Getting back into Berwick, I felt like a local... Having spent the previous weekend being a tourist and walking all over the town, I was met by Chris when I got off the train and I was able to negotiate us through the town, a nice lunch and a restock of my provisions before finding our way onto the coastal path. Chris had met me when I walked into Amble, way back on the 7th February so it was lovely that he had taken the time to meet me and walk me out of the Province of Northumberland up in Berwick. Chris is a very busy member of the extremely active Northumberland Light Blues, the junior members of the Masonic fraternity in the province and I am so grateful that he stepped up personally to look after me during my time on his turf. He hosted me at his own lodge, took me as a guest to a lodge in Alnwick and even travelled down to Newcastle to meet me at the Oriental Lodge. What a great guy and I'm sure we will continue our friendship into the future and I'm looking forward to seeing him again, at my Lodge Installation in Skegness in May, a chance for me to return his kind hospitality, that's what Fremasonry is all about... 🤝
Anyway, Chris turned up in a nice shiny pair of Birkenstocks, lovely comfortable footwear but probably not best suited to muddy slippery coastal paths so after a couple of miles, I thanked him for looking after me, gave him a big hug and sent him home before I was forced to call out the Coast guard to recover his body !!!
I had loved Chris's company but it was time to move on, I'd had the longest break from walking since starting out on New Year's Day and the Scottish border was calling me. The thought of passing into foreign lands was exciting but equally intimidating. The vast expanse of coastline waiting for me, I knew was the real challenge I craved. The weather, the long periods spent alone, the beautiful scenery I was yet to see. And then there it was, the border....
I'm not reading into the fact that there's a huge sign welcoming all into Scotland, but if you happened to be walking back the other way, nothing... I thought us English were a bit more friendly than that...
I was told that there is a path all the way from Berwick to Edinburgh so no need to worry about navigating, just Womble along taking in the views. I'd walked around a bend in the path and hadn't seen anyone for a couple of hours but up ahead there appeared to be a group of guys hanging around the path. As I got closer, I could see there were six guys, all having a good laugh and enjoying a a wee nip of whiskey while enjoying the view. Naturally we had a chat, they were all train drivers from Glasgow enjoying a days walking down to Berwick where they planned to catch a train back accross country.
One of the guys had recently retired so they were enjoying a day out celebrating, the conversation changed when I explained why I'm on this journey and we got talking about suicide and mental health. Some time ago I remember listening to a radio programme about the growing increase in concern for train drivers mental health due to the high number of suicides involving people either throwing themselves in front of trains or laying on the tracks. One of the three guys had suffered the horror of three jumpers and two of the others were currently on one a piece. Nobody would be surprised to know that, just as you would find in the military or in the fire service or the police, a certain amount of 'dark humour' prevails when a group of people have to try to get through such harrowing circumstances. That 'dark humour' is clearly a coping mechanism and the conversation isn't for repeating here but I'm grateful these guys shared their experiences with me. A very sad and depressing subject to be discussing on the side of a cliff as trains flashed by behind us but we had a lot of laughs and it was a pleasure to meet this group of wandering whisky drinkers. I still can't drink the stuff, fortunately one of the guys had a small bottle of Poncha that he had recently brought back from Madeira, nice and sweet and quite strong so at least I could join them in toasting their good health.
I forget the name of the guy that had just retired but he was scaring the life out of me standing on the edge of the very sharp drop, he'd clearly enjoyed a few 'nips' and I was worried he would fall backwards down the cliff !!!
We parted company, I was heading for nowhere in particular but these guys had a good two hour walk to Berwick, I hope they got back safely and enjoyed the rest of their day off.
I found a great spot to camp that night, a peaceful night on the cliff top with and an amazing sun rise to wake up to.
It was the next morning when I continued on the walk that the enormity of what I was about to encounter truly became apparent. This coastline is going to be stunning but brutal on both my body and my mind. Welcome to Scotland...