Day 13 ….”Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day…..COVID may make it harder but it will never take… OUR FREEDOM!”

Slow start this morning as my tent needed to dry out and packing up in the rain is…well, wet…

My plan, as ever was…I don’t bother. Actually that’s wrong. I make the choice not to plan the roads, gradient or even look at the weather in fear of rolling over and going back to sleep. It’s easy to give up on a day sometimes isn’t it? I think back to why I started this…bear hunt. Getting up during COVID 1 was a struggle for me so I don’t give myself an option. It’s like going to work. Commitment, and it’s not so bad when you get there is it? Anyway my plan… Greta today. About 50miles.

I asked a local what these meant.

She said they’ve been there for hundreds of years.
But what do they mean?
I haven’t got a clue…..



My ride stated with some quintessential Scottish village photo opportunities. Then through to Hawick where I hunted high and low for Rocky Road but ended up with Tiffin. So there I am just outside Hawick on a little country road planning my next leg and I notice I’m on Lovers lane. Ahhh those were the days. I took myself back to the last century and reminisced. Ahh the red post box…

Rodin…the thinker


Anyway back to that tiffin. For those not familiar with the ingredients, though Of course recipes will vary. Crushed biscuits, raisins, cherries in a heavy chocolate sponge with a thick layer of chocolate on top. Feels like there should be nuts in there …but I suppose then it would be called a rocky road.

Tiffin…


Anyway my route. Of course as I’m following the Scottish boarder doesn’t involve the sea but it did involve rivers. All the way. The Slitrig then the barns burn to copshaw holm. It was 25 miles of nothing. No cafe, No pub, very few houses and no people – it’s a time to think, reflect, plan, look and take in nature and breathe….



The hillocks and the furns let you know where you are. It has to be Scotland.

As I ride along I constantly create pictures in my head. Can you imagine too – ‘old Scotland’. Braveheart, or Connor McLoud, kilts flairibg as they race down these hillocks to defend or attack….

Those ancient hillocks
The old rusty gates of yesteryear and perhaps wealth



The woods are deep, dark and wet but there’s still lure to peek in. To smell the pine and the damp. Films like the hobbit and lord or the rings gives these ancient woods mystery and history….

Well someone thinks my bike is interesting
Please…



All I can hear as I cycle along is the ever present sound of running water…fast running water at the moment…. rain is never far away as locals know and are dressed for it. Always.



I’ve never had a beard before. I wonder if / how it changes my look. Do people perceive me differently? After a long climb. My longest yet. I stopped for air. A 4×4 drew to ask if I was OK which was nice. We chatted for a bit but before they left they said one more time “are you sure you’ll be alright”… was it the beard? Did I look Old? Maybe they looked at my bike and knew it was a short ride bike pretending to be a tourer? By the way I’ve still had very few ideas for a name to call my bike…. Who knows and being honest it shouldn’t worry me. I’ll never know the answer. I’ll never know if they were truly concerned for me or just being nice. Let it go James. It’s done.

Tough up these hills but what surroundings
When you feel you can’t go on. Stop, turn around and see how far you have come….
The old and the new




The rest of the day was much the same.
So I’d cycled the boarder between Scotland and England in 2 days. 120miles. It has been a wonderful part to my journey and it’s something anyone can do.

Drive to a place near a train station (so if you need to, you can train back instead of riding back), or just drive to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.



You don’t need much and tents are optional.
Over a weekend you could do the boarder too.

Do it alone or with friends. You don’t need to do 50-60 miles a day. Do 40 a day over 3 days. You can do anything if you want and I guarantee you will look back on it with such happiness. It may restore a bit of self belief. It may give you time to think or the opposite and leave those thoughts along the ride. You may get a tan. You may get wet. 3 days of your life…. what are you waiting for?

Everyone needs to stay safe



Today I’ve no idea where I’m going yet. I ache so it might be a short one. That’s ok though.

Thanks as ever for your messages and the additional views. It means a lot to me. I hope it means that it’s interesting and may be doing something I needed a year ago….

Have a great Sunday everyone.

Day 12 – Devolution or Higher State of Consciousness…

My clean white sheets are but a distant memory now as I’m back ‘wild camping’ just outside Jedburgh. You’d think following the England – Scotland border would be easy but I managed to take a few wrong turns today and didn’t get to where I needed to be till about 6.30. I left at 8am. But stopped of course 😉

Another beautiful day. Doesn’t have to be blue sky does it? Muddy fields and fresh air will do
Shit…. wrong turn again….

Pitch black erections are always a bit difficult aren’t they? Fumbling around and not quite sure which hole to aim for, anyway my tents up and after nearly 70miles today (Strava died on me twice for all you analysis so didn’t record several segments).

