It won’t have escaped your attention that me and Dawn are having a crack at the TGO Challenge this year – starts in not very many days… oooer….. and it becomes important to have little backpacking trips for the training of the mind and body into the rigours of ..er… backpacking trips.
So, last week, I parked the car in the Kiln Green car park in the Meikle Toun aka Langholm and after buying a couple of award-winning pies from the award-winning butchers shop, me and Dawn blundered off up the excessively steep slopes of Whita Hill which seems to have all of twenty-seven closely packed contours between the bottom and the top. Luckily, it also has a little well with an iron cup on a chain and some very nice water. It also has a nudie man running up and down. We tried to ignore him. he looked a bit furtive…
Other furniture on Whita Hill include a huge obelisk to somebody or other and an odd and rusty memorial to Hugh Mc Dairmid – a renowned poet, known to his friends as “Chris”.
Our route for the afternoon was short, though and we only had to descend the other side of the hill to Little Tarras Water, finding a spot sheltered from the half-gale in a sheepfold. Its not a brilliant place for camping, though – its either bumpy, prickly or soggy, or all three.
We ate the pies. Dawn had brought peas. I tried JJ’s suggestion of one of those little puddings in a plastic tub, boiled for a while and then by adding custard powder to the boiling water – spotted dick and custard. this ensures very little movement from the prone position for several hours. I’d taken a supply of rum for a change, and this helped in this respect, too. It was also a very good libation for looking at thistles.
A fox barked through the night and the moon came out for a while. In the early hours it began to rain and by dawn (small “d”, the other Dawn has a bog “D”) it was drizzly and mizzly and we set off in the late morning. It wasn’t the weather for getting up and we hadn’t got too hard a walk to do that day.
Wednesday’s route was also reasonably short and during the night I’d rejigged the route a bit so that we could get back to Langholm by Friday lunchtime(ish) so that there would be no panics about Dawn catching her train at Kirkby Stephen on Saturday. When I say rejigged, what I really mean is that I buggerred it up as far as a training walk is concerned and the days would be fairly short…. So, we wandered up by the Tarras Water – a very fine dale containing a few farms and a couple of cottages and not much else. This is Langholm Moor – an area where grouse moor management is deliberately benefiting the Hen Harrier. This is good news for Hen Harriers, but veyr bad news for crows judging by the number of Larsen traps. Its a very boggy, soggy and tussocky place, though and flat, green camping spots are thin on the ground.
We camped in yet another sheepfold (still windy!) on better ground high up the glen. Yet another fox barked at the darkness..
Thursday saw us struggling through deep heather, tussock and bog over the col between Arkleton Hill and Pike fell and , after a brief excitement with a deep gully, we were soon on tracks down to the settlement at Mosspeebles, just by the A7. The A7, as it happens, has a pedestrian route all the way to Bush where we joined a track heading up Meikledale and then the very beautiful Wolfhope Burn. Wolfhope Burn’s beauty is enhanced by sporadic natural woodland of hawthorn and ash which will be an absolute delight later in the spring. At it’s head there’s a fine, open corrie with a burn of clean water and good camping. Still windy, though, and the number of sheep carcases along the burn and the sides of the dale was noticeable. We were supposed to cross the col into the valley of the Rig Burn that night, but decided that since we’d found a nice spot to camp, and we didn’t know what it was like over the hill, that we’d stay put. A cold and frosty night followed. Dawn had some excitements which only she is allowed to report on…. A fox barked once again (Different fox, I suspect…)
Finally it was Friday and we had to get back to Langholm. We crossed the col, cleverly avoiding having heart attacks by zig-zagging up the steep slope and, after a brief encounter with more tussocks, bog and heather, we soon on an unmapped and very wide built track which came high up the glen to meet us. This is either for forestry or for wind turbines. The investment in building this road must have been enormous. Either way it’s an eyesore…. but it did make our life a lot easier
There’s a bunch of new roads around here and some apparently new forestry and ue to the easier-than-expected movement we were soon passing the sheep sheds at The Rigg and then passing new plantations of holly, we were yet sooner on the road at Westerhall. We followed the road past Burnfoot and Henwell is increasingly heavy showers and followed the track though the Buccleuch estates back to Langholm
Here, I called the police. That is to say, I rang 101 and got Police Scotland who seemed to know who I was and what I wanted before I’d said very much at all. In fact, when I rang them on the Wednesday, they told me my home address and phone number which they’d “remembered” since the time I rang them from Moffat on the first Moff-peebles walk. Since I got accused of abandoning my car in order to go into he forest to top meself whilst on a 3 day walk at Kielder, I’ve formed the habit of telling the local police what I’m up to and the fact that I’ve left (aka abandoned") a car somewhere and when I’ll be back and so on. they don’t seem to mind this at all and, in fact, the Police Scotland operators are always really friendly and helpful, so its never been an onerous task.
We did about 30 miles.
Its a very nice area by the way. You should go. its nice an wild and a much better place to be on an English bank holiday than the madhouse that is Cumbria. At least you can have a wee in peace up here…
And the pies are really good.
Nothing can go wrong….
Are we ready for the TGO? I can’t speak for Dawn, but I’m never ready. I don’t really know what you have to do to be ready. Success is never guaranteed, but given reasonable luck, reasonable weather and a bit of day-to-day management and the avoidance of sinking into a deep depression, geographical or psychological (i.e. we travel in hope) – and a small supply of cheering rum , or similar – we have a fair chance, I think..