Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Northbound hike
DS30 Icycles
Days S28 - S32                                                                  Southern Scotland
Day S30 - Beattock to Lockerbie 
Day S29                               Hobson hoofs on                                  Day S31
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Northbound Home
Sunday, March 23, 2008

Time of departure: 8.30 am
Time of arrival: 2.30 pm
Place departed: Beattock, Dumfries and Galloway
Place arrived: Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway

Miles: 15
Cum miles: 402.7
Percent complete: 41.5

Bed sign Templeton B&B, Lockerbie ****
Cost for bed and breakfast: 30 ($60)
  Overview of both hikes
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DS30 M74
The M74
"What were you doing trespassing on the farmer's fields?"

That's the question emailed by an American friend who read my March 21 account of leaving Douglas on a farm track, and fighting barbed-wire fencing and several locked gates to take a shortcut to Crawford.

In England (and I'll come to Scotland in a minute), public rights of way are mostly recorded, and then defended by organizations like the Ramblers Association, which installs signposts and fights landowners who try to bar hikers exercising their rights. Fences and sometimes-locked gates for the farmer easily coexist with stiles and pedestrian gates for the hiker. The system generally works.

In Scotland, and I am no expert on this, there are no property records governing these rights of way individually. Instead, the public has rights to enter everywhere - with certain exceptions, and subject to decent behavior. I don't know what all the exceptions are (nuclear power stations, and . . . ?), but I'm sure that farmers' fields are not among them. Equally, farmers have rights, too. You clearly can't litter, or damage crops, and you and your dog can't pester livestock or let them loose. I'm also not sure whether farmers have a right to lock their gates. But I am pretty sure that I'm allowed through (or over) a gate to those Douglas fields which, by the way, had neither crops nor livestock.

I awoke this morning in Beattock to a carpet of fresh snow under mostly blue skies. The town and countryside to the south were quite beautiful. Through the day, the snow melted, and with a steady wind from the north, it was fine hiking weather for south-heading folks like, well, me. In fact, there being no other hikers at this time of year, just me.

I taped my right ankle this morning - which turned out to be a brilliant move, because I walked the 15 miles to Lockerbie without it bothering me. True, my left foot was developing an underfoot blister which diverted my attention from the right ankle, but I am pretty sure I now have cures for both the ankle and the blister.

I have met a couple of white Zimbabweans on my hike. I didn't remark that the owner of the Bridge of Orchy Hotel was one. Today I met Mr. Thomson in Beattock ("Thomson - no p in my name, and no p in my pool").

Both these folks feel a deep sense of betrayal by the British. They believe that Iain Smith's white regime was decent, and headed towards power-sharing with the blacks. The British foisted the Mugabe regime on the country instead, which has been ruinous for all, and Britain takes no responsibility now. The white Zimbabweans supported Britain in WW2 (Smith himself was a decorated RAF fighter pilot). Both the folks I met had been farmers until forced off their lands. Now their farms are producing almost nothing, a fine economy has been ruined, and people go hungry.

I had breakfast with other Lochhouse Farm guests this morning, and particularly a couple who'd been stalking (and, where allowed, shooting) deer at the weekend. Not knowing their names, let's call them Mr and Mrs Stalker.

Now it's not uncommon for people to mention to a hiker that they'd seen him on the road. I suppose a hiker is a little more obvious than a Vauxhall Corsa. And, not to my great surprise, Mr Stalker reckoned they'd spotted me yesterday.

"I was on the backroad," I said.

"Yes," said Mr. Stalker. "Going up Beattock summit from Crawford?"

"Yes," I said, "in the morning."

Mr Stalker nodded enthusiastically.

"Mind you," I went on, "was this person staggering?"

Mr Stalker thought for a moment, and then said "yes".

"And," I probed further, "was he wheezing?"

Mr Stalker agreed that that was probably the case, too.

"And," I added, "was the hiker looking desperate for a rest?"

Mr Stalker thought that the hiker undoubtedly needed a rest, too.

"In that case," I said mischievously, "that wasn't me at all. That," I added emphatically, "was Hobson."

"Hobson?" said Mrs Stalker. "Who's he?"

"Hobson," I said, "is another hiker. He left Crawford a couple of hours ahead of me. I passed him about ten minutes out of town."

Mr and Mrs Stalker didn't seem to quite digest the time implications of what I just said. But I went on, regardless.

"Yes," I said, "Hobson, poor fella, is struggling a bit with a sore ankle and blisters. He's about 65 years old."

"Oh," said Mrs Stalker.

"Funny thing is," I went on. "Hobson is trying to make it all the way to Land's End from John o' Groats."

Mrs Stalker put down her cereal spoon, and looked astonished. Mr Stalker put his hand in front of his mouth, and then started to laugh - at first softly but then boisterously and derisively.

"Yes," I said, "I told him he was crazy. But he just keeps on walking, and walking."

"So where is he now?" asked Mrs Stalker.

"If he's the Hobson that I know," I said to her, "he's on his way to Lockerbie by now - and he'll be there by nightfall."

"So do you think he'll make it?" asked Mr Stalker, incredulously. "To Land's End, I mean?"

"I'm sure he will," I replied. "Hobson 'aint much of a hiker to look at. I saw him up a mountain face-down in a stream with a twisted ankle a couple of weeks ago. That was one of his better poses."

But," I went on, "there's something else about Hobson. It's hard to understand this - but the bugger never stops."
Day S29                                       2007 and 2008 Daryl May                                      Day S31