It's my holidays and on Wednesday the rain stopped! We've been lucky in this corner of Scotland compared with the poor souls flooded out of their homes further south. The temperature was around 4 degreesC (39f), but it was dry, so I headed to the Borders town of Duns to join up a couple of local cycle routes into a micro adventure.
The first three miles out from Duns were lovely. Smooth rolling roads that I like so much, although the cloud was building ominously and there was a noticeable drop in temperature when the sun disappeared.
There must be at least a hundred years of different building in this wall. Why, oh why, did they use common brick for the repair? but at least its a decent job. This bridge was pretty impressive too. They are a good guide to when you are leaving farmed areas and entering into a private estate.
These large private estates carry all sorts of connotations that tend to be fostered by the "Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre" style romantic dramas. The social disparity was certainly in abundance, but these estates also provided secure jobs and many owners built housing for their workers and tenant farmers. A few may have done this with genuine philanthropic intention. For many however it was to boast about their wealth and show off to the other landowners. Whatever your feelings, it has left us with some wonderful little hamlets.
Sinclairshill was my next junction with its beautiful cottages and schoolhouse. The stork seems to be a recent addition. I headed west with the Cheviot's summit, dusted with snow, over my left shoulder.
It was cold but I just kept on pedaling and admiring the views. I probably should have paid more attention to the road signs. After a couple of miles the road began to deteriorate (see below)! A bit of backtracking proved fruitless and, lacking a decent map, I decided to keep heading west until I found a major road and then try to figure out where I was. It was great, I've not had the pleasure of being lost for a long time!
Finally I popped back onto a signed road. The little bike signs are for the Borders Loop ( a 250 mile route).
I turned off before Fogo so can't report on it but the moss growing on the sign gives a clue to the general level of excitement.
The sun came back out as I cycled into a bit of woodland. You may think, "nice trees", I was thinking "shelter" to get some coffee and food into my cold and weary bones.
The suspicious look is "has the self timer worked?" The shelter amongst the trees was much appreciated and the coffee and scone hit the spot.
Back on the road and on my little route map I had pencilled in that there might be a few ups and downs. Oh yes! it was up and down. After Gavinton (the church in the distance) I turned back towards Duns and met this bonny cuddy. His red coat seemed to be a good fit so I can only assume he just had little legs. He was a friendly wee fellow.
Further on I came to a ford in the river. It probably wasn't too deep but those wet cobble stones and the speed of the flow made me think twice. Fortunately there was a little foot bridge a bit further down stream.
After the climb up from the ford I had planned to head north-ish to meet the main road back into Duns. I didn't really fancy this as it's a fast, narrow road and the sun was getting low making a bike a bit vulnerable. Fortune smiled and I found a little turning onto the Duns Scotus Way. This walking/cycling trail proved ideal. It was hard blaze and the boggy bits had wooden duckboards with little reflectors along the sides. The tight corners were even covered with a grippy paint!
The trail goes from the centre of town to to the new high school and beyond. Given the number of bike tyre tracks it seems to be getting the local kids cycling.
Back in Duns and I stopped to take a pic of this monument to John Duns Scotus. My understanding of philosophy has been mostly gained from reading 'Sophie's World' by Jostein Gaarder so forgive my lack of deeper knowledge. Duns Scotus was born in 1266 in Duns. He went on to a Franciscan order and eventually became one of the most important philosophers of the high middle ages. I basically struggle to understand his philosophy and I am tempted to agree with later philosophers who accused him of sophistry. (I have a lot of experience working for sophists!) For all that, Duns was obviously a clever lad and did well for himself. The people who didn't agree with him called his followers Dunces which became a synonym for being a bit thick.
Whist I'm spouting my opinions I also want it recorded that I think this 1960's sculpture of Duns Scotus is terrible.
A fine day out, a great wee adventure, and a bit of learning thrown in.