Saturday, 10 October 2015

herring road revisited

Ever since discovering the joys of the Southern Upland Way a few years back I have been reworking and refining the trail from Lauder to the coast. The SUW heads to Cockburnspath. The Herring Road to Dunbar. But take the Garvald / Stenton trail from just after Whiteadder Reservoir and you get 40 miles of trails and empty tarmac single lane roads of top quality scenery, winding North from the Borders through East Lothian on a path where you might not speak to another soul all day, in outstanding countryside. A Thursday off work on the 1st October coincided with perhaps the best weather of the year for running, and I dropped everything to run the forty delightful miles from Lauder to North Berwick. Possibly the best run of the year which could only have been improved with some company: someone at whom to shout, "HOW GOOD IS THIS?"

The Perryman's coach left Edinburgh bang on 9 and arrived at Lauder precisely on time at 10.18am. I took an mp3 player to pass the 78minutes and only afterwards realised the significance of listening to Richard Herring's podcast. (Particularly recommend Bob Mortimer, Louis Theroux, Steve Coogan, Danny Baker, Greg Davies etc. All free and each one about 70 mins long) Didn't listen to the mp3 player once after getting off the bus. The sky was blue all day.

My sister lives in a farm above Lauder. (That there ^) Unfortunately on the wrong side of the valley to call past. So when I got up the opposite side I phoned her and she stood outside her place and waved. I couldn't see her because she was 3 miles away. But she had the bright idea to flash a mirror at me. I video-ed that and the photo (2 below) is a still from that. The camera just about caught her outline against the white of the house on 20x magnification and a bit of photoshopped zoom. Really nice start to the day.
Right, says I, I'm off to run 40 miles. 

I stood at Wanton Walls and photographed Anne at Pilmuir across the valley.

Anne, 3 miles away.
Isn't technology wonderful?

First find of the day. 

I always check below posts and prominent view points for bird pellets: regurgitated fur and bones of mice and small birds spewed out by birds of prey. If this was one it was quite sizable. (Had to take the colour out of the pic because the camera flipped it's wheel round to a dreadful "artistic" setting without telling me.)

There were about a hundred sheep here with nothing better to do than watch me run past. I had had a bit of energy drink in Lauder so was shouting at them the camera loves ewes, yeah baby! 

Just after the Scoured Rig Woods there is a quad bike path that looks like it cuts the corner and avoids the trek down to the house with the kennels where you turn right and climb back up the hill. Just for a bit of variety I took the short cut which went in a more direct line past a bird trap (empty) then across to the main trail. On a 40 mile run a short cut is kind of meaningless. But it might go past something of interest, or be a better direct line. As soon as I took it I remembered I would now miss the section on which I saw a Red Kite last time I was here. And there wasn't anything of interest! It also contributed to some lost distance. Last time I ran up this way it was exactly 10 miles to Twinlaw Cairns. This time I was a mile short at nearly 9. 

<insert fun-guy gag here>

Last time I was at this hut roof it also yielded a bird pellet.
This one was a tiny pouch of bones clad in soft brushed mouse fur!

Lots of burning back at either side of the trail.
This mushroom was nicely toasted.

I stopped at Twinlaw Cairns (or Twin Cairn Law?) to check out the tupperware box in the easterly cairn. First up was a geocache screw-cup. (Nearly littering!)

Then the tupperware box that I recognised from April. I had been thinking about what to write on the pull up to the Cairns and found I came up with virtually exactly the same flannel I wrote last time.  Some hoo-ha about the weather being perfect, where I was going and an immodest reference to my blog. 

I was going to eat a sandwich here but saw a couple of older hiking ladies coming slowly up the hill. I wasn't keen on hanging around to see them open the tupperware box and find the latest smug comment from yours truly and demolish it as outlandish self aggrandisement.
"Listen to this Maude, latest entry says he's running 40 miles today - what a cockwanker! And here's his website, absolute tosser. Don't go near that Geocache he's probably jizzed in it. Ooh and today's date - did you write this sonny?"
"Nope not me" says I reddening, "I just left my car at my mum's in Longformacus and am going back there now."
"Ooh, what's her name? Maude knows everyone in Longformacus."
"Dunno, I've forgotten." 

Any clouds in the sky today were smoke from burning grass and heather, which rose vertically in the nearly windless conditions until finding the higher airstream.

This stream around 15 miles is a lifesaver. I am reluctant to drink unfiltered water outdoors but I had already gone through about a litre of water and a couple of small energy drinks. I drank a litre here and carried another 1.5lts in my backpack.

