Monday 7 March 2011

Southern Upland Way completed

After thirteen days I completed the Southern Upland Way on March 4. This was my second walk of this long distance path, the first being in August 2003. Despite the seasonal difference the weather was rather similar! Cool in August with rain and low cloud, warm in February with rain and low cloud. Of course it was colder this time around but not as wintery as I'd expected, with frosts only occuring on four nights and day time temperatures often reaching 12C. The landscape is greyer and more washed out looking than in August and I missed the green leaves of deciduous trees and the flowers - though there were many snowdrops (I reckon May is probably the best month for flowers and forest scenery). The main changes were nothing to do with the seasons however. Many of the coniferous forests along the way have been felled so there is more walking through cleared areas and along logging roads. Against that more deciduous trees have been planted to soften and break-up the regimented conifers and provide a better habitat for wildlife. And the conifers are escaping too. On many hills, especially in the east, self-seeded Sitka spruce and larch are spreading up the slopes. The other big change is the growth of wind farms. I can only remember seeing one back in 2003. This time I saw one or two every day and the path passes close enough to two of them to hear the blades turning. More are proposed. Less obtrusive are the increasing number of artworks dotted along the way.

Given the time of year I wasn't surprised that many facilities along the way were closed nor that I met no other long distance walkers and few day walkers. I was delighted to learn that there was accommodation in Cockburnspath at the eastern end of the route, something lacking in previous years. Given the lack of a cafe or pub as well this could mean a rather downbeat end to the walk. My last journal entry for 2003 is terse: "Rain. Long wait for bus". This time I stayed at the excellent Cockburnspath House B&B, which made for a relaxing end to the walk. (See Southern Upland for details of accommodation and facilities along the way - this is based in the Clachan Inn in St John's Town of Dalry, where I also stayed and can recommend).

I'm writing a route description for the Walk Highlands website and also a report on the gear I used for TGO so the Southern Uplands Way will be in my thoughts for a little while yet.

The photo shows Cove Harbour on the east coast near the end of the route.

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