Adventure starts mid-July, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

St. Cuthbert’s Way

Wheat field near Melrose
St. Cuthbert’s Way is a long-distance walk of 62½ miles from Melrose, Scotland to Lindisfarne (Holy Island), England, supposedly retracing the footsteps of St. Cuthbert, a 7th Century monk who started his career in a Melrose monastery and died as a bishop in Lindisfarne.  St. Cuthbert’s Way passes through some lovely and varied countryside of the Scottish Borders, an area that none of George, Ann, Janet or I had explored on foot.
You may recall that last year, when George walked four days of LEJOG with me, Ann served as our driver, delivering us to our starting point each morning and retrieving us at a designated meeting point each afternoon.  Although she desperately wanted to walk with us this year, she reluctantly agreed to serve in the driver role.  Additionally, Ann booked a cottage for us near the halfway point of the walk, so we never had to drive more than 15 miles to and from the trail.
One of our goals was to limit the daily walks to 10 miles.  To do so we eliminated as much road-walking as possible and devoted our walking mileage to the best segments of the footpaths.  As a result, our total walking distance would be close to 50 miles.
Day 1 – Melrose to St. Boswells.
From Melrose Abbey, St. Cuthbert’s Way quickly ascends into the Eildon Hills, with something like a zillion feet of elevation gain over the first two miles.  Thinking that a difficult climb may not be the best way to start our adventure, I chose a more level route along the River Tweed for our first day.  The Scottish Borders had recently been pounded by weeks of rain, so we expected some mud, but knew we could navigate around the worst patches.  George and Janet enthusiastically endorsed following the river, even though it meant not actually joining the St. Cuthbert’s Way until Day 2.

A result of floods?