Legs felt good today. Spinning out the lactic acid is excruciating but well worth it. So leaving Berwick I headed to Coldstream where I met a soldier and had lunch at the mad hatters tea room. I there I met two 93 year old ladies. One had forgotten her hearing aid and was anointing much to amusement of the other.

This photo doesn’t look quite right….humm
Nice fit, but I don’t think this is my colour


Kelso was my next stop and I was beginning to think my day, although beautiful as ever might pass without some stunning scenes.

A very small castle in Jedburgh…🤔


I hit the river tweed and that’s where I found the views. I know it’s only a river and maybe the others are as beautiful? Certainly not the Thames though where you might find an arm or a leg floating, or the River Don where you’ll certainly find shopping trolleys, bikes and syringe needles… anyway see below, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Really?

I wonder what this will say in a few years time
The tweed
No words.
It was so peaceful I found have stayed all day
Like my head sometimes… calm / carnage



Onward to Jedburgh which is infamous for Mary Queen of Scott’s. I was too late to explore but did nip into a cafe for a rocky road. Now after Jessie’s flapjacks yesterday my expectations were high. This rocky road was tasty no doubt but no nuts. When I paid I said to the manager you can’t have a rocky road without nuts. He didn’t agree even though he couldn’t answer what was ‘rock like’ in his recipe. I decided that I’d move on as it was getting dark and the road ahead did look….mountains…. what now come on they are mountains aren’t they?

I’ve given up battling and home is not the same, so I went straight on
A….road bar
A long, gradual climb. It went on, and on, and on….


So Carlisle / ish tomorrow. We’ll see.

Sorry it’s a short one tonight but I managed to delete the notes I’d made along the way and it’s bloody cold. Two hats are not doing the job. Len where are you?

Be careful out there everyone, these are worrying times again and remember to link in with others please. I know how lonely it can get, don’t be strangers to each other….

And on…. but over the top is where I’m camping tonight, I hope….
What the hell is he doing here?


Over and Out

Wasn’t me guv….

Day 11 – Simon says…”pick up your phone”, Simon says…

I After a bad nights sleep… moan, moan, moan….No it wasn’t due to the days hills, nor the rain hammering on my tent or even the wind threatening to blow me west across the Atlantic… My legs were tired…i know 🎻

I’m fact I was tired. I guess I’ve done a fair few miles from 0% conditioned as you’ll remember in my first post – I’m going on a bear hunt to arriving in Scotland. 450miles without a day off and tent life is not ‘normal behaviour’, is it?

I decided that I would just do the 25 miles today to get me to Berwick upon Tweed (a favourite Lowry haunt) and relax.

Breakfast – protein



Before I left, I met Jim, Jessie and (woof) Juno. They had the bad news last night. We chatted for a bit and it turned out we were from the same town… I gratefully accepted two flapjacks (these were proper (Sunny Sheffiled) flapjacks – size of bricks. Perfect. And they tasted divine. Thanks guys. I know you are following and hope you got home safe.

Proper flapjacks. Thanks Jessie, Jim and (woof woof) Juno



I cycled past holy island but wasn’t risking getting stuck there in the ride. I hadn’t packed my swimmers and wasn’t sure how stronger swimmer my bike was.

Holy Island from a long…distance
A Vache



Anyone have any thoughts on a name for my trusty old steed? My bicycle not the vache…

I name this bicycle….


Sorry not the greatest photo of holy island but you can Google it if you want to know more about what it looks and feels like. I’m off games today.

I was zig zagging the A1 as there was no direct coastal road and it reminded me very much like leafy Nottinghamshire…imagine:

The quiet country roads…(filled with boy racers flexing their throttle as they past me as close as they can possibly get)…and those beautiful hedgerows buzzing with wildlife…(and McDonalds wrappers). That clean air (and pungent scent of burning sugar beet from the British sugar factory in Newark). Locals will understand….

I was often caught out today by the flocks, and I mean hundreds…of geese flying in their formations. At one point I spotted a bench. It was positioned with no view. Across a country road in front of a hedge. It had a plaque. I’ll let you read it and think your own thoughts.

Always a beautiful view at the top of a hill
No words


Further along I saw two women taking to bush. In fact one was taking photos. I stopped to chat. A young lady and her carer were taking photos. They had been watching the plant below grow and develop over the last few months. The young photographer had seen that the plant, resembled the covid virus. Great mind. She wore a mask at all times when close to it, but loved it when the bees came in to land on it. Maybe she thought the bees were the cure. I wish they were.

Covid
The cure…. stay safe and just bee



We talked for a while. I was the first cyclist that had ever stopped to talk to them. Although not the case here It made me think how other people judge us / categorise us often.

