From: Jedburgh to Melrose
Distance: 17m / 27.2km
Cumulated distance: 797m / 1283km
Percentage completed:
67.4

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After a day on the racing circuit, I walked two trails today which offered the peace and tranquility I was craving. The Borders were show-casing spring and the very best of flora and fauna of the season. Even though it was another 17 mile day, it was a very good one. 

The day started out as well as it possibly could at Newton Farmhouse. The sun streamed in at the bedroom window to wake me and I was treated not only to a delicious breakfast but also to a fascinating chat with Barney and Coco, about how hot it could possibly get in Australia and whether you really could jump in a pool fully-clothed to cool off. (Barney’s 8; Coco’s 6). At the end of the most exhausting day yesterday, their mum had scooped me up from Jedburgh and had taken me back to their guest-house for Pimms on the lawn and fed me a roast dinner, which I demolished in record time. Newton Farmhouse is the very best of B&Bs. https://www.newton-farmhouse.co.uk

And not only that .. the cost of my stay was also kindly donated to SANE.

View from the bedrom window

 

Black dog mug for my tea!

I’d read that Jedburgh (pronounced Jeddart by the locals) is one of the most welcoming towns in Britain. I found this pretty remarkable as it’s suffered a good number of unfriendly incursions from its English neighbour over the centuries, being located so close to the border. During the early middle ages its castles were frequently occupied by the English and later, in the 15th century both the town and the abbey were razed to the ground not once but three times. Henry VIII was none too kind to the Scots either, even though he was trying to encourage a marriage between his son, Edward and Mary Queen of Scots. His aggressive approach to courtship was appropriately called ‘Rough Wooing’. The Union of the Crowns in 1603 brought an end to the marauding and Jedburgh has remained peaceful ever since. Everyone I spoke to in the town was exceptionally friendly .. offering lifts, coming out of shops to show me the post office and donating the cost of the sandwich to SANE. 

The abbey at Jedburgh is particularly splendid. I saw it when I first arrived in the town yesterday evening, when the light was warm and golden. It’s one of the four Border abbeys and was founded by King David I of Scotland around 1140 for Augustinian canons. Being so close to the border with England it was often in the firing line and although much has been rebuilt, it’s quite extraordinary that so much has survived intact. 

Jedburgh Abbey

Not far from the abbey is the one remaining oak tree from the ancient Jed Forest. It’s over 500 years old. I’m not normally given to tree-hugging but I made an exception in this case, feeling a wee bit humbled in the presence of such an old living being. How often do you get the chance to wrap your arms around something a half millennium old, that’s still growing?

Ancient Oak

There were two new trails to follow today: The Borders Abbeys Way and St. Cuthbert’s Way, aka St Culvert’s Way. The saint’s way is a 62 mile walking trail that begins on the island of Lindisfarne, off the Northumberland coast in England and ends at Melrose. I joined it for several miles today, along the river and through bluebell-scented woodland. It was clearly way-marked and the paths were well-maintained. Oh joy. 

River Teviot

Holding the gate open for another walker led to a half hour conversation about mental health. I’ve lost count of the number of times the Walking The Black Dog flag has broken the ice and opened the path for chats with total strangers. The ex doctor from the Orkneys had been involved in mental health initiatives for many years. We swapped stories and talked about new initiatives on both sides of the world .. all the digital projects that the Black Dog Institute are exploring to help prevent teenage suicide, for example. Even in the small and isolated community of The Orkneys, she has been active in helping create new initiatives. Take a look at the Therapet website to see how dogs are used to lift the spirits. Dr Ronella MacInnes is a board member of the charity. https://www.canineconcernscotland.org.uk

I’ve found it extraordinary how people have been prepared to talk about their own mental health journeys. Particularly when I’ve been on my own. It’s been a strong reminder that depression in particular, is no respecter of gender, age, social standing, creed or intelligence. Once people realise you are sympathetic and understanding they open up and you start to realise just how endemic the illness is in our world today. I’ve found it a significant, almost daily reminder, of why I’m doing this walk. At times when the going has been tough, it’s been a massive encouragement to continue.

