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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Tramping in southern Scotland - in the most glorious weather imaginable

May blossom. I can almost smell it.

That was some weekend in Scotland. Two days on the Southern Upland Way, the long-distance footpath that connects Portpatrick in the west to Cockburnspath on the east coast, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze on our backs.


I’d joined A and a friend at Lauder (above). They’d been walking four days already, having started at Moffat and headed eastwards through Melrose. Saturday’s walk was a mere twelve miles – a distance made all the more comfortable by the fact that we had hired a man with a van to carry our baggage from stop to stop. We camped that night by a stream, below a reservoir:

I’d been worried about Sunday. It was a twenty-mile walk, and we were under pressure. We had to be at Cockburnspath by four forty-five to catch the bus to Dunbar, where we would take the train back to Durham. We had a chat and agreed to rise at four, hit the road at five, and push ourselves. The rewards were in the quality of the morning light, the coolness of the air and the absolute emptiness of the roads and tracks we followed.

May is without doubt my favourite month. The older I get the more I grow to love the colours of the trees at this time of year – although with age comes a growing awareness of how fleeting the moment is. A month from now many of the differing colours will be merging towards a more uniform, darker green. It all seems to happen faster as the years go by, and that makes the moment all the sweeter.
(Whoops. I have just realised that Saturday was the first day of June. But it's been a very, very late spring. Botanically, it is May. That's my argument, and I'll stick to it.)

Our early start paid off. By midday we had knocked off the first ten miles, and treated ourselves to a hot lunch (cooked on the Trangia stove). By two thirty we were in a bluebell wood above Cockburnspath, brewing up a celebratory coffee.

I was supposed to be back at work yesterday, but found the lure of the vegetable garden irresistible. We sowed wallflowers, stocks and winter cabbage, planted out sweet peas, plugged a few gaps in the rows of broad beans with the plants we’d kept in reserve, and spread our last eight bags of rotted cow-muck over the patches set aside for  the brassicas and leeks. It’s all looking an awful lot better than it did this time last year.

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