The footpath we followed was not heavily used, and the overgrown grasses were wet from the recent rains.  Descending to the river, we left the grasses, only to encounter more mud than we had anticipated.  A dog walker we passed advised that the footpath ahead was an impassable quagmire.  We decided to check it out ourselves rather than endure a long uphill to retrace our steps to a road. 
As we moved along the river, the footpath became increasingly swampy, until we reached the area where the dog walker had turned around.  The mud was deep – well over the tops of our boots.  We couldn’t see more than 50 yards ahead, though, so I elected to check out the trail further to see if it was possible to pass around the mud.  Knowing that my companions wouldn’t want to risk a muddy bath, I suggested they remain where they were until I returned.
Gingerly stepping to avoid the worst of the mud, I gained about 100 yards before concluding that it didn’t make sense to proceed.  Turning around to return to George and Janet, I noticed they were right behind me.  Janet had had difficulty with the long steps that I had taken through the deep mud, but George had been breaking off dead tree branches for her to use like stepping stones. 
Around a curve in the footpath ahead, I spied what appeared to be solid trail, and once again advised my companions to remain in place while I investigated the route ahead.  But by now, George was so much into his Sir Walter Raleigh routine, that he and Janet continued to follow along.
Although the mud seemed to go on forever, it was probably no more than a mile, and after 45 difficult minutes, we finally arrived at a dry trail.  Of course, by then, we were covered with mud.  An intersecting trail provided us with an escape from the river trail, and we ascended to Newtown St. Boswells, found a public restroom, and cleaned the mud from our hands and faces.  Ann drove past us as we walked along the road to Maxton, but she wouldn’t let us into the car until we had removed our boots.
Day 2 – Maxton to Crailing
Dere Street
I assured everybody that today’s walk would be free of mud.  Most of the route follows Dere Street, the 2,000 year old Roman road running in a straight line all the way to the English border.  The Romans built their roads to last, and although the original cobbles have long since been buried by nature, the footing is still good, even in wet conditions.  We might expect a little mud near stiles and gates, where cattle tend to congregate, but that’s true in every pasture. 
Well, OK, there was more than a little mud – but only at the stiles and gates.  And in the depressions where Dere Street crosses streams.  And in the woods where the sun doesn’t reach the ground.  And in a few other places where years of decaying vegetation reduced soil into compost.  And except for some areas of clay, most of the actual soil drained quite nicely. 
Compared to yesterday, though, today’s walk was fine, except for the 1½ mile detour due to the closed footbridge near Monteviot House.  Actually, the footbridge looked fine, but it was barricaded with police tape at both ends suggesting that recent floods may have caused hidden structural damage.  The mile-and-a-half detour wasn’t too bad, however, because it led us to the Harestanes Visitor Center, where we found public restrooms and picnic benches for our lunch. 
The route from the visitor center to rejoin St. Cuthbert’s Way beyond the barricaded bridge wasn’t totally without doubt.  George inquired at the visitor center, and was advised that the only available route was for us to follow a road until reaching a highway bridge – adding another three to four miles to our planned route, and bypassing some of the best scenery.    I knew there had to be a better way, and suggested we follow a quiet lane 300 yards to the Monteviot House.  I remembered seeing the house last year, and it’s only 50 yards from the footpath we wanted.  After following the lane for 200 yards, we encountered as sign advising us that that the Monteviot Estate was private property and entry was prohibited.
The Monteviot House is an enormous, old Scottish manor.  Like many manors, maintenance costs are extreme, so it is opened for tours in July while the owners travel to Spain or some other exotic location.  But this is August, and tourists are excluded.
“No problem,” I proudly assured George and Janet.  “If we are confronted by a landowner, I’ll just tell him in my American accent that we’re lost.  That always works.  But George, you’ll need to keep silent so you don’t blow our cover.”
Approaching the house, I noticed video cameras aimed in every direction.  I just hoped they weren’t accompanied by guard dogs.  With the stealth of burglars, we slinked past the house, turned left at the driveway and walked another 50 yards to a point where the St. Cuthbert’s Way crosses the driveway.  Our pictures may be in every post office in the UK, but we successfully turned the recommended 3-mile detour into a 350 yard adrenaline-filled stroll.
Undamaged footbridge
over River Teviot
The rest of the walk was without incident, except for when George’s GPS showed we were heading due east and mine showed we were headed due north.  Unable to reconcile the differences, we merely followed the trail markers.
Jeff and Katy (note the guitar)
Continuing on, we encountered Jeff and Katy, who were walking to Edinburgh, unencumbered by either maps or GPS.  Instead, they were relying on route markers and instinct, which have obviously served them well since they had just completed walking the 274-mile Pennine Way.  Jeff was carrying a guitar; Katy, a ukulele.  They apparently didn’t have room for maps.
The rain commenced just as we arrived at Crailing, where Ann was waiting for us.
Day 3 – Morebattle to Yetholm
Most of the way between Crailing and Morebattle is along roads, so we elected to skip that portion and walk from Morebattle.  The guidebook describes the section from Morebattle to Yetholm as being among “the hardest of the whole walk.  It includes a sustained climb to over 1300 feet on Wideopen Hill, with a number of steep sections.”  The guidebook recommends an alternative road walk “during very severe weather conditions such as heavy snow, or in mist if you are unsure of your navigational skills.”  Hmmm.  One GPS reports east and one reports north.  How much more unsure can one be of navigational skills?
Half-way plaque marking highest
point on St. Cuthbert's Way
I suggested to Janet that she might not be comfortable on this section of the walk, but she wanted to continue on, so Ann dropped all three of us at the trailhead, and we ventured onto the wild moorland. 
As it turned out, the route was clear.  The steep hillsides drained water quickly, so there was no mud.   The views were outstanding and we made good time, arriving at Yetholm well before the appointed time for meeting Ann.  George telephoned Ann to advise her of our early arrival, and with only a short distance to travel, she arrived soon thereafter.  Fortunately, though, our drinks had already been poured, and we were heading into the pub’s beer garden when Ann arrived.
Day 4 – Yetholm to Hethpool
Another fine day
This was to be another difficult day with steep ascents onto the open moorlands, but except for losing the trail inside a thick plantation forest, the day was without incident.  It was also a short 5-mile day, chosen because the only alternative was a much longer 13-mile day with 1900 feet of elevation gain. 
Hethpool, today’s destination, lies on the only road between Yetholm and Wooler which intersects St. Cuthbert’s Way.  Not knowing the trail conditions, we didn’t want to commit to walking to Wooler, because there would be no retreat once past Hethpool.  Further, the terrain precluded cell phone reception, and we would be unable to contact Ann to update her on our progress.
Shortly before reaching Hethpool, we were lamenting our decision to make this a short day.  We moved along so quickly, that we reached Hethpool more than an hour ahead of time.  Clearly, we could have made the entire 13 miles to Wooler today.
Hethpool after the rain
But we didn’t lament our decision for long.  Just as we arrived at Hethpool, the sky opened up with a heavy rainstorm.  There are no facilities at Hethpool, so we couldn’t get out of the rain.  Instead, we took refuge and had lunch under the canopy of a row of trees along a country lane – the canopy effectively preventing the rain from reaching us.  When the rain finally subsided, we started walking down the 2-mile lane to Westnewton only to be intercepted by Ann driving in to meet us.
Day 5 – Hethpool to Wooler
Moorland heather
This would be another day committed to open moorlands.  Although there were a few steep ascents, most of the walk was on a high ridgeline.  The terrain was quite similar to that found on the Pennine Way – not surprising since the Pennine Way ends at nearby Yetholm.  Accordingly, I expected some bogs as I experienced last year on the Pennine Way.
What bogs?
While on the ridge, we encountered a solo walker coming from the direction we were headed.  He advised us that the route ahead was terribly boggy, and would be difficult for us to get through.  He pointed to his own boots covered with mud, and cautioned us against attempting the route.  He’s been hiking these hills for a long time – he’s 80 – and he did St. Cuthbert’s Way in 3 days.  The fact that this was our 5th day, and that we weren’t even wearing gators was all the evidence he needed to conclude that we were unprepared for what we were attempting.  He strongly recommended that we detour to a road and walk the road to Wooler.
Still no bogs
Preferring to rely on maps and our own experience than on his unsolicited advice, we thanked him for the information and continued on.  George, Janet and I unanimously concluded that he was nothing more than a bag of wind, and there was no reason to believe his trail description, although Janet was willing to cut him some slack due to his age.  My response is that even 80-year olds can be jerks, and he was living proof of that.  Indeed, the condition of the footpath was not nearly what he described – except for Day 3, the path was in the best condition we encountered, with only a few small boggy spots.
Had he been talking about the weather, we may have believed him.  Just as we arrived in Wooler, the downpour began.   But Ann was waiting there with our chariot.
Day 6 – Holy Island
The access to Holy Island is by causeway which is under water twice a day during high tide.  Based on the tide tables, the causeway would be usable today between 10:40 am and 5:00 pm. We would not be able to walk from Wooler to Lindisfarne in time to catch the low tide.  (We might have been able to get across the causeway before 5:00 to see the island, but if we did, we would then be trapped on the island.)

