Today we were heading south along the Tweed valley enjoying the sun as it gradually rose above the hills.
There are several footpaths around the Devil’s Beeftub and I saw at least one person on the ridge today. I hope to return when we are not so pushed for time and explore some of them. Still in sub-zero temperatures, we stopped at the Rheged Centre on the outskirts of Penrith. It hosts numerous activities for both children and adults including play areas, workshops, a cinema, cafe, shops specialising in local and British produce and a gallery. We were there as I was very keen to see an exhibition of prints I had seen advertised. Over 380 works from different printmakers are exhibited and there is a lot of information about and a demonstration of printmaking techniques. I am hoping to do more of this and so found it fascinating. These are some of the landscapes on display:
The exhibition is on until February 26 2017 and is free. We had a bite to eat in the cafe and then returned to the very busy motorway. Looking at the crowds at each service station we passed, we were glad we did not need to stop here. After giving up on the M6 just after the Thelwall Viaduct and finishing the last few miles on the A50, our neighbour’s cat was waiting for us at home.
We left Edinburgh and the haar behind this morning and by the time we reached a friend’s house between Pathhead and Lauder, it was warm and sunny enough to have our coffee outside in the garden. After that we scooted over the hill on a B road between Lauder and Stow to the A7. These cattle were hoping to get some shade from the heat by sitting under this tree but it was not yet in leaf. Highland Cattle with their heavy furry coats are not designed for hot weather.
All the way down the A7 the grass verges were full of dandelions in bloom and gorse in bloom on the hillside. There is a saying dating from some time from the 19th century that when gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion. No worries about that today. We found a picnic spot just south of Langholm next to a path that led down to the River Esk. It is supposed to be a fishing spot but fish tend to hide in good weather so no-one was fishing today.
The motorway part of the drive was uneventful until we got closer to home when due to delays and accidents we got off and drove over the Manchester Ship Canal by the Warburton Bridge and very slowly towards home as the motorway was closed and the surrounding roads gridlocked.
The bridge always reminds me of some we crossed on Route 66 and maybe we will find some more on the Lincoln Highway in a few weeks time.
Friday’s mild, warm and sunny weather had lulled us into a false sense of security and we really did not want to believe the weather forecasts. I even managed my Street Pastoring shift without any rain and the thermometer still read 8 degrees at midnight. We were up at 5.30 this morning but the birds were already up ahead of us and singing in the trees. Despite only getting a few hours of sleep, I was glad we were driving up to Edinburgh today and not yesterday when the M6 was stationary heading northbound at 3pm. James did not change gear from getting on the motorway to leaving it 100 or so miles later for breakfast at Tebay. Up here it was very windy and a few ducks were braving the waves on the pond but these and a few seagulls stayed on the grass.
The tops of the hills were shrouded in mist but as we approached the city, it brightened up a little. In Edinburgh, signs of spring abounded. The crocuses were out on Bruntsfield Links although a little battered.
In town, the buskers were out, there seemed to be almost as many people handing flyers out as there are in August and the Socialist Worker Party were trying to get more signatures for their latest petition. I always check the mural on St John’s Church at the West End, this is the latest:
We had planned to do most of the necessary jobs in town on foot but halfway through, it poured down with rain so it was back to the car. The cherry tree outside the flat is coming into flower but the wind is already blowing a lot of the petals off. As we won’t be here for another month, I will probably miss the big show. It is certainly not a weekend for hill-walking or beach-combing.
A couple of things I had to do in town added up to 4.56 miles of walking and as soon as I was finished, began to head back down south. My iPod was on shuffle and the songs appeared to be amazingly appropriate to the stage of my journey. While I was still in Scotland, battling the rain over Beattock some Runrig followed by Deacon Blue came on. Further south after crawling past the roadworks near Lancaster and nearing the end of the M61 to Manchester, it was Oasis and near the M58 to Liverpool, Elvis Costello. At the heartsink roadworks nearer home which are due to continue until December 2016, I heard the Detroit Spinners’ Working my way back to you, babe, also timely as I am know sitting back at home waiting for James to return from the airport. His plane should be landing in a few minutes’ time and I need to get ready to rehearse The Dream of Gerontius with my choir later this evening.
