Day 8 – 1000 feet inside the Southern Uplands

Sanquhar to Overfingland, 24Km

I think I’ve got to the bottom of my flooded boots drama and it’s my own stupidity. So here’s today’s competition. Take these three items and arrange in the correct sequence: a) trousers b) gaiters and c) waterproof trousers. PS there is only one answer. Answers in the comments please. So, sorry Lowa. Your boots will be back in action tomorrow.

Today was the best day so far. I set off from my farm B&B and walked through Sanquhar. The village is full of history. It has the oldest post office in the whole world, operating continuously since 1712. I wish I’d noticed that yesterday; I would have bought a stamp.

There was no rain but a refreshing bit of moisture in the air and visibility was down as I rose higher into the hills. I climbed a stile over a dry stone wall and I was just lining up an arty photo from the top when I noticed something moving in the bottom left of the viewfinder. People! Four of them. The first sign of intelligent life on the SUW. It was a mother and her daughters and we had a nice chat. They were only walking to Sanquhar but all the same it cheered me up.

I came to a choice of routes. The original followed one of those dreary forestry roads and the other headed off across the moors. When the SUW opened in 1984 they were concerned about the hoards of walkers disturbing the grouse on the moor so the route followed the road. But so few walkers turned up that now we are allowed on the moors.

The highlight of today’s stage was Wanlockhead, a former lead mine and village. The surrounding landscape was littered with remnants of lead smelting paraphernalia, slag heaps and information boards. There was an excellent museum and a guided tour of the mine, all made possible by a hefty grant from the European Union, back in the day.

I was lucky to get a ticket because only 10 people were allowed in the mine on each tour and a couple plus a family of seven were ahead of me in the queue. I took an early lunch in the empty cafe where the girls were trying to write the menu. “How do you spell sultana? What about cinnamon?”, they asked. I said I doubt anyone would notice and told them about my entertaining game of counting all the hotels and B&Bs who can’t spell accommodation. “It’s got two d’s hasn’t it?”, she asked. I said, “it’s got two of everything”. She smiled and I left a big tip.

The museum was brilliant; I could have spent the afternoon there but the mine tour called me away. We were issued with helmets and torches and set off 1000 feet into the hill. Working in a lead mine was a sought after job. The pay was good (£20 per year when a farmer earned £5 and a coal miner received perhaps £12. There were no gas fumes and the tunnels didn’t collapse. Plenty of work for the children too. But they had to buy their own candles which made a dent in the take home pay. The guide told me they want to extend the tour further into the mine but the EU grant has run out. “We’ll have to wait a wee while”, he said.

After that I set off to walk the remaining 8Km. It was challenging; contours everywhere and visibility down to 75m in places. From 410m in Wanlockhead, I climbed to 544m on Stake Hill, Whiteside 572m, Lowther 725m, Cold Moss 628m, Comb Head 610m, Laght Hill 507m and then down to Overfingland at 332m. All plunged deeply into valleys between them. I was 45 minutes late for the taxi.

The world‘S oldest operating post office
Today’s hopeful bench
Lead mining paraphernalia
The toxic old lead smelter
Slag heaps
into the old lead mine
Some of the 3000 books in the popular miners library
The lunch box weather shelter on Lowther Hill, not to be used during a thunderstorm
Shame not to see the views from this spectacular section of the SUW
The drops and climbs are twice as bad as they look
Concentrate on the next waymark

19 comments on “Day 8 – 1000 feet inside the Southern Uplands

  1. Miyuki

    I wonder if the lighting is happening, where do you hide if not the shelter is for?? I’m thoroughly enjoying reading and looking at your journey, but I feel so vulnerable just by imagining to walk on your own in the huge open space!( especially not knowing what was the Bambi killer from day 2/3!!) Hope weather will be dry enough tmrw. Looking forward tmrw’s adventure😊

    • I would hide in the shelter. There is nothing worse than being exposed on the moor in a bad lightning storm.
      The Bambi killer was probably a fox. I’m safer here than in London! おやすみなさい

  2. Vicky Williamson

    Kia Ora, Tim. No sensible sheep or cow walks straight up or down hills – they zig zag back and forth so be like a sheep on those steep hillsides and reduce the stress on your legs!! What’s more it adds to the distance you cover so increases your bragging rights and you’ll develop legs a body builder would envy!! I wonder if those lead miners had a greater incidence of mental disorder in their old age than coal miners!? Kia kaha, Vicky

    • My PT is a body builder so I’ll let you know when I get home. But I doubt it. Are you not going to enter the competition?

      • Regina O'Shea

        Hi Tim,
        I don’t know what a gaiter is,, always thought it was slang for alligator?? but as I doubt even you, a seasoned Walker would find alligators useful in this situation, I’ll give your quiz a go…Is it trousers, gaiters then waterproofs??
        Enjoying the daily updates Tim, stay safe
        Regina x

      • I’m new to them! They wrap around your lower leg to protect your trousers and feet from mud and moisture. I wore them last year only on the muddy Pennine Way and they worked. You’re right. You have to put waterproof trousers on top of them otherwise water flows straight into the boot. Well done!

  3. Nigel F

    Ah yes, the ‘free’ EU bribes, er, funding…

  4. Jean Claude J

    Eet was only costing you £20bn a year mon cheri.

  5. Philippa

    It’s great the way the mistiness enhances the colours of the weathered wood & lichens at the lead mine, the grasses near the slag heaps, the rust & old paint of the shelter, and (are they?) heathery patches on the hills, not to mention the reassuring golden glow of the waymarks!

    • You’re right about the mist adding a little something. And those waymarks are first class. They are the last things to disappear in the mist.

  6. A. C. B please tell me I am right

    • Nope! That’s what I did. You wouldn’t have thought it matters but the water flows under the gaiter into your boots.

  7. Now that hill looks steep! I have just completed wainwright’s Coast to Coast and thought some of those were big…..but that one looks very steep….

    • Good to hear from you again. We did the first half early July and I can remember a very long hill on a couple of days. This one is more of a roller coaster…

  8. Tassie Kaz

    ‘Schnitzel’ is another good test for eatery blackboards…. 😆

    • Yep but that’s why it’s rarely on the menu😀

      • Well, at least not in the UK. I think you’ll find it a lot in Germany! 🙂

        Have a bit of a break today, so getting back on the trail with you. WAY behind…but hope to catch up a bit.

  9. Sophie, Abi, Eliza and Harrison

    Our team from the NC500 guess the answer to be trousers, waterproof trousers, gaiters? Luckily we’ve got a van for the rain, so won’t need to worry about this just yet!

    • Nope! Waterproof trousers on top of everything else. Life is simpler without gaiters. I’ve not bothered with them before last year. Stay dry

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