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.