Wednesday 30 May 2018

Another Visit to Greensykes Bothy

We have regularly walked to Greensykes near Glendinning to see the progress being made of the lovely Bothy there. There were 6 of us today as Fiona joined us while she is over in Langholm for a few days. John had hoped to be with us but he has been selected for Jury service at the High Court in Edinburgh. We may not see him for some time. The weather was perfect and Ruger the Black Labrador was very pleased to accompany us. 
We had no difficulty crossing the Hairgrain Burn at the Corlaw Ford as the burn was very shallow.
This is the much improved Bothy at Greensykes. The Mountain Bothy Association have spent a lot of time and effort into getting it into good order. It certainly gets loads of visitors as the Visitors Book showed a lot of visitors in May with somebody staying almost every night.  
It was very warm so Ruger cooled off with a dip in the burn  
This is the pond next to the Bothy
There is never a shortage of conversation on our walks and David, Tom, and myself are enjoying a good blether as we walk along the forestry road
And Fiona captures the 5 Old Geezers still blethering
This gate was locked but that is not a problem to us Old Geezers as Fiona calls us. 
David has no problem getting over. In his pole vaulting days he was jumping almost 5  times the height of this gate. We finished our walk and headed to The Buccleuch Centre for a very enjoyable lunch.

British Lion Billy Steele

This is an article I have written for The Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser out on Thursday 31st May about my good friend Billy Steele who has just received this presentation as he represented the British and Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa in 1974.

British Lions Cap for Langholm Man Billy Steele

Langholm has been very fortunate that over the years there have been 8 players from the town represented Scotland but only one of these players has ever represented The British and Irish Lions.
Billy Steele was born in Langholm in 1947 and started his playing career with Langholm before he left the town to begin a career in the RAF. Although he never again lived in the town he came back on numerous occasions to play for Langholm Rugby Club.
He was first capped for Scotland on 15th March 1969 when he played against England at Twickenham, which Scotland lost 8-3.
In 1974 he was selected to tour South Africa with The British and Irish Lions. This was to become probably the finest rugby team to leave these shores and the 10-week tour become a legend. It still remains the only unbeaten tour by the British and Irish Lions.
They played a total of 22 games winning 21 of them and drawing the final game of the tour against The Springboks in Johannesburg on 27th July 1974. This was very controversial as Fergus Slattery scored a try in the last minute of the game but the referee disallowed it and the result remained a draw. 
The Captain of The Lions was the famous Willie John McBride and Billy was one of 6 Scottish players in the tour, namely Andy Irvine, William Steele, Ian McGeechan, Ian McLauchlan, Sandy Carmichael, and Gordon Brown.
It was also the tour that made the song Flower of Scotland so popular and eventually become the Scottish National Anthem. The song was very popular among the tourists despite the fact there was only 6 Scots in the touring party.  The Lions had won the first test in Cape Town against the Springboks and so 2 weeks later were heading to the Pretoria stadium in the bus. They started singing Flower of Scotland as they got near to the stadium and were only half way through it when the bus arrived. They continued to sing it, led by Billy Steele and despite the Rugby authorities at the stadium trying to get them to leave the bus they finished the song and in the words of Captain Willie John felt 10 feet tall as they left the bus and there was no way they would be beaten after that. They won the Test Match by 28 points to 9.

On return to Great Britain after the tour of South Africa the team were voted the Team of the Year award at the BBC Sports Review of the Year in December and Billy Steele as choir-master led the team in the song Flower of Scotland before millions of viewers. The song was adopted as National Anthem in 1990 during the Five Nations Championship match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield, which Scotland won 13-7 to win the Grand Slam. The Scottish Football Association adopted it as the National Anthem in 1997.  

As part of a Strategic Review of The British and Irish Lions in 2014 it was decided to form an Alumni, The 1888 Club and in turn recognize and honour the contributions of this unique group of players. The 1888 Club is made up of all those who have played for the British and Irish Lions and the year 1888 was the original tour out of which subsequent Lions tours were born.  
Anyone who has played for the Lions has been awarded a unique playing number. To celebrate the 835 players who have contributed to the Lions the club has awarded the 419 living Lions and the next of kin of the 416 deceased Lions this ceremonial cap. Each player will be sent a branded presentation box containing a hand-stitched ceremonial cap, each bearing the player’s unique Lions number, a velvet protective bag, a recognition letter from Chairman Tom Grace, and a photograph of the touring party from their tour.

Billy was delighted to receive this presentation box on Tuesday 22nd May and his wife Tricia has taken these photographs at his home in Burntisland. In his phone conversation with long time friend Gavin Graham he said he was pleased to have played in the amateur era of rugby and the tour of South Africa