DAY 29: Gretna to Carlisle – 12.50 miles *total 405 miles through Scotland
I woke this morning in my cosy AirBnb room thinking, with only 9 miles to Carlisle, today was going to be like a half day. So I was in no rush to leave Scotland, as I dipping into my emergency breakfast porridge rations, then set off slowly for the milestone border. Stopping at Old Toll Bar the “last house in Scotland” for a coffee and to pick up (what turned out to be the tastiest ever) smoked salmon cream and cheese sandwich for lunch. And then began the obligatory photo roll call; photos of the signpost, the welcome to Scotland sign – where I met Laura who is cycling JOGLE (and probably as I type this, already half way to Cornwall) – then the welcome to England sign together with my own personal little ceremony that I wanted to perform at the border. Before finally crossing that line about midday, and walking back into England.
And immediately I was surrounded by nothing but concrete, as the skies above also started to turn grey… So when I spotted a pub on the other side of a river, even though I’d only been walking an hour, I felt compelled to stop. A pint of lime and soda later and I headed back out into the now raining English air, and thankfully soon found a side road putting me back amongst the farmland, hedgerows and trees. But of course, I had all the time in the world so when I spotted a public footpath leading down to the right, which my map confirmed lead down to a river which I could feasibility follow all the way into Carlisle, I thought why not…
Immediately I realised that with no definite path to follow, trying to navigate this wild farmland using just the dotted line on my app-map was going to be difficult. It was still drizzling and I wasn’t really wearing the right footwear for this wet uneven terrain but just often enough I caught sight of the river to my left, so knew I was roughly going in the right direction. But as the going got more difficult I was suddenly aware how much time I was wasting just going round in circles, so decided to head back to the road as soon as possible. Unfortunately the only thing now standing in my way… were about 20 large intimidating cows.
I could just about make out the stile on the other side of the field so breathing deeply I starting heading there… hoping the cows would stare all they like, but ultimately stay where they are so I could walk around them. Of course, it didn’t go quite to plan as all at once – like possessed zombies – they all began walking towards me. I continued slowly, looking down, keeping the river to my left so I knew I was going in the right direction. But suddenly they were approaching faster and by now had all joined up, moving en masse in a kind of semi circle and not stopping until they were about one metre to my side, a little in front and some behind. Torn between turning round and shouting at them (which, as they were so close, I was worried would send them scarpering in all directions including directly into me) I honestly thought they were going to herd me into the river. I just held my breath, said a prayer and kept moving forward with these 20 or so large wild animals hot on my heels. Petrified doesn’t even come close!
I finally made it to the stile and could almost feel their breath as I flung myself over as quickly as I could. Looking back to take a photo of them staring at me, I honestly felt lucky to be alive. I met a lady soon after walking her dogs and still shaking, I burst into tears… Asking her the best way to behave in a situation like that apparently I should have shown aggression in the first place because being so submissive meant they were always going to be in control, and were probably treating me like a dog that they wanted to herd out of their field. No more walking tracks for me today, I kept going in the rain on the side roads and finally arrived in Carlisle around 5pm. So much for my half day!
I easily found my hostel in the pretty city centre by the cathedral, but at the time it was hard to appreciate anything as unfortunately it was now raining pretty hard, I was soaking wet, covered in mud, my body arched all over and I was still traumatised from my moo run in. I was also starving, so as soon as I’d checked in I went in search of the Sawadee Thai Restaurant, recommended to me by the guy working at the hostel. I ended up ordering two yummy main dishes and rice (I was tempted to have beef 😱🐮😜 but didn’t in the end) so stupidly ended up spending as much on my dinner as I did on my dorm bed for the night! But hey, sometimes you just have to treat yourself. Welcome to England.