Waking up in Melrose, I think that all of us rushed to the windows to see what fate awaited us and whilst the sky was still thick with cloud cover, there were re-assuring signs of occasional sunlight. After the battering of the opening day, we all togged up appropriately with warm clothing and plenty of embrocation cream on the legs and headed down the driveway onto the A68 towards Jedburgh. With the wind now blowing with a touch of northerly on us, we barrelled down the A68 towards the hills of the Scottish borders passing through Earlstown, Newton St Boswells and Ancrum with signs to places such as Kelso, Coldstream and Hawick to fire the memories of famous Scottish Rugby players who herald from these tough, remote parts. For this second leg we were joined in the support van by Naomi Roper from St Andrews Youth Club who had travelled from Devon overnight to be with the team – a very welcome addition and one of the key architects of the journey.
As we approached the Scottish border, the roads certainly got tougher with ever longer hill climbs but the most epic of all was the 1400ft (420m) climb to the top of Carter Bar. Fortunately the favourable northerly meant that the climb was negotiable for all of us and we were joined at the top by hoards of Japanese tourists (all very keen to be photographed) and a lone piper on the border. After a quick stop for refreshments, we set off down Carter Bar on an epic road into the Northumberland National Park that saw speeds top 40mph for Magnus. From here on, the roads simply got tougher and tougher with long hill climbs and straight roads with only hill sheep for company!
The split in the A68 by Ridsdale took us over a throbbing stream and onto the home leg past Colt Crag Reservoir and on towards Corbridge. Magnus carried on through and ate into the next day’s miles but ran out of talent and willpower about 15 miles south of Corbridge as the fierce hill climbs got the better of him at the end of a long day. We all decamped back to Corbridge and made best use of a local coffee house before having pictures taken outside an aptly named St Andrew’s Church in the town – it’s surprising just how many St Andrews there are!
In the late evening as the skies became bruised once more we repaired to the wonderful environs of Gilchester Farm where Andrew & Sybile Wilkinson were quite simply the most perfect hosts, even arranging our very own soigneur to massage our aching limbs. Their daughter Flo was a real sweetie and insisted on making a donation – Flo you are a star, thank you!