JC: So it's your birthday month, what would you like for being 53?
pb: Nice one, a huge lottery win thanks.
JC: No can do. We don't touch gambling and ill-gotten-gains. House rules. But I have the next best thing!
pb: Go on...
JC: A book token.
pb: How much?
JC: £40 
pb: uh huh, any alternatives? How about a day off work?
JC: I can do you Thursday, does that suit?
pb: Great and can you throw in some decent weather?
JC: Well yes, we have loads of sunny days we didn't use all Summer, trying to keep fuel bills down.
pb: Ok a bit of an Indian Summer would be spot on, and can I have a snake as well, I've always wanted to bump into a snake?
JC: Alive?
pb: yes, why?
JC: Well you look like a bit of a meddler. Poking stuff and taking close up photos; that's gonna end in tears. I would suggest "in limbo". I can do you a recently alive snake that you can touch and take photos of, and you won't spend your birthday with a hand the size of a football.
pb: ok cool.
JC: and you've still got a book token for the Christian bookshop in your cart....?

Now this sign drew my attention to the river crossing here. I was aiming for the farm and the Right-of-Way through it and up the hill at the back of it. The river crossing (dry footed hop across stones) saved most of a mile up the road and back on the track. It took me ages to remember this and the other short cut which explained the missing nearly-2-miles when I got to N Berwick and it was only 38+ miles. (Before adding the mile up to the bus station and the mile home from Waverley.)

more onlookers

None of the windfarm turbines were turning today.

You feel the end is in sight when coming round the hill and seeing Traprain and NB Laws and the Bass Rock ahead. There was still 12~14 miles to go though.

I wanted to take a diversion past Pressmennan Lake.
It is delightful and mostly unattended on a Thursday at 5pm.

This was so inviting I had to go in and refresh weary legs. (Aprox 25 miles here.) I carried a mini camping towel but forgot a spare pair of shorts. But there was nobody around to object...

I left the video running and went in for a quick dook. For a long time I had been planning on swimming here and had imagined it would be a perfect moment - the sun was shining and there was nobody about and the setting was just amazing. However the reality was that at just around waist deep my feet sank 8" into deep yucky filth on the bottom which sent up a huge amount of bubbles and as I kicked free of the muddy bottom, tendrils and unseen undergrowth tickled my legs. Which sort of took the shine off the whole experience. Other than that, there was a high percentage of magical moment, although I swam hastily round and got back out on the solid ground fairly sharpish. I dried off, enjoying the solitude, taking photos, just birdsong for company in the glorious warm sunshine. 

From Pressmennan to East Linton is a handful of miles on tarmac and is always quite tough. It is less jolly than where you've come from so is a bit of a downer and the only thing keeping the pace up is the worry that the coop might close at 6pm. It didn't on Thursday (I arrived about 5.58) but I forgot to check the closing times as I was carrying armfuls of cold drinks out the shop and up the road to the bench at the junction to fill reservoirs (throw out that ghastly stream water, filthy stuff!) and swig down a couple of paracetemols. Not because I was unwell but it eases the inevitable aches after 30 miles. Bit of a climb up to the JMW from where you get a nice view of the sun setting on NB Law, pretty much the end of the road. 

I was keen to get through the woods before it got dark and also to make the 7.26 train. This was reason to keep pushing on, although I was only jogging by then. Stink Farm had a major brew on. I was actually making out-loud gagging noises at the toxic aromas which seemed to involve fish, horse guts and molten rubber.  

A beautiful sundown, but not the spectacular sunset of Monday evening when there were more clouds to catch alight in the sky.

Today's war memorial for the Tynecastle Bronze.

I was saving this one (on Leith Walk, 30secs from home) for a day when there were no new wms handy. I've done all the East Linton stuff, and N Berwick. These spray on temporary war memorials were done by the kids of Leith Academy in honour of the troops who lost their lives on the way to Gallipoli during WW1 at the Quintinshill Rail Disaster one hundred years ago. The pupils made a poppy for each of the 216 lives lost in what is still Britain's worst rail disaster. Further info on the project here. And I may use the Drill Hall sculpture at a later date as war memorials become harder to find on routes I may be repeating.

A couple of maps. Garmin seem to be doing everything they can to ruin what is a handy map making service for my runs. They keep telling me to upgrade and download shit I have already downloaded and upgraded and then they produce a pokey wee map (as above) that won't enlarge and then I wrestle with Google Earth. The only good thing on this version is the calories - 4,500 that'll do nicely. I mostly ate and drank sweets and fizzy pop (and dirty stream water) en route. I was out for 9hrs and according to this running for 6.39. It was fab. And I got to play with a dead snake!

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