Day 10 and the journey through the snow: from Carlisle into Scotland

Posted: February 12, 2013 by Ben Weber in Cycling, English, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Off into the mist

Off into the snow – the whole of northern England and southern Scotland is covered…

Carlisle was the city where I spent three years of my high school life at a boarding school called Austin Friars, up until I finished my GCSEs. It was good to be back in the town as I had never been there since I left the school. Those were… interesting years; the school was good, and I guess I grew up quite a bit after the torture of my first high school back in Lancaster. Played a lot of rugby and was half good until I got a clothes-lined in a tackle and lost confidence; then cross-country. I didn’t expect to remember anyone in this place though. and it was a shame that we were only passing through and didn’t get to see too much.

The route

The route for the day

The first big issue occurred in the morning when Paulo said that his knee was hurting too much and that it had been painful through the night. He decided that he would get a train to Edinburgh to go to a hospital there and meet us there when we arrived. Not much else that could be done really as definitely did not want to risk any permanent damage. The problem had resurfaced during the ride from Lancaster on the previous day, in spite of the additional day’s rest in Lancaster – a point that left both Natalia and I skeptical about his chances of being able to continue up after Edinburgh… but we hoped that things could improve as he would have three days of rest in total while we cycled over the next two days up to the Scottish capital and had our next day off scheduled to explore the city.

Coming through the snow

Coming through the snow

The other big issue came with the weather. It had snowed over night leaving us worried about how the roads were going to be. We had seen a number of gritters, however, making me pretty sure that the A7, which connects Carlisle with Edinburgh, would be well taken care of. Moreover, we would be entering into Scotland, with our last couple of hours in England, and in Scotland I find that the authorities are slightly better to equip with the colder conditions and are generally pretty thorough in gritting the roads.

And indeed it was a great day to cycle. As we left Carlisle, the countryside became steadily whiter and the snow at the sides of the road became steadily thicker, though aside from one stretch on 10 metres or so at the top of one of the passes we had to go through, we did not have to content with any ice or snow on the road at all – which was a relief as ice on the road is definitely not good at all. It also snowed on us as we rode, though thankfully it did not get too hard. It all made, however, for a beautiful day’s ride – the landscape covered in white, with the thick clouds above us, made for dramatic viewing and up to this point at least, the ride from Carlisle to Galashiels was definitely by favorite. This was in spite of us having to cover a larger distance than normal, of 110km or so, over three pretty long and tough climbs.

There weren’t too many places to eat en route and we ended up grabbing coffee and a bite to eat at a Sainsbury’s in Hawick (pronounced “Hoik” – something I really didn’t know and it took me a little while to make the association…). This town is a good 18 miles / 29km from Galashiels, and well more than half way through our ride. The weather seemed to change from then on as well, with it becoming sunnier and also, the snow on the hills above the town had all but melted away, leaving just patches of white mixed with the green grass; Quite lovely contrasts, made even better by the like of the late afternoon sun as we descended the last of the hills into Selkirk.

As a note, and I didn’t realise at the time, Selkirk is the home of Mungo Park, one of my favorite explorers, the subject of a book I mentioned in a previous post called Water Music. There is a monument to him in the town, though I didn’t know this until Strachan, our host (along with his girl friend Alex)  for the night. I will talk more about them in my next post, though as with everybody we stayed with through Warm Showers, it was meeting them and getting to know them – just a shame we didn’t have more time!

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