Monday 14th August 2006 - a 'wind-down' day hill-bagging in the Borders
Twenty days of walking the Pennine Way. Now over, and real-life had to be faced. However, I had long since planned to savour every last drop of the taste of successful completion of the walk, and weeks before I had booked us an extra night in Kirk Yetholm Youth Hostel. We had never bagged any Scottish Marilyn hills before, so we knew we would not want to leave the country without climbing at least one. Myke G6DDQ was returning south to his native Lancashire today, but Essex-cum-Scotsman James M0ZZO was also staying a second night. James kindly offered to transport us around in his famous McGinty Mobile - an old Ford Fiesta with over half a million miles on the clock. In fact this car reminded me of a famous Trigger line from 'Only Fools And Horses', for it had had five new engines, twelve new wheels and two new chassis!
The first port of call was Black Hill GM/SS-253. We drove out via Kelso and towards Galashiels before heading for the small town of Earlston. From here James drove us along increasingly rutted and pot-holed farm tracks to park at a point ENE of the hill, NT604382. A short walk south down another track brought us to the open meadow, gently ascending towards the hill. The hill itself was well defined, steep and narrow ahead of us, sticking up all on its own, rather like the summits of Slemish in Northern Ireland, or Shutlingsloe in Cheshire. Finally, we reached the steep pull, and for the first time noticed that James seemed to be 'flagging' somewhat. Jimmy and I, now well-conditioned after three weeks of continuous Pennine walking had strode out at pace without a thought for our friend! Jimmy marched on ahead, up the steep Easterly flank of Black Hill while I held back and strolled with James at a more considerate pace.
On the pleasant summit with fine views, we set up our equipment and all made our contacts. Many thanks to the following stations, all worked on 2m FM with 2.5 watts:
The next target was a recommendation by James - Sell Moor Hill GM/SS-211. He had already activated this one with Myke G(M)6DDQ in recent days, but was content to reascend it to allow Jimmy and myself to get our second Scottish marilyn ticked off. The first job was to return to proper roads and then to get through the tedious heavy traffic in Galashiels. How we had not missed traffic queues on the Pennine Way! James recalled his parking spot on the B6362, due north of the summit trig point, from where the easiest approach was to be had. This was a simple plod of about a mile, gradually uphill through rough grassy moorland.
After a few false starts persuading the beam to stand up in the stiff breeze, we were able to get going again and making contacts. James elected not to, insistent on maintaining his 100% Uniques record in the SOTA Database. (That is, James has only ever activated an individual summit once. He's never made a return visit to any of them!). In fact, once we were underway, he promptly disappeared, trying to get back to his car and well out of the activation area so that he could speak to us on his hand-portable transceiver and claim some chaser points! Which he did. Many thanks to the following stations:
It was turning into a warm and pleasant late afternoon in the Scottish Borders. We assessed that we had sufficient time and energy in reserve to make a third summit before returning to Kirk Yetholm for a shower, change and a meal. The next choice was straightforward, since the hill that lies right next to Kirk Yetholm itself, had so far not received a visit from James. So, the McGinty Mobile was turned back towards that Pennine Way terminus village, and then around the network of narrow winding lanes around the flanks of the hill.
James found that he could get his motor part way up one of the farm tracks, and found a suitable parking spot opposite a large tractor garage. From here, we continued up the farm track on foot, and it seemed steeper and further than what the map indicated. Nonetheless, we were soon up at the trig point, and enjoying the lovely views, and the lovely weather. As were many cows and sheep that were also present at the trig point! This area was also under the shadow of the large communications mast on Linton Hill, which threatened to overload our radios, so we adjourned to a nearby swelling in the ground that was free of RF and cattle, and set up there instead.
Many thanks to the following stations, all worked on 2m FM, the first with 2.5 watts, and the remainder with 0.5 watts as my battery threatened to expire!
And so the radio aspect of our Pennine Way adventure was finally over too. We thanked James for giving us this opportunity to activate some Scottish summits, and returned to Kirk Yetholm for some food. During the second contact, with Derrick GM4CXP, we had been chatting, and ended up inviting him over to the Border Hotel for a drink. Sure enough, later on at the pub, Derrick arrived and had a couple of jars with us and a good chat. The food was good again, this time it was the excellent homemade Cock-a-Leekie soup, followed by beef bourginon. This was enjoyable washed down by copious quantities of the Border Ale.
Tuesday 15th August 2007 finally dawned, and James had very kindly offered to drop us back at home in Macclesfield on his way home to Harwich, Essex. All for the price of a coffee and a sandwich at the services. Aren't friends brilliant? The coming days brought interviews with the local radio station, two local newspapers, a surprise homecoming party and the gift of some specially engraved tankards, recording our achievement. Just before awakening each morning, for the next two weeks, I was happily dreaming about the day's walking to come, and then feeling horribly disorientated upon realising I was in my own bed, at home, and not going for a walk. I had not realised how much my body had got used to the routine. The next four months would be spent chasing and collecting in all the sponsor money, kindly pledged by our friends, family, locals in the Macclesfield pubs and at football matches, and by radio amateurs across the UK.
At a presentation in December, we were pleased to hand over the sum of £1412.36 to Friends for Leisure, with our local M.P. Sir Nicholas Winterton stepping in as master of ceremonies. And with that, the Pennine Way experience was finally ended. Well not quite. It still forms the major stimulus to most of our bragging and story-telling in pubs during and after hiking expeditions. And so it should!