 hours in order to make the bus connection at the finish. I had done this walk about 25 years ago, but in the opposite direction and, apart from that I have absolutely no recollection of the details.However the route is clearly marked as path/track all the way, and is in fact a Heritage Path as listed by Scotway. It seemed do-able and I wanted to push myself a bit.
The bus driver let me off right at the Gilston road-end on the A68 and I toddled up the hill to Soutra Aisle with a huge panorama unfolding to the North and East, probably from Ninemileburn to Dunbar.
This small building, a chapel, is all that now remains above ground of what was a huge medieval hospital run by the Augustinian order. Excavations have revealed that remarkable medical practices were performed here, including herbal anaesthetics for amputations !
In fact this bleak bit of hillside has seen some history in it's time.
Dere Street, the Roman road from Corrbridge to Camelon, came this way, and subsequently the "Kings Road " also used a section of the same route , part of today's planned walk. Girthgait means Sanctuary Road, provided here and at Melrose Abbey.
After the battle of Nevilles Cross, the Scots were pushed back north, and for a time the border between Scotland and England passed through here
So far so good !
The future !! I saw 4 wind-farms today, and walked right through the middle of one. At no point during the day was I out of sight of a turbine. What to do ? stay in the house ? And to add insult to injury, I'm told I will be paying an extra £200 pa on my leccy bill to subsidise this nonsense. Nuff said.
The path was indistinct. No, let's be honest, the path was non-existent. At times you could imagine a section of embankment or cutting, but it soon disappeared. I searched for all the usual signs - nicks in the horizon, gates, styles etc but - zilch. Heritage path my arse ! Now, I knew exactly where I was at all times, the map details conformed to what I saw on the ground, I knew exactly where I was going, and I knew the bearing that would take me there. But no path.
The reason I carry a 75litre rucksack !
At one point I came to a wind farm access road which cut across the route at right angles. I walked up and down in both directions, but........
So it was a couple of hours of bog-trotting and gate-finding (I don't do fences!)
Exactly where I expected, I hit the cart track down to Kirktonhill farm and spotted this Historic Scotland sign indicating that I had just come along Dere Street. Aye right.
One for the geologists. I was vertical - the ground slopes !
There was no no chance of getting to Lauder in time to catch the bus, so I headed down to Oxton
In days of yore, whenever I was in the area, I would have popped in here for a pint or two and a good argument with mine host Bill Cowe, described in his obituary as "family man, superhero, landscape architect, and folkie."
He's no here anymore. The clue was in the word "obituary".