Priory ruins on Holy Island

Ann had been able to reserve the cottage for only 6 nights.  We originally planned to drive to George’s and Ann’s home after walking from Wooler to Lindisfarne, and to return tomorrow to visit Holy Island when the tide was out.  The weather forecast for tomorrow is heavy rain.  After weighing all the factors, we decided to forego the walk from Wooler to Lindisfarne (most of which was either on roads or through pastures), and drive straight to Holy Island.  Crossing the causeway at low tide, we walked around the island, visited the priory, had lunch at a nice hotel, and then returned to the mainland before the incoming tide covered the causeway.
We then drove back to George’s and Ann’s home, where we found a refrigerator full of beer.




(c) 2012 Ken Klug

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This posting will self-destruct on or about August 25.

Church in Forres
Some years ago, a mountain guide I know, who is also a great writer, told me that nobody wants to read about the ordinary mountain climb.  He said that unless you have a near-death experience, nobody’s interested.  Fortunately for me, last year’s walk involved a “near-death” or some other exciting experience every day, so I had plenty to write about.  The past two days have been ordinary, so all I’m going to do is update you on our progress and show a few pictures.  I’m doing this because we will be without internet connection for the next two days in Edinburgh.  Then, Ann, George, Janet and I will set out to walk the St. Cuthbert’s Way from Melrose to Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island).  We’ll be returning to a rented cottage each evening, but it has no internet connection.
I’m sure we’ll have a few interesting tales to write about on our walk, but I won’t be able to post them until August 25.

Nelson's Tower, Forres

So to update you on our progress to date:  On Monday, Janet and I drove along “The Malt Whisky Trail” and visited several distilleries.  We then returned to Forres, and walked through the town’s lovely gardens.  Today, we drove east and south through Aberdeen and St. Andrews, and now we are in Dunfermline.  The weather was bad today, so we got out of the car only a few times.  If I go into any more detail than I’ve just done, I would have to tell you what I had for breakfast, and nobody’s interested in that.  As I said, we have nothing to write about.  Here are some pictures, but this posting will self-destruct on or about August 25, when we return to Ann’s and George’s home and I hope to have something interesting to post.

Forres Park in Bloom
Wooden Piper
By the way, if you haven’t noticed, we’ve aborted our plans to continue on to John O’Groats, just like I did last year.  The area north of Inverness is mostly bleak and uninteresting, and driving all the way north on a boring road doesn’t make any sense.  Instead, we decided to be tourists and see some nice scenery.  For any of you who may have expected us to drive to Watten so I could walk the final 20 miles to John O’Groats, I should reiterate what I wrote last year about not being disappointed about the conclusion.  Besides, some things are better left unfinished.  Ask Schubert.