Bad experience with a cyclist – cyclists think they own the road…

Bit too much to drink at a party -probably end up being an alcoholic…

Having a hard time -depressed….

Low paid job – lazy, etc…


So I’m now having a hot chocolate in a garage forecourt off the A1 and I see a text from a great old mate. No, he’s not an old, old mate… oh you know what I mean. It said. I’ve booked you into a hotel and there’s a meal waiting for you in Berwick tonight….

Acts of kindness like this particularly when we’ve felt a bit vulnerable, particularly amongst friends like me recently, bowl me over. For Simon it was a simple act of straightforward kindness. To me it…psh… lm lost for words for once. Thank You mate.

Although some truth often we make this up ourselves, don’t we….

Berwick is nice. It’s apparently one of Lowrys favourite places. Being on Scottish border it was a strategic point no doubt when the English, Viking’s or Republicans (didn’t trump try to buy Scotland once?) invaded.

Berwick
Berwick again
Lowry
Lowry modern like


Im so relaxed I’ve forgotten other snippets of my day. You’ll have to wait for the book…

Stay well all of you and thanks for following
Over and Out

Scotland pie
Last few days route

Day 10 – Who’s the king of the castle. But more interestingly who’s the dirty rascal….

The news last night was depressing wasn’t it… It’s the first time I’ve watched any TV for 10 days. I am sorry to everyone that this is happening again BUT I feel. I passionately feel that we can all stay afloat. Especially if we work together NOT on our own.

Castle
Castle
Castle

I am cycling today along the north east coast castle route to Berwick. It’s a beautiful day (just like it can be everyday). It doesn’t need to be blue sky and warm weather but you all know that don’t you. Deep down. This morning however it is blue sky. A stark change from yesterday.

I think this might become an ox-now lake one day. My old geography teacher would be so proud….
Stunning

I have not made it far (mileage) due to the constant photo opportunities. It’s 11am and I’ve met and talked to: The bird watcher (no… not a pervert); The dowager;
The cafe owner who kindly gave me some rocky road for my lunch; the gallery owner where I got a few ideas on painting projects I might do, and sort of chatted to Ivy (the shaggy rug).

Coffee and free rocky road – the generosity of people in the current climate is amazing
Lilly the shaggy rug

LIn contrast I also overheard 3 men talking about how much work they still needed to do on their house before the interior designers came in. I quote “We need another lockdown so we can finish the house”. Made me a bit angry that but these days I can accept it’s none of my business so no point dwelling on it.


Lunch was at Craster. I’d decided I was spending too much on coffees and paninis so bought 12 eggs from a farmer. 6 for lunch and 6 for breakfast tomorrow. A hot oxo cube and my rocky road set me up for a hard ride this afternoon.

Thought about some pier plopping (very briefly)… my teenage boys will be disappointed I know
Strong covid compliance
Lunch

It was only hard because I had to get to holy island where I’d booked a campsite. Although you’d expect lots of campsites, many won’t take tents which seems bizarre as surely they are pretty empty. I guess at £8-12 a night it’s not worth their while. Also shops are becoming more scarce. The scenery however is not faltering at all.

Nice road leading to nice house
Never far from the sea

3, day cyclists bombed past me today, heads down seemingly in disgust at my pathetic 10mph. Touring is so different I’m finding. I wonder what those 3 could write about if they had a daily blog? Appreciate though there is a balance…. apologies if I drone on. When you have this time and this scenery it’s hard to hold back.


Nearing my campsite I stopped to see husband and wife tee off on a links golf course. They were staring (as I was) at a young chap wearing Gucci trainers clutching his white poodle whilst navigating across a small stream meandering its way to the sea. Inappropriate footwear and luggage we both agreed.

See chap in red on right with his AirPods in, Gucci trainers and luggage….


They asked what I was up to and I told them. They opened up about their son (aged 40) and he was depressed. He used to have a good job but can’t do anything these days except procrastinate about his sister who’s doing really well. I felt they had given up on him. They said they did everything to help him which I understood. For me though I didn’t need that help. In fact I’ll be honest i didn’t want it. I pushed it away because all it made me feel, was guilty, inferior, inadequate. Those negative feelings push us further into ourselves. That’s not a good place to be. I suggested instead of ‘help’, ‘enabling’ or over praise or criticising him they support him (unconditional love I think they call it), encourage and empower him. Don’t mollycoddle. Small tasks completed initially will quickly build up the lost self confidence, and once that’s returned bigger steps can mean quicker recovery. It’s the same with work. Don’t give employees 2 months off, that’s asking for trouble often. Reduce their tasks. Let them know why you are doing it as this will build trust instead of defensiveness. All that said I fully appreciate live and situations are not that simple and it’s HARD to do. I hope maybe at worst I gave them another option, another route and I hope their son gets better. I think he will. I’m no doctor of expert but it feels right, doesn’t it..

