Walking St Cuthbert’s Way – Saturday 22nd-Sunday 30th April

Day One – contributed by Pete E.

I’m writing this report at gone 23:00, at the end of the first – and longest – day of Toby’s St. Cuthbert’s Way trip, so please forgive any nonsensical ramblings. 🙂

Where to begin? We woke up this morning already exhausted after an epic journey up to Scotland yesterday. The painstakingly planned itinerary was blown out of the water when we discovered that what seemed like a minor disruption on the line turned into total confusion, with all trains heading north over the border cancelled and no indication of when things might start to resume… In the end, through sheer bloody-mindedness, most of us managed to jump on a bus from Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed and then into a pair of taxis to finally reach Melrose and meet the remainder of our crew in time for dinner.

Such stress and excitement in cramped train conditions did not help us with the early start today. Toby got us into the mood yesterday by laying out his vision for the week, which was marred only by the last minute withdrawal of Steve S-M from the trip… We raised a glass to our fallen* comrade and agreed to be ready for 09:00 sharp, in honour of his breakfast spirit.

  • Not dead, just unavoidably absent!

I was rather amazed to find the next morning that, potentially for the first time in IOG backpacking trip history, everyone actually /was/ ready to go at 09:00! Steve’s influence lives on, even when he’s not physically present!

We walked from our castle hotel to the start of the St. Cuthbert’s Way proper at Melrose Abbey, which is where we began our week’s journey in earnest.

St. Cuthbert was clearly a man who didn’t begin things softly. We jumped straight into climbing up to the pass between the two Eildon Hills that overlook Melrose. Fortunately, the weather in the morning was beautiful and the sun shone down on us as we made our ascent. We were all a little laden down with slightly bigger daypacks than usual, as the bag transport service we were using would be unable to deliver to our hotel tonight, which meant we all had to carry whatever was needed for an extra night’s sleep before we would be reunited with our packs again the next night.

Once we reached the top we slipped down between the two peaks down into Broad Wood and on through Bowden.

From here we stuck out eastwards to find the River Tweed and follow it’s course for a few kilometres. On reaching St. Boswell’s, our company was diminished by one, as Kearton opted to conserve his strength for the rest of the week and broke off from our group to grab a bus to get him closer to our destination.

The rest of us continued and on leaving the river bank path, we ventured out to meet the old Roman Road. By now, into the afternoon, the weather had turned. For the bulk of the afternoon we had to contend with a lot of on and off again rain and sprinkles, that didn’t really fully leave us until shortly before we reached our goal.

We tightened our waterproof jackets and slogged on.. The Romans sure didn’t mind the mud when it came to building their roads, I found. This part was long and straight as you’d expect, until we reached Teviotdale which provided us with multiple fun boardwalks and bridges to cross to break up the monotony.

The Borders Abbeys Way path finally led us down into Jedburgh after over 20 miles of trekking, with enough time spare for us to drop out bags before crossing the road for our first victory meal at the Indian across the road.

Day 1 done and first blood drawn! On to day 2!