(c) 2012 Ken Klug

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 12, 2012 – Pitlochry to Forres

With some regret, Janet and I departed the hotel in Pitlochry and headed north, not really knowing where we might end up.  En route, Janet decided she would like to see the Caledonian Canal – the shipping canal that connects Fort William to the North Sea by way of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, providing North Sea fishermen a safe inland route avoiding the stormy seas to the east and west of Scotland.
Dalwhinnie Distillery
While driving towards the canal, we passed through the village of Dalwhinnie – home of the Dalwhinnie Distillery.  Guess what we did next.  After the distillery tour, we continued to head west to the Caledonian Canal, passing through the hamlet of Gairlochy.
There, I recognized the Dalcomera B&B, run by Heather and Nick Shore, where I stayed last year.  Wow, a chance for another reunion!!   You may remember the day from last year as being rainy, and my cold running full force.  Heather wasn’t expecting anybody to ring her doorbell at noon today, but she immediately remembered me.  After all, I probably came close to consuming all of Heather’s and Nick’s supply of Kleenex last year.  In any event, Heather was as gracious as always, and quickly brewed some tea, served in the garden.
Heather, Nick and Lost-a-lot
Heather and Nick are very knowledgeable about northern Scotland, and when I asked for a recommendation, they quickly responded that we should head for the Moray Firth east of Inverness – and not only because it was far from Gairlochy.  Specifically, they suggested Findhorn as a little fishing village with wonderful seafood.  There were no accommodations available in Findhorn, so Janet and I ended up at a lovely hotel in Forres, five miles from Findhorn.
In the hotel’s car park, I noticed an elegantly restored Chrysler 75.  Nobody was around, so I couldn’t get any information on her.  She had the largest, shiniest, most attractive headlights I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t tell if they were original, but if not, they were marvelous reproductions.  In any event, it's not something that you can actually ask a girl about. The wooden spokes on the wheels were absolutely superb – just imagine air swirling through the spokes as the wheels spin.  The leather trunk on the rear was just crying out to be stroked.  Oh, my goodness; I think I’m falling in love again.
 
 









(c) 2012 Ken Klug

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 10 & 11, 2012 – Moffat to Pitlochry

Enjoying Kateryna's Seat Again
Janet and I each had a place we wanted to visit before heading much farther north.  For me, it was Kateryna’s Seat – the serendipitous memorial bench I happened upon in Walkerburn just when I needed to sit down and massage my feet last year.  I am still convinced that if I hadn’t come across the bench when I did, my walk would have ended.  Owing my walk to that bench, I wanted to see it again, sit on it, and pay my respects to Kateryna, for whom the bench is named. 
The Falkirk Wheel
Janet wanted to see The Falkirk Wheel – that magnificent engineering boondoggle linking the Union Canal to the Forth and Clyde Canal.  After fulfilling our wishes, and giving Janet the chance to walk parts of both canals, we drove to the town of Pitlochry.   We both recalled visiting Pitlochry some years ago, but disagreed about whether we actually stayed there.
As luck would have it, we stumbled upon a luxury accommodation in a Victorian house with the unpronounceable name Tigh-Na-Cloich Hotel.  OK, the last word is pronounceable, but it doesn’t really fit.  The accommodation has none of the unpleasant trappings that we have come to expect from hotels.  It has the cozy feel of a guest house; but it also has a restaurant, so it’s really more than a guest house – a very upscale restaurant at that, with a menu that changes every day.  We had intended to stay one night, but upon actually seeing the property, we quickly changed to two nights. Now that we’ve had two dinners in the elegant restaurant, I wish we had more time to stay longer.   This is one of those serendipitous discoveries, at a bargain price – sort of like Kateryna’s Seat.
Since most of Friday had been spent driving, we needed to walk on Saturday.  For several weeks now Janet has been telling me that, having walked parts of the Southwest Coast Path, Offa’s Dyke Path, the Pennine Way, the Southern Upland Way and all of the West Highland Way (and now two canals), she thinks she could actually walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  Provided it doesn’t rain.  And provided she didn’t have to carry a heavy pack.  Or get any blisters.  There may have been a few other immaterial provisos, but she said she could do it.

