Last week, Husband, Dog, and I, walked the 62+ miles of St Cuthbert’s way. Spanning the border lands between England and Scotland, the route begins in Melrose and ends on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
The trip was meant to be a balloon-birthday present for Husband, but it actually fitted in with an assignment that I had for uni, so I had more than a vested interest too. Which is for the good, really, because it totally wiped out my savings, despite trying to do things on the cheap.
We used an app called YourParkingSpace, and left the car in Galashiels ASDA for the week, paying £12 for six days of parking. We could have parked for free in one of the council car parks at Melrose, according to the St Cuthbert’s Way guide book, but given the length of time we were away, I didn’t want anyone to think the car had been abandoned, and the CCTV at the ASDA was actually really helpful for my peace of mind. I think next time (because of course ‘next time’! Wait until you see the pictures!) I’ll get the train down, but as we had children to deliver to my parents first, it made sense to take the car.
We took our usual water bottles, used our every-day walking shoes*, and carried otherwise abandoned backpacks – one my dad had bought in the 70s and one from Freecycle. We made our own instant porridge (rolled oats, powdered milk, cinamon, sugar, and cranberries), and our own couscous sachets (plain couscous, bouillon powder, spices, dried fruit and cashews) to try and keep breakfast and lunch costs low. That said, it did keep our pack weight high!
We could have actually done the trip for a far lower price if we’d been able to utilise the YHA accommodation, but the dog made this an impossibility. If you can avoid taking your furry walking partner, I would definitely recommend doing so – sad as that is. The dog was an amazing companion to us while walking, but literally doubled the accommodation costs. Also, much of the walk is through livestock enclosures, or grouse-filled moors. We’re lucky that our dog will walk happily on a lead (hooked around the belt of our packs so we could keep our hands free), but if you’ve got a dog that pulls or with a strong prey drive, it’s going to be an exhausting trip.
But on to what we’re here for – pictures!
So why post about a holiday on a blog that’s primarily environmentalism based? I hadn’t planned to talk about this here when we set off, but after the first few days, I knew I had to.
For me, at least, it feels increasingly as though the UK is slipping backwards in time – through decades of hardship and regressive philosophy. The ‘lazy poor’ myth is rife, despite the fact that so many people living in poverty are actually working. I feel ashamed every time the UK’s prime minister speaks on the world stage. Or any stage. Or at all. It’s easy to forget that our land is more than our leader, our politics, or our failings.
Underneath all that, so often ignored, is the beautiful, forgiving earth. This island – for all of its human failings – is a home to be proud of. I can feel a sense of worth in the hills which challenge me, the crops which nurture me, and the wildlife which amazes me.
From adders, to hares, to newts… we saw them all on our walk. And I saw them through the eyes of the new American friends we made on our travels – with a sense of reverence and wonder. If this nation is to recover from its current toxic political state we’re going to need to find something to believe in, to be proud of. We need to find the great leveller – our literal roots – which can unite us all.
It’s all so very clear, out in the open, that we’re all on the same side. In line with the promise I made myself at the turn of the year, I’m going to do my best to stop arguing my point, but to try and educate. I’m not sure how best to do that yet, but hopefully, I’ll find a way. None of this is going to be easy. We need to improve access to the outdoors for as many people as we can (as discussed by Anita Sethi). To paraphrase Tony Benn – if we can find money to fund lockdown parties, we can find money to provide people with access to nature (and food, and healthcare while we’re at it).
*Both of us wear hiking boots as standard, though next time I buy, I’ll opt for the size up to make them more comfortable for swollen feet on long walks.