Home on the range ……….
After nearly 8 weeks away including a Himalayan mountain race and almost 2 weeks in Cyprus followed by several weekends in London I finally had a free weekend to enjoy the Scottish Borders and its beauty, and I have to say absence makes the heart grow fonder !! I am lucky to live in a place where beauty is everywhere , you cannot turn a corner without seeing a view fit for a postcard , it may not have the epic grandeur of the Highlands but its in every way its equal in beauty and way more runnable if you crave great trails yet don’t want huge mountains and this weekend I craved just that .
On Thursday night I sat down and began to plan a run , one that would take me over my favourite local hills and trails and on to the summit of the extinct Volcano that fills the view from my houses every window. I am lucky enough to live in a converted steading next to a working farm between Hawick and Melrose , sitting high on a hill I wake up to the most glorious views imaginable every morning , its inspiring to say the least. My planned run would have an escape route at 20 miles if I wasn’t feeling the love as this is often when my boredom threshold is hit , if I was buzzing I would continue to the Volcano and make it 31 miles in total.
Friday was a beautiful autumn day , soft light and sunshine , unfortunately it was also one that I spent looking out my office window stuck at the Uni until after dark !!! , I awoke on Saturday to gale force winds and light rain , I sat waiting for it to break as the forecast said it would be intermittent and eventually it did , I headed straight out the door , jumped my fence into the fields and headed to the Minto Hills ,after a few fields , a 5 bar gate and a bull I soon topped out on the first summit before heading over the sheep trods to the second , the view here is amazing , you can see the Eildon hills over at Melrose from here and on a summer’s night its got to be one of the most dreamy views in all the borders , from the second top I headed high up the fields to gain height and followed a horse trail over the hills to Ancrum , the Scottish Borders is horse trail heaven , they are everywhere !! in the Borders horse riding is huge and nobody who grows up here escapes it , some time in their life they will ride a horse , even I was schooled in the equestrian arts way back in my youth. Its been a long time since I have been on a horse but now I appreciate it for the amazing trail system that I run on most weeks.
Some times I can’t believe there is no real trail running culture here , yes there are Kenny , Billy and the hardcore hill running beasts , but there is no-one really out hitting these trails … they are beautiful , accessible and 95% runnable , you can go far , climb hills that are hard but never to steep to require a walk , just drop a gear and slowly grind your way to the top. The scope for trail running events has to be huge , the horse trails are epic and there is no access problems , we are already the most travelled to county in the UK for our epic mountain biking so why no trail runners !!! maybe soon …….
After skirting Ancrum I dropped down low and followed the bank of the river Teviot back along the valley floor before I began a steep climb up to Fatlips Castle , this is an old Pele tower and has the most outstanding view from its top .The castle is said to have obtained its unusual name from the habit of the members of the house to greet guests with less discretion than was considered decent at the time. One of the pleasures of a visit to Fatlips used to be that “every gentleman, by indefeasible privilege, kisses one of the ladies on entering the ruin. definitely my kind of castle … 🙂 …… check the view out , I made this a few years back and required me to stitch over 100 images together.
There has recently been a £200,000 grant for its renovation and when I approached I discovered there had been a large access road cut through the forest in to it , normally I would go crazy at this kind of scar but this time it’s for good reason so I followed the new trail to the castle.I stopped here for 5 mins to enjoy the ambience.I looked at my Garmin and I had hit the magic 20 miles , from here I could make it home in 3 miles or I could head south to Ruberslaw the extinct Volcano adding an additional 11 miles , I was having such a good time that I had to think for the whole of 10 seconds , fuck it !! up the Volcano.Onwards !! , it’s a cracking climb up and has a full 360 degree vista of the Borders from its summit , on a cold winters day you can almost see the sea , it’s also reason I get crazy druids at my door !!! but that’s another story ……
The wind was picking up at this point and I decided to get moving , it was pretty much a slow descent for about 3 miles before a long slow climb followed by a very steep finish on the Volcanoes summit and by the time I hit the ascent path it was blowing a gale force wind right in my face , I normally run this path , its steep then it contours nicely then steep again but the wind necessitated walking and by the time I reached the top it was FIGHTING!!! I could hardly stand up ! I also noticed a huge black horizon line heading for me across the fields , a storm was coming !!! I didn’t stay long , just enough to take in what I been missing for these last few weeks , I was buzzing at where I live , it was just breathtaking !! peaks , rolling hills , forests , rivers , fields all stretched out before me …….. beautiful with a capital B !!!!!! The storm hit me with 5 miles to go but I didn’t care , I pushed on and soon I could see my house , I ran the final field and jumped my fence before sitting in the rain on my patio …… that was what Ultra running was all about for me , a mix of grand adventure, a beautiful journey ran on my feet , under my own power and as nature intended it !!!
I did a bit of tweeting along the way and many thanks to all who were following my progress , it’s always nice to have you onboard !!
remember all my blog posts are my own experiences and my interpretation, if you feel I’m wrong say so in the comments and we can also learn from your experience ………”