View from Footpath
So today I decided to put her to the test.  I found a walk along the Rob Roy Way – 5 miles from Pitlochry to Strath Tay, with 800 feet of elevation gain – passing along a good trail, then a forest track, then through bogs and pastures – all to provide a sample of what a LEJOG walk would entail.  To my surprise, Janet’s confidence in being able to do walk LEJOG hasn’t wavered, although a few more provisos have been added: no uphills, no bogs, and no wet feet.  Oh, there’s one more thing:  the route must be obvious – she gets very uncomfortable if I have to check the map to be sure we’re headed in the right direction.  Otherwise, LEJOG is a piece of cake.
By the way, we returned to Pitlochry by bus. 
River Tay at Grandtully

(c) 2012 Ken Klug

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 3 – 9, 2012 – Somewhere near Newcastle, England to Moffat, Scotland.

When you read this posting, you might think that the reason we’ve been off the air the past few days is that we’ve been partying too much.  Actually, the real reason is that we’ve been without a WiFi connection for a few days.  Honest.  We have been partying, but only in the interests of sustaining Anglo-American relations.   As you may know, we aren’t really the partying type, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices to leave a good impression. 

St. Mary's Lighthouse
near Newcastle

We spent four delightful days with Lady Ann & Dr. George – including a reunion with Iain and Alex; a reunion with Tony and Sally; meeting new friends Harry and Ann; and enough touring in Northeastern England to make your head swim.  But the sea was far too cold for us to actually swim in it, so we learned that in England if the water is too cold, you just go “paddling” (immersing yourself in the water up to your knees).  When I was a teenager, we called it petting – you know, when you kind of start, but you just don’t go all the way.  But whatever you call it, we didn’t even get our feet wet.
Then, Janet and I headed north to Scotland.  Last year, when George & Ann kicked me out of their home, they sent me into the northern moors at Hadrian’s Wall, from which I passed through Bellingham, Byrness, Jedburgh and Melrose.  This year, we’ll be visiting Jedburgh and Melrose later when we walk the St. Cuthbert’s Way, so there was no reason for Janet and me to see them now; Bellingham and Byrness are primarily points along the Pennine Way, so there wasn't any compelling reason for us to visit them. 
Therefore, we diverted from last year’s route to go to Moffat, Scotland, for a reunion with Kenny and Joyce, Becky and Elliot, and Ann.  You may remember them from last year as persons I met on the West Highland Way.  Kenny was the driver while the others walked.  More specifically, you may remember Kenny as the one who kept buying me beers, and the others as the dancers outside the Rowardennan B&B while host Neil played his accordion.
Becky, Lost-a-lot, Janet, Peter,
Ann, Joyce, Kenny and Elliot
And what a reunion it was!  We all met at Becky’s and Elliot’s home, where I showed my world-famous slide show of My 1200 Mile Summer.  Then we all went to a wonderful Italian restaurant for dinner.  Unbeknownst to us, Becky had arranged for a local newspaper to run a story about our reunion, and after dinner, the photographer took a group picture to accompany the article.  Apparently there isn’t a lot of crime in small-town Scotland, so two Americans visiting with locals is quite a scoop.  That’s what makes Scotland so charming.  The article will be published a week from today, and Becky promised to send me a copy.  Stay tuned, because I’ll post a copy here.

Peter (center) with the other
 Moffat singers
The following day, Janet and I went walking along the Southern Upland Way, at least until we realized that we were getting too far from the pub, so we turned around.  That evening, we were invited by the Moffat group to join them at a local pub, where Peter (Ann’s friend who we met the previous evening) and several other locals were singing Scottish, Irish, and American folk tunes until 2:00 AM.  Everybody who’s anybody in Moffat was there – and since we were soon to have our picture and story in the local paper, we are now among Moffat’s movers and shakers.  We had a great time meeting everybody and singing along with the music.  And we hardly even slurred our words – but with our accents, nobody could tell.

