The Great North Run, that fixed point in space and time I return to for the craic if not in expectation of running well, has crossing - the magnificence of the Tyne Bridge, the switch from motorway to A road (trust me, you might not notice but your legs do) and from land to sea as you finish on the coast.
Following the knee incident, I've not been able to run much, if anything... So, the plan for the GNR was to get around - and I did. Sunburned and battered from the congestion but I got around. Not fast, but ok for me on a baking hot day with no training.
Then it was back to the caravan, and set the alarms for before dawn - five hours travelling to Melrose was only downside of my plan to go straight from run to walk.
St Cuthbert's Way is a walk I've wanted to do for a while, a cross-countries romp taking in ruined abbeys, roman roads, winding rivers, and a walk out across the sands.
Simple when you say it quickly...
As is the way of these things, Monday, the longest day was wet... it varied from drizzle to downpour and the views were somewhat curtailed when I did gain any height. The Eldion Hills were a short sharp introduction to the type of hills to expect - not big, but fairly sharply up and down. Then lanes, paths and a long straight roman road take you to Harestanes, where Day 1 officially finishes. The abiding memory of the day is duck-board steps - if it got damp under foot someone has put duck-board in... fine for a while, but my renditions of "under the boardwalk" started boring me after a short while... and this was just unfair!
And also as is the way of these things, there's no accommodation here, so its an extra couple of miles into Jedburgh for a cosy bed, and a dry off.
The next day was much, much better. Rejoining the roman road for a stretch and then heading off into the hills. Again not big hills, but ones that reminded you that little hills can bite back too... Lunch at Morebattle left one such hill - Wideopen - and with these views you can see how it got its name.
Kirk Yeltham - a lovely little village, with excellent pubs, and B&Bs... and this!
Another cracking day dawned for the border crossing; and with deer, feral goats, friendly dogs and ponies the walking was a joy to behold.
It was also the day I crossed the border... eat you heart out Great Wall of China or Berlin Wall - this is how borders should be done ;-)
Again the hills were short and sharp, but the drop into Wooler and the absolutely cracking Youth Hostel more than made up for the ache in the legs.
This was a youth hostel from another era - a 1943 vintage Women's Land Army accommodation block it was basic, warm, clean and did an excellent fry up! There were others walking the Way there and we reminisced about the best bits so far, and as walkers do grumbled about the weather, the guidebooks and the maps.
Wooler to the coast was next - with a detour for a hill that is meant to be littered with neolithic artefacts. Unfortunately the bracken was 6' high, so not a lot was to be seen. Apart from the red kites, hares and stupendous beetles:-)
Then St Cuthbert's Cave - not where he was a hermit, but where they hid his body from the rampaging vikings.
It was also this day the value of carrying the flag became very real. I'd been raising awareness with most of the walkers I'd chatted to - we all asked why we were doing it... No pilgrims, which was slightly odd, but hey ho. And the flag prompted a few questions, and a long chat with, as they called it "the loud Irish group" and also with a dog walker... whose sister's baby had just been diagnosed with Fallots, and as of yet hadn't found any support locally. Being able to list the local charities she may want to contact, and explaining the good those charities do and what some Fallots get up to seemed to help and I hope the message, and the contacts will get back.
Another cracking B&B and then out to Lindisfarne - the guidebook is full of dire warnings about the pilgrims path, so at the start of low tide I walked out along the road causeway, watching the poles recede across to Holy Island.
A quick tour of the Abbey, lunch, chatting with a GUCH I randomly met, some of the other walkers I'd met on the way, and then at the lowest of low tides I took the risk of walking along the poles... and loved it, water lapped the top of my boots in some places, I jumped across squelchy mud in others and looked at the line of poles and refuges and smiled.
A good walk done, awareness raised, can't ask for more than that:-) Apart from some sponsorship -
Go on - it does make a difference!