During a very slow and wet drive south today, I started to dream and plan a long walk. As part of summer 2016 will be devoted to a long drive, it will have to be early summer 2017. James was driving so I could let my mind wander and plot the walk from South Cheshire to Edinburgh. My original idea was to walk the Pennine Way with a bit added on to the beginning and end. I am now thinking that I will work out a more direct route, utilising as many trails and minor roads as possible. I live about 3 miles from the Macclesfield Canal and walking north on the towpath takes me to Macclesfield. Although the canal carries on to Marple, a more direct path there is via the Middlewood Way. From Marple, the Midshires Way and a few other minor paths take me to Stalybridge where I can pick up the Thame Valley Way and then the Standedge Trail to just beyond Diggle. Then, I can join the Pennine Way. How long I stay on it remains to be seen as it weaves back and forth at times and it’s end at Kirk Yetholm is further east than I need to be. Along the A702 I looked at the grass verges and pavements in the villages thinking that if needed, this road could be easily walked up although hopefully when it is less wet than it is currently.
I had previously thought that I might walk up the old railway track alongside the A7. Now that has been re-opened as the Borders Railway so is no longer an option. Further on, down the M74 and M6 we made very slow progress with breakdowns and accidents on the motorway leading to long tailbacks before we could leave it.
It took just over five hours to get back and I have a lot more time to perfect my route over the next 18 months.
On Wednesday I was longing for snow and my wish almost came true. It was raining as I headed into town to see a film and so heavily that I have never seen so much water running down the streets of the city. On the way back to the flat it had turned to sleet and wet snow was lying on the grass. Higher altitudes had the real stuff and a little sprinkling was left on Blackford Hill. My neighbour said he had never seen so much water running down the mound. I woke on Friday morning to clear blue, a crescent moon and contrails stretching across the sky. I had to get out and for a change, wandered east along Grange Loan for some supplies at Earthy, then down Causewayside noticing as few antique shops and upcycled furniture shops that will be worth a look in at some point. I passed the National Library of Scotland which is being renovated and will have to go in there at some point as this location houses the old map collection.
At Summerhall, the Mexican artist Antonio O’Connell’s permanent installation ‘Virus’ made from recycled materials has sat outside since last year (Summerhall is housed in the former veterinary medicine school).
I picked up some newsletters but did not see a current exhibition that appealed so headed for Till’s bookshop. The proprietor is a Canadian who has lived in Edinburgh for 30 years. I have lived in or visited Edinburgh regularly for more than 30 years and often pass the shop on the bus up from the city centre but today was the first day that I went in. The original range with a real fire reminded me of Reid’s in Liverpool.
Saturday’s storm was named Desmond and large parts of Scotland and northern England are flooded. We braved the high wind and rain to head into town for a book fair. I saw one elderly man’s cap blow off and bowl down the street. Fortunately, he managed to rescue it. One of the Christmas decorations still standing was this fairy light tree in George Street. Parked next to it was a Red Bull car. Something I would need if I had to party all night. Instead we had a relaxed meal with friends.
Today was another sunny morning so we set off reasonably early to drive back down south in daylight. No meandering in the Borders today. There was a lot of water on the A702 but the snow had gone from the Pentlands. Otherwise, it was an uneventful drive back but we could see large areas of flooding all around in southern Scotland and Cumbria and the water was almost up to the edge of the motorway in places. The radio told us of people being rescued, power cuts, landslides and flood defences being breached.
Saturday was rather dreich and after a slow start and some shopping in the morning, we were off to the local cinema mid afternoon. The Dominion has sofas and footstools, a very different experience from the usual. We were off to catch the latest James Bond Film. Ever since James had a bleep number of 007 thirty years ago when we both worked in the old Royal Infirmary in Stirling, we have had to see the Bond Films. The cinema was full and there were several children’s’ parties there. This morning, with slightly better weather, the plan was to see at least one of the exhibitions at the National Gallery or the adjacent Royal Scottish Academy. Not so easy. They have been renovated and unless you enter via the Princess Street Gardens, it is very difficult to find your way around from one to the other. Eventually we found what we were looking for and the galleries were quiet.