 (c) 2012 Ken Klug


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012 – Thwaite

Keith had shown us on the map a lovely 8-mile loop walk from Thwaite to Keld, then to Muker and back to Thwaite.  The route gave Janet the opportunity to walk 3 miles of the Pennine Way and 4 miles of the Coast to Coast path – thus adding two more paths to her portfolio.
On Pennine Way towards Keld
With dark skies overhead, but little threat of rain, we set off for Keld.  We quickly ascended the hills outside of Thwaite, providing lovely views of Swaledale.  The footpath was muddy and rocky – a good introduction to the Pennine Way, which always seems to be one or the other. 
Cows on the Path
We passed dozens of sheep along the way, but when cows appeared on the trail, Janet had to confront her worst fears – at least until we get up to Scotland and encounter the Highland cattle.  You remember – the fuzzy ones with the big horns.  But these cows were docile, and Janet walked right through them as if she had been a dairy maid all her life.
Kisdon Force
From Keld, the Pennine Way passed Kisdon Force, a pretty little waterfall, and then crossed the Coast to Coast path, on which we turned towards Muker.  Outside of Muker we met two walkers, Ian and Keith (not the gamekeeper in Thwaite).  We had passed them earlier, as they were following the same route we were walking, only in the reverse direction.


Ian and Keith
We arrived back in Thwaite about 20 minutes before the rain arrived, and enjoyed cappuccinos under the umbrella of the tea room’s patio.





(c) 2012 Ken Klug

Thursday, August 2, 2012 – Thorpe to Thwaite

“Thank you for calling Hertz Customer Service.  My name is Nigel Smythe, how may I help you?”
“Good morning, Nigel.  My name is Ken Klug.  You may remember me as…”
“How could I forget you, Mr. Klug?  What can I do for you?”
Expired Road Tax Sticker
“Well, Nigel, there may be a little problem.  It seems that the road tax sticker affixed to the vehicle’s windscreen expired two days ago.”

“No problem at all, Mr. Klug.  Just return the vehicle and we’ll put the new sticker on it.  Where did you pick up the car?”
“Heathrow Airport.“
“Just return the car there, and they will take care of the problem.”
“I’m nowhere near Heathrow, Nigel.  I’m presently headed to Thwaite.  Just FedEx the new sticker to me there, and I’ll put it on.”
“Uhhh… we don’t actually have a sticker for that car because we are not going to re-register it.  So you must return it or the authorities may tow it.  Where are you now?  You can return it to another location.”
“We are in Huddersfield, heading north, through Keighley, Skipton, and then into the Yorkshire Dales, spending tonight in Thwaite.”
“I don’t know where those places are, Mr. Klug.  What are the postal codes?”
“How should I know what the postal codes are?  I’m not a postman.  I can give you the postal code for the hotel in Thwaite at which we are staying.  It’s DL11 6DR.”
“Ah, yes.  I see it.  The closest Hertz location is Middlesbrough.  Just return the car to Middlesbrough, Mr. Klug.  I’ll give you the address.”
“Middlesbrough??!!.  That’s at least 40 miles in the wrong direction.  I’m headed to Thwaite.  Just have somebody deliver another car to me there and take back this one.”
“I’m sorry, but we don’t have anyone in Middlesbrough who can deliver a car to you.  You need to return the car, Mr. Klug, or it will be impounded by the authorities.”
“You mean I’m driving a fugitive car?  Oh no.  That makes me an outlaw – another Dick Turpin.  Maybe if I turn myself in they’ll go easy on me.  I’m just going to the nearest police station right now.”
“No! NO!  Don’t do that, Mr. Klug.  I’ll try to find a closer location.”
“Nigel, the way I see it is that this really isn’t my problem.  This is Hertz’s problem.  Why don’t you come up with a solution and call me back.  In the meantime, I’m heading north.”
Nigel called me back 15 minutes later.  “OK, Mr. Klug.  We’ve solved the problem.  We will have someone from a nearby location deliver a replacement car to you.  But the only car available has a manual transmission.”
“A manual transmission?  Nigel, I’m having enough trouble keeping this car in the left lane.  Now you are expecting me to shift with my left hand?  I think I better turn myself in to the police.”
“NO!  NO!  Wait, we’ll find another solution.”
Lost-A-Lot and Keith
Two hours later, Janet, I and our fugitive car arrived in Thwaite.  While in the pub enjoying refreshments, guess who walked in.  No, not Nigel.  It was Keith, the gamekeeper from the Miller estate who last year drove me from Thwaite to Keld so I wouldn’t have to repeat the three-mile walk I had done the previous day.  We had a nice reunion over a few beers, and he showed me on the map a good walk for Janet and me to do tomorrow.
Later, during dinner, Nigel arrived with a new car.  He had driven all the way from Manchester, approximately 2½ hours away.  He handed me the keys to the replacement car, retrieved the fugitive, and drove off, heading away from the police station.

