When I planned my route, I deliberately made the first few days short and the last few days long. The reasoning being that, towards the end, I’d be warmed up and walking on easy (but boring?) roads with very little ascent and easy navigation. Today’s planned route was 35km with 800m of ascent, but I’d chopped off a couple of km and a couple of hundred metres climb by walking a bit further on the previous day. What I hadn’t planned for is how slow I’d be over the rolling Sidlaw Hills.
I soon found some water and had a long drink; filling up my bottles as well. I’d rather be carrying the extra weight than have the worry of running dry.
I knew I needed to walk East and I soon noticed that there were radio masts on a couple of hills in the right general direction, so I used them as markers and only needed to look at the map occasionally when I was looking for the way past farm buildings or confirming which roads or tracks I could see in the distance.
The landscape was criss-crossed with new, high deer fences, and older fences topped with barbed wire. I spent my time trying to pick out where there may be a gate, or dropping my pack over the far side of a fence then climbing through or over it whilst trying not to snag my clothes or myself. It was slow going and I took a few breaks to have a drink or look at the flowers.
It was after 2pm by the time I reached the road and I still had around 18km to walk. I walked along minor roads for hours and hours, accompanied by Radio 4 on my radio, and thinking about the history of the hamlets, churchs and war memorials I passed along the way.
It was getting harder and harder to find camping pitches now that I was in arable farmland, and the wind really was strong. I was worried that, even if I did manage to find a suitable place to pitch my tent, I’d have an unsettled night waiting for my tent to be blown away. I had the ‘phone number of the only B&B for miles around. I decided to give them a call, so switched my phone on. No signal. It was around 6:30pm; if I got a move on I could be at the B&B by 7pm which didn’t seem too late to be knocking on someone’s door and, if they had no vacancies, maybe they’d let me camp nearby?
After half an hour of brisk walking, I reached Croftsmuir Steading and tentatively rang the bell. Hurray! They had a room for me. I was made very welcome and treated like a house guest rather than a paying customer. They knew all about the TGO Challenge having had a group stay there last year. I ate my microwaved macaroni cheese pie on a proper plate with proper cutlery as I watched the shocking news of a soldier’s murder in Woolwich.
I could see the sea from upstairs and knew that, fingers crossed, I’d be finishing tomorrow.