…in which I grease my towel with Scottish lasagne, pick the worst possible campsite and receive a stinky visitation.
Kirk Yetholm to Lamb Hill, 16 miles. Jump to Journal.
There wasn’t much open in Berwick for breakfast by 6.55, which is when the bus leaves, but Kelso at 8 am is pie heaven. There’s also Greggs. The latter is useful as it opens early and you can sit indoors, handy if it’s a bit dreich.
Try Fostons round by the Abbey for a steak, haggis and Drambuie pie, if you’re lucky and they’ve made some. Their plain Scotch Pies are straightforward good value. (UPDATE: in September 2018 Fostons had tragically disappeared! It’s been taken over, apparently one of the original butchers still works there but it was a Sunday so I couldn’t check if they still do pies.)
More reliably a ‘Granny Jean’s Silver Medal’ is an authentic Scotch Pie that may be warm from the oven and will perfume your hands with unctuous lamb fat for the rest of the day. My favourite though is the Home Bakery Rothbury which sells a cornucopia of legendary comestibles including macaroni pies, lasagne pies (I kid you not) and the ultimately awesome Breakfast Pie – yes, a scotch pie with a breakfast in it. I stuck one of each in my pack and carted them off, cackling gleefully in summit feast anticipation, to Kirk Yetholm, where I noticed my towel was soaked in pie grease.
Lamb Hill is an awful campsite, deep, springy heather clumps and wet between them. I mistakenly thought all the Cheviotettes would be similar so just picked this one based on distance. It’s probably the worst of the lot to pitch a tent on. I was annoyed to find in the morning that the Yearning Saddle hut is just ten minutes further, if I were you I’d push on and camp on the grass around it. Or sleep in the hut if you don’t mind a narrow bench and it’s not already full. The view isn’t much poorer than from Lamb Hill. Mind the slippery deck.
Unless you’ve stayed in Berwick up by the railway station, you’ll get the bus to Kelso from the laughably-named Golden Square. This is just a bus stop, at the town end of the newer road bridge, on the cafe side not the pub side. According to the timetable you add three minutes to the bus time from the railway station, so the 06.55 from the station gets to Golden Square at 06.58. This seemed a long time for a bus to trundle a few hundred yards down an empty road, so I got there early. Please check all bus times, they change.
The fare to Kelso in October 2016 was £4.70. Kelso to KY cost me another £3.90, the timetables are online. The bus from Berwick stopped at the Woodmarket side of the Kelso multi-storey car park; for the bus onwards to KY you then have to walk through the passageway (inside which is a useful and warm public toilet) to the Horsemarket side. Ask locals if unsure.
The road walk out of KY is easy and could be done in the dark but at the junctions of Halter and Shielknowe Burns you need to decide between the ‘high’ and ‘low’ options. I went ‘high’ which didn’t seem challenging in this direction. Once I’d spotted the left turn down and across the bridge, I just bumbled along although I failed again to spot the Stob Stanes.
I walked this whole day in bright sunshine and navigation was straightforward – I just followed the fence. It did, however, quickly become obvious that reading the NTG backwards was going to get interesting going forwards.
Kelso was perishing on a foggy October morning and as I feel the cold this cast me down. How on Earth would I survive a Pennine Way in this? Scottish people breezed around in t-shirts as I huddled in Greggs with a large coffee and layers of hill gear. By the time the bus left I was shivering; this didn’t bode well. It was amazing how the weather improved up to KY. It was even more so to see from White Law the valleys below still thick with freezing fog while The Cheviot ahead was bathed in bright sunshine. And as soon as I got going I warmed up.
It was wonderful to sit on The Schil again, one of my favourite places, lavishly pied-up and in warm sunshine. A perfect brunch in a perfect spot. I was also blessed with a warm southerly wind. Which strengthened. And cooled. Which was, according to the forecast, due to blow right into my face for the whole of the first week. So much for the ‘prevailing wind’ argument for a northbound Pennine Way. In June, I’d walked south to north often pushing against bitter northerlies.
Tangled round the fence at King’s Seat I found a high visibility yellow pack cover, undamaged. I’m not fond of pack covers but I retrieved it as it looked untidy. It was clearly traditional for the Pennine Way on its first day to present me with a gift I don’t really like or need. I had a bad feeling this pack cover might eventually join the Rohan hat from Pennine Way One in my drawer at home, equally unused.
Darkness was falling at Lamb Hill and the whole area was hopeless for camping. I hopped over the fence into Scotland in the hope of improved terrain (not to mention legality) and found a boggy dip that took me slightly out of the stiff wind but was only a little less heathery.
For my first wild camp on The Way I pitched my brand new Trekkertent Stealth stupidly badly, the groundsheet on heather so springy I was virtually touching the ceiling. Just as I was trying for the umpteenth time to achieve some minimal tension in the flysheet I was assailed out of the drifting fog by a strong and acrid whiff of goat.
I’d read of the legendary wild goats of The Cheviot but never seen them; it seems in summer they keep a low profile among unfrequented corners of the massif. Now, in the quiet of October they were free-ranging. In fact this extremely large Billy with extremely large horns was free-ranging nearer and nearer my tent. His size and general demeanour were awesome, his smell even more so. I suggested in forthright language that he might consider departing. He ignored this advice and came aromatically closer.
Suddenly inspired, I pointed my arm in the style of a rifle and made banging noises. He snorted with goatish mirth and moved off. No doubt he was as much attracted by more interesting matters, such as nanny goats, as repelled by my unconvincing hunter impression. Throughout this interaction he’d made strange high-pitched bubbling noises and I was very glad I’d seen him in the rapidly fading daylight. I’d have found such odd sounds from an unidentified source disturbing in the dark, although perhaps not as disturbing as the sound of a mystery mammal munching my guys.