(c) 2012 Ken Klug

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 – Thorpe and Dovedale


Fire Safety
The plate affixed to the hallway door outside our room reads “Fire Door.  Keep Shut.”  Presumably that doesn’t include times when people are passing through it.  Perhaps an exception also applies when the door is propped open by a fire extinguisher.   I don’t have a lot of experience with hotel fires, so I wasn’t sure if I should close the door.  So I didn’t.

Firing Safety




I also don’t have a lot of experience with being fired at, but I took this sign and the adjacent flag seriously. 



Red Flag Warning

Any doubts I had about the flag were removed upon hearing gunfire from the top of the hill we had planned to climb.  Going around the hill seemed like a better idea.  So did going back to our room and hiding under the bed covers, but we soldiered on, circumnavigating the hill, with the sound of gunfire resonating around us.
 
The Hills are Alive with ...
These are the sorts of hills better suited for the sound of music than the sound of gunfire. 





Janet Being Stile-ish

Leaving the gunfire behind, we entered the valley of the River Dove – or as known locally, Dovedale.  A good trail follows the river for approximately 3 miles in a park-like setting.  I walked the trail last year with Mick and Gayle, and knew Janet would enjoy it – especially if we didn’t get shot.


Log with coins


Along the trail we came across several logs into which literally hundreds of coins had been hammered.  I wonder what motivates people to hammer coins into a log – but then I also wonder what motivates people to toss coins into a wishing well.  Maybe the people who passed by the log were wishing they wouldn’t get shot, too.



(c) 2012 Ken Klug


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 – Much Wenlock to Thorpe

The day dawned with heavy cloud cover and light rain.  Today’s destination was Thorpe, in Dovedale, but there was no hurry because at least one of us wouldn’t be walking in the rain.  With no need to arrive at Thorpe early, we detoured to Kenilworth to visit its famous castle.
Kenilworth Castle
From its origins in the 12th century under the reign of King Henry I, Kenilworth Castle has undergone a number of additions and architectural changes, and over the ensuing five centuries became a center of political intrigue and scandal.  In 1210, King John greatly reinforced the castle by flooding the surrounding lands and turning the castle into an island.  So reinforced, it withstood a six-month siege in 1266 by the troops of Henry III as he suppressed an uprising of rebellious barons housed in the castle, until they were ultimately starved out.  Although the rebels lost some weight during the siege, it was nothing compared to their weight loss when the King had them beheaded.

Private Garden Made for a Queen

Three centuries later, Robert Dudley took possession of the castle and spent buckets of money remodeling it, all to impress Queen Elizabeth I, whom he apparently sought to marry.  Although he was much older than the Queen, he was still “a favorite” of hers.  Unfortunately the Queen was deterred from marrying him, partly because he was a commoner, and partly because he was already married – at least until his wife was one day found dead with a broken neck at the bottom of a staircase.  Nobody charged the wealthy Dudley with a crime, of course.  Still, there were enough doubts about the cause of death that any thoughts the Queen may have had of marriage were set aside by the scandal.
Castle Interior
Henry V is said to have received a gift of tennis balls from the French King at Kenilworth Castle – an event recounted by Shakespeare.  The gift so insulted Henry that he declared war on the French.  Perhaps the balls were the wrong color.
Having heard more history of Kenilworth Castle than I can keep straight or than you care to have me relate, Janet and I returned to our car and drove to Thorpe, where we were staying at the Peveril of the Peak Hotel.  You may remember the Peveril from last year as the very upscale (and expensive) property frequented by the well-heeled beautiful people. 

Dirty Floor Grout

This year, things were a little different.  The room rates were reduced dramatically – as was the quality.  We found mold around the bathtub, dirty grout between the floor tiles, a missing handle cover on the water faucet.   From the prix fixe menu, I ordered lamb shank, which was dry and over-cooked; the pan-fried vegetables were mushy and unpalatable, as if they had been left in a steamer too long.  Four large tables were occupied by several dozen clients of a large walking-tour company, but Janet and I were the only independent diners.   I was saddened to see what had become of a very lovely hotel in such a short time.
Later in the evening, I called my good friend King Arthur to relate my disappointment.  “Yes, ‘tis a pity,” said the King, “all a result of an errant staff.  It seems that last year, an inattentive staff allowed a man to enter the dining room without shoes.  Imagine that – dining in his stocking feet!!  Well, decorum was maintained at the time, but word soon spread that mere commoners were taking over the Peveril, and society’s elite just stopped coming.  The hotel has recently been taken over by a walking and hiking company which brings its large groups into the hotel.  They are trying to put things right, and may do so, as long as their clients wear shoes in the dining room.”
“Allowing a guest to dine in socks?  Absolutely appalling,” I replied.  “What could the staff have been thinking?”

