Day 19: Town Yetholm to Wooler.
Distance: 14.5 miles (328.1 total).
Duration: 6 hrs 27 mins.
Lowest Temp: -1ºc.
Scottish Weather: Majestic.
English Weather: Minging.
Highest Alt: 1180 ft.
Archdeacon Watch: Indefatigable – and goodness only knows I’ve tried to fatig him.
Today I had my second tearful moment – it was when I crossed the border into England. The Archdeacon and Young Tom were far from sympathetic. They wanted to mark the occasion with a verse of ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’, but thankfully they were unable to summon either the words or the tune between them, so for that small mercy I am thankful.
Towards the end of today’s leg we walked out of English hills where a lot of English snow had fallen upon us, into a car park which can’t have been more than a mile from our destination. At this point the designers of St Cuthbert’s Way (which is not the best signposted Way I’ve walked, and I reckon I’ve walked at least three in the last two weeks alone) stuck what I call, ‘an annoying little jiggly bit’ on at the end, so that instead of cracking down the road straight to the pub, we were taken up across Wooler Common and all around the houses – by my reckoning it delayed our first pint by a good half hour or so. It’s not uncommon for the various long-distance ‘Ways’ to include these ‘annoying little jiggly bits’ – sometimes they’re there for some laudable purpose like keeping you away from traffic, other times I think they’re just there to add to the mileage. Whatever their purpose, they’re always particularly annoying when they come at the end of a leg.
At the end of a leg I really don’t want a ‘jiggly bit’ stuck on. It doesn’t matter how far I’ve walked in a day, when I hit the ‘three miles from home’ stretch, then I just want those miles to pass and to get to the end of the leg. Whether its been a thirteen mile day or twenty-three, at three miles from home a certain kind of tiredness kicks in.
As I walk the final miles of this pilgrimage I’m beginning to feel something of that ‘nearly home’ tiredness. Actually, I’m experiencing all sorts of contradictory feelings. Part of me feels the full distance of each mile I’ve put behind me, and I’m just getting tired – it was slow walking today. That part of me can’t wait to see Susie on Thursday and then get the train back home. But there is another part of me which simply doesn’t want this pilgrimage to end, and I feel like turning back and heading once more for Iona. I don’t want to stop walking.
I think the next couple of days are going to be quite strange.
I just don’t want to stop walking.
I know in my heart that the pilgrimage will continue, but I don’t want the walking to end.