I didn’t need too much help today as the walk along the river and through the trees was my perfect sort of walking. With the dappled sunlight falling through the trees the sights almost became a cliche .. burgeoning blossoms, fragrant bluebells and all sorts of woodland birds flitting across my path. I even had a stoat dart in front of me.

Fabulous pink ..

 

.. and white blossoms

 

Bluebells ..

 

.. wild and wonderful fungi ..

 

.. with even the humble dandelion playing its part

I have to admit I fell in love with the St Cuthbert’s Way. I rather liked the sound of the saint himself too. He was born in the seventh century near Melrose and became a monk, bishop and hermit. Before he stepped out of society, he was apparently a real man of the people despite his high birth. The walk is ‘one of the most beautiful, varied and enjoyable long distance walking routes in Britain, and one of Scotland’s Great Trails’, according to Wiki and from the little I saw I could only agree.

Morning tea by the river

 

Lying back, looking up at the new lime-green leaves of the season

 

Keeping pace with swans

Towards the afternoon the Trail left the woods and river behind and broke out into open countryside. The sun was hot .. breaking all records for May in 40 years!

Leaving the woods behind

Along the route, in a very unassuming place, I came across Lilliard’s Stone. Eight hundred years ago, the monks of Melrose Abbey placed a great stone here, beside the Roman road Dere Street, which I’ve also been following today. Seems it was an early version of Camp David. For the next ten years representatives of the Scottish and English crown met here to try and resolve disputes by peaceful negotiation. Sadly it didn’t work and war followed. A 15th century ballad was written about the Battle of Otterburn in 1388. The song includes a description of the heroic death of a mortally wounded squire:

For Witherington needs must I wayle,
As one in doleful dumpes;
For when his leggs were smitten off,
He fought upon his stumpes.

The Black Knight was certainly not the first to let a flesh wound get in his way.

Lilliard’s Stone

Melrose, my stop for the night, is another pretty Borders town, with its picturesque monastic ruined abbey. The Scottish king, Robert the Bruce is buried there. Actually, it’s just his heart that’s buried in a sealed casket. It had been his dying wish to have his heart taken to the Holy Land but curiously it only got as far as Spain before being returned to Scotland. Much like King Alfred and the burnt cakes, Robert I of Scotland is best known for a piece of trivia, rather than his achievements as king. While in hiding he watched a spider repeatedly spinning his web after it was destroyed. The exercise in patience and persistence taught Robert that these would be the attributes necessary to drive out the English from his land. Another king .. albeit a fictitious one .. is supposedly buried in the hills outside of Melrose. King Arthur looks benignly down upon the town from the Eildon Hills, which I also walked past in the early evening sun.

OK, history lesson over. Now to the real reason why Melrose is important. Swampy, listen up! Melrose is the birthplace of Rugby Sevens! In an effort to raise funds for their Football Club in the 19th century, Ned Haig suggested holding a one-day tournament to bring in the punters. So that it could hold the attention of all and sundry it was decided that the matches would be limited to 15 minutes, with just 7 players to each team. Held on 28 April 1883 the first tournament was a huge success and the sport has continued to go from strength to strength ever since, eventually reaching Olympic sport status. The IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens pays tribute to the founding town by having the ‘Melrose Cup’ as its trophy.

And for all you pipers out there .. Melrose is host to the annual Pipe Band Championships, which attracts bands from all over the world. 

The boot that didn’t make it .. discarded along the riverbank

The day was just the same length as the day before but the rich variety of the terrain made it seem anything but. It was a glorious day.

Black Dog Tails
Last year in May, I met Emily who is training to be a guide dog in Tokyo. It was a fascinating experience being guided by her. (You may ask about her unusual outfit .. clearly, it’s to keep from any dog hair inconveniently dropping in shops. This was Japan, all said and done.)