(c) 2012 Ken Klug


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012 – Much Wenlock


Meeting in the Town Square
After last night’s dinner with Erik, Margeret, Bob and Pam, it was hard to imagine as good a day as yesterday.  But today was another fun day in Much Wenlock.   The day started with our joining the Much Wenlock walking group for their regular Monday morning walk.  As we waited in the town square, clouds overhead produced a few sprinkles and threatened more.  But nothing could dampen the warm welcome Janet and I received when two of the hike leaders, Melinda and Ken, introduced us to the group.  I remembered some familiar faces from last year, and others were new to me, but I had more trouble remembering names.  One lady remarked that this was only her second walk with the group, to which Janet responded, pointing to me, “His too!”

The walkers break themselves into three groups, based on perceived abilities:  striders, steppers, and strollers.  I knew right away that Janet and I were striders – after all, we had just walked 14 miles around Hay-on-Wye on Saturday.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The striders are called that for a reason –and I could barely keep up.  Properly, we should have joined the steppers, but after last night’s food and drink, joining the strollers would have been smarter. 

You may remember Much Wenlock as the birthplace of the modern Olympics.  Just imagine the deluge of TV reporters from all corners of the world who are now covering the London Olympics coming to Much Wenlock to tape background reports.  I’m told that when one reporter said he was reporting from a small village 40 miles west of London, the locals cringed – partly because the distance is closer to 100 miles, partly because the direction is closer to northwest than west, but mainly because Much Wenlock is a town rather than a village.  I’m not sure of the difference, but it’s apparently very important to the locals.  I am quite certain that last year I, too, referred to Much Wenlock as a village, and offer my sincere apologies.

At the Tearoom

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t notice the walk much – so keen was I on just talking with the villagers… I mean townspeople.  But after the walk we were invited to join them for their customary after-walk tea and scones.  So let’s get this straight:  officially, the group is called Walking for Health.  After a good walk, they retire to a tea room for cream tea, scones and clotted cream.  Hmmm.  You know, I could get used to that.





Wenlock Priory
Afterwards, Janet and I toured the ruins of the Wenlock Priory (largely dismantled when Henry VIII split with the church and seized its assets); and the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Wroxeter (abandoned in the decades following the Roman withdrawal from Britain).  The historic ruins were interesting, but I’m going to remember my return to Much Wenlock for the same reason as I remember my first visit:  its people and the warm welcome they gave to us visitors.  The townspeople (see, I got it right) are superb ambassadors for their community, and have good reason to be proud of themselves and their community’s place in history.

(c) 2012 Ken Klug

Sunday, July 29, 2012 – Hay-on-Wye to Much Wenlock

Today was one of those very special days you remember forever.  It started with an email from Erik—you may remember him as one of the walkers I first met on the Pennine Way last year, and with whom I walked for 3 days until he left the Pennine Way at Tan Hill.  Erik is from the Netherlands, and his email said that he and his wife, Margeret, were in Hay-on-Wye!! 


Surprising Reunion
What are the odds that we would be in the same small Welsh town on the same day??  I quickly made contact and Janet and I shared good memories together with Erik and Margeret over coffee.  Erik obtained permission from his hotel for me to show him and Margeret my now world-famous slide show on its TV.  It was a delightful, if rather short, reunion.
After saying goodbye to Erik and Margeret, Janet and I set off for Kington, Knighton and Craven Arms.  At Knighton I pointed out the restaurant where I had stumbled upon Bob and Pam after meeting them on the trail last year. 
At Craven Arms, we toured the 13th fortified manor house known as Stokesay Castle.  Jack Frost had toured it last year, and gave it a high recommendation.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or energy to tour it last year, so made up for it this year.  Last week, at Stonehenge, Janet and I purchased an English Heritage membership, allowing us free entry into all the English Heritage properties.  Stokesay Castle is one of those properties, and we have already saved more in entry fees to English Heritage sites than the cost of membership fee, and we are barely 10 days into our 6 week trip.  The membership has proved to be a good buy.

Pam, Bob, Margeret, Lost-a-lot, Janet & Erik

We arrived in Much Wenlock in late afternoon, staying at the same B&B I stayed in last year.  We concluded the evening with dinner at a local pub, with Erik, Margeret, Bob and Pam all joining us.   As you might guess, we had a cracking good time.



(c) 2012 Ken Klug