I was keen to see ‘Rocks & Rivers, a display of thirteen works from the private collection of Asbjörn Lunde, New York, which are on long-term loan to the Scottish National Gallery. I don’t think I quite got the lighting and colour right on these shots:
Giuseppe Camino’s ‘Forest with raptor’ and Alexandre Calme’s view of Jungfrau
After this, a quick coffee and it was back to the flat to pick up the last few things and head south. As soon as we were in the Southern Uplands there was torrential rain a lot of water on the road which lasted all the way down. We passed one accident and left the motorway near Warrington as there were huge tailbacks ahead. We made very slow progress but are now sitting in front of a warm fire.
The last two weeks have been very busy around work and home so I have not had any time for venturing further afield. However, I have been planning and making arrangements for next summer’s US coast to coast drive. We will pass through several states we have not been to before in addition to some more familiar ones. I have never visited Wyoming before so it was a happy coincidence to come across two books: one in a secondhand bookstore and one in the public library which have served as an introduction. Mark Spragg’s ‘Where Rivers Change Direction’ is an account of his growing up on one of the oldest ranches in the state, situated on the Continental Divide (we last crossed this further south in 2013 on Route 66). He describes the harsh winter weather, learning about horses, his parents and being mentored by an old cowboy. He has also written novels and I must seek them out.
I have read some of Annie Proulx’s novels and last month found her non-fiction account of searching out and building a property in Wyoming. ‘Bird Cloud’ is enthralling. She writes about the natural history of the area she is building in, the people and the challenge of acheiving the house she wants. This is something we will be doing in a few years as we downsize a bit. Figuring out priorities (e.g library, studio) and what compromises to make will be hard and sometimes it does not sound like downsizing.
This afternoon’s drive was the familiar trip to Edinburgh. I noticed that the northbound bridge near M6 Junction 18 had had a ‘D” added to the ‘Vote Pies’ directive, putting it in the past tense. In Cumbria there were very high winds, low cloud and driving rain. The recent Indian Summer and very mild autumn (I still have roses blooming) made me think that in my childhood, this would have been snow. I recall standing on snow in my Brownie uniform at the village War Memorial on Remembrance Day. Over the border, the rain had gone, some blue sky and the late afternoon sun in the golden hour beloved of photographers made the hills glow. We had an appointment in Edinburgh early evening so could not wander around with the camera much at all. Here are a couple of shots in the Clyde Valley.
Just before West Linton, a huge skein of geese flew over and the clouds were pink. No time to stop for photographs unfortunately.
Motorway journeys around the northwest of England have been made a little more interesting in the last few years by the proliferation of Pie slogans on some of the bridges. ‘Pies your time is now’ is one and ‘Vote pies’ another. Those I see most frequently are on the M6 around junction 18 but I hear there are some at the northern end of the M57 at Switch Island and other places.
The journey home was otherwise uneventful and we are now relaxing with the dog in front of the fire, planning journeys in 2016.
The hawthorn and cow parsley were in full bloom as we left yesterday after James had finished work. As soon as we saw the M6, it was at a standstill heading north. Fortunately the new roundabout at the junction makes it much easier to turn round and head for the A50 which we did. The usual rush-hour Audis and BMWs were overtaking despite my reasonable speed for the conditions. Eventually we were over the Warburton Bridge and back on the motorway only to be slowed down again in South Lancashire due to an accident. We saw a coastguard boat heading north on a trailer and bizarrely for the time of year, a snow plough heading south. A few miles south of Tebay, the last hour of sunlight lit up the fells and there was a perfect rainbow which would have made a great photograph had I been able to stop. The rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived in Edinburgh in the late evening. Today was spent doing some essential shopping (getting drenched in the process) and getting organised for the journey to Skerray tomorrow. I have packed lots of books and the watercolours to keep me occupied if it rains. This evening will be spent in a more relaxing fashion, having dinner with some friends.