Beautiful words looking over a beautiful view


Castles, Castles and more castles….Then some unexpected showers. The showers up here near Berwick and Holy Island where I am camping are hard. Hard rain that hurts a bit actually….


Anyway job done today. Pasta, tin tomatoes and tuna washed down with rice pudding. Hummm.

The notes I’m getting from you all. The followers (81 today) and views (224 yesterday) is truly amazing. The app tells me I’m up 18%….which means, I hope, you are enjoying my blog and it’s messages. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

I heard some sad (tragic) news tonight from a fellow camper (walking with his wife). If you read this I hope you are doing OK and stay strong please.


Over and Out

Egg punnet tops make rather handy crisp dishes

I’ve gone 2miles today. Bought a bagel and been given some rocky Road for later. Taken about 20 pictures and can’t stop stopping due to these wonderful sights…. Why we go abroad is starting to baffle me. Why we live in fear used to baffle me. Why I’m doing this ride to raise awareness for mental health issues doesn’t baffle me at all….

Day 9 – It’s blowing a fu3king hooley…

My evening in Whitley Bay or as my hosts Chris and Nina called it – paradise – was truly inspiring.


I have used Warmshowers (a cycle touring room for the night service) twice and both times I have never felt so grateful and dare I say at home 😂😂😂 last night, you two really made a difference. Thanks so much guys (I’ll talk about you more in future blogs)

Me and my host Chris (contribution by Nina)


For me that says so much about the type of people that cycle tour, and the gratitude they have (as I do now) when cycling long distances so many miles away from home.
Touring is illuminating (where we go what we see); Invigorating (physically no doubt). I guess cleansing too in many ways, but being an adventure it’s also dammed scary and lonely at times. Today highlighted that for me too….


So I covered about 40 miles again today. Not that far admittedly but the conditions were the hardest I’ve faced. Forget the hills now as my legs are stronger, but the driving NW headwind and constant rain today tested me both physically and mentally.


There were long periods of…nothing. The wet is normally easy to deal with in suburbia, but there are no handy Dyson hand blowers on this route… (by the way the route I’m on is National cycle route 1 at the moment) The cold settles in through the sopping gloves (I used 3 pairs today) and you can easily loose track of why you are out there, head down and churning….

A little glint of paradise amid the turmoil and gruesome weather
Nothing…..


Then I arrived at a tiny little bay called newbiggin. No I’ve never heard of it either.I met Dawn. Dawn suffers from bipolar and anxiety NOT that I or anyone would have any idea. She told me even going out for a walk today was a struggle but I’m so glad she did otherwise I wouldn’t have met this wonderful person.

A bay – sorry can’t remember which


Dawn told me about the bay and the surrounding town and I was astounded. This little bay is steeped in history.


There is a rock on the beach, it’s a pretty big rock called the hunkleton stone. It was dragged and laid in the middle of the beach today by a glacier from the ice age…

A big rock on the beach from a long time ago


There is a sculpture on the sea… WHAT….called ‘couple’ by Sean Henry. I’ll let you read about this belowj

The couple…… holding hands and looking to future (not the past)


There was an RNLI museum where the local school children had designed murals. The one below ‘hear the waves, touch the sand, smell the sea, enjoy your day’ said it all for me.

‘hear the waves, touch the sand, smell the sea, enjoy your day’


There was a story of a shipwreck at the turn of the last century… This was one little bay on the east coast. There is so much out there on our rich and beautiful coastline. I’m calling home now to cancel Magaluf……

There was an cafe (cafe Bertorelli) Dawn recommended it and it has been in the family (Italian) for 5 generations. I tried the Vanilla, Bubble Gum and Hubba Bubba flavoured ice cream that the staff recommended, hummmmmmmmm. If this cafe was in London their would be queues for miles but it isn’t. It’s in the middle of nowhere but still the staff were happy, incredibly attentive and they were passionate about the place they worked. That makes a change doesn’t it.

Bertoreli
Amazing flavoured ice cream

A dog-Walker ahead amused lifted my spirits when I rang my bell. “I’m amazed you heard that mate”, I said. “If it had been the wife, I wouldn’t have” he replied instinctively

Anyway back to reality

Reality….


Tonight the area I was planning to camp in resembled a rugby pitch so I cycled another 10 miles to amble by the sea to a pub, well worth a visit called the Wellwood Arms. A hot shower, a clean room, great food, a cheeky glass of Rioja and a great natter about life with the staff and I’m done.

Jusqu a demain….