After a day on the racing circuit, I walked two trails today which offered the peace and tranquility I was craving. The Borders were show-casing spring and the very best of the flora and fauna of the season. Even though it was another 17 mile day, it was a very good one. 

The day started out as well as it possibly could at Newton Farmhouse. The sun streamed in at the bedroom window to wake me and I then was treated not only to delicious breakfast but also to a fascinating chat with Barney and Coco, about how hot it could possibly get in Australia and whether you really could jump in a pool fully-clothed to cool off. At the end of the most exhausting day yesterday, their mum had scooped me up from Jedburgh and had taken me back to their guest-house for Pimms on the lawn and fed me a roast dinner, which I demolished in record time. Newton Farmhouse is the very best of B&Bs. https://www.newton-farmhouse.co.uk

View from the bedrom window

 

Black dog mug for my tea!

I’d read that Jedburgh (pronounced Jeddart by the locals) is one of the most welcoming towns in Britain. I found this pretty remarkable as it’s suffered a good number of unfriendly incursions from its English neighbour over the centuries, being located so close to the border. During the early middle ages its castles were frequently occupied by the English and later, in the 15th century both the town and the abbey were razed to the ground not once but three times. Henry VIII was none too kind to the Scots either, even though he was trying to encourage a marriage between his son, Edward and Mary Queen of Scots. His aggressive approach to courtship was appropriately called ‘Rough Wooing’. The Union of the Crowns in 1603 brought an end to the marauding and Jedburgh has remained peaceful ever since.

The Abbey at Jedburgh is particularly splendid. I saw it when I first arrived in the town yesterday evening, when the light was warm and golden.

Jedburgh Abbey

There are two new trails to follow today: The Border’s Abbey’s Way and St. Cuthbert’s Way. The saint’s way is a 62 mile walking trail that begins on the island of Lindisfarne, off the Northumberland coast in England and ends at Melrose. I’ll join it for the last few miles.

Melrose is another pretty Borders town, with its picturesque monastic ruined abbey. The Scottish king, Robert the Bruce is buried here. Actually, it’s just his heart that’s buried in a sealed casket. It had been his dying wish to have his heart taken to the Holy Land but curiously it only got as far as Spain before being returned to Scotland. Much like King Alfred and the burnt cakes, Robert I of Scotland is best known for a piece of trivia, rather than his achievements as king. While in hiding, again just like Alfred, he watched a spider repeatedly spinning his web after it was destroyed. The exercise in patience and persistence taught Robert that these would be the attributes necessary to drive out the English from his land. Another king .. albeit a fictitious one .. is supposedly buried in the hills outside of Melrose. King Arthur looks benignly down upon the town from the Eildon Hills.

OK, history lesson over. Now to the real reason why Melrose is important. Swampy, listen up! Melrose is the birthplace of Rugby Sevens! In an effort to raise funds for their Football Club in the 19th century, Ned Haig suggested holding a one-day tournament to bring in the punters. So that it could hold the attention of all and sundry it was decided that the matches would be limited to 15 minutes, with just 7 players to each team. Held on 28 April 1883 the first tournament was a huge success and the sport has continued to go from strength to strength ever since, eventually reaching Olympic sport status. The IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens pays tribute to the founding town by having the ‘Melrose Cup’ as its trophy.

And for all you pipers out there .. Melrose is host to the annual Pipe Band Championships, which attracts bands from all over the world.

Holding the gate open for another walker led to a half hour conversation about mental health. I’ve lost count of the number of times the Walking The Black Dog flag has broken the ice and opened the path for chats with total strangers. The ex doctor from the Orkneys had been involved in mental health initiatives for many years and we

 

Black Dog Tails
Last year in May, I met Emily who is training to be a guide dog in Tokyo. It was a fascinating experience being guided by her. (You may ask about her unusual outfit .. clearly, it’s to keep from any dog hair inconveniently dropping in shops. This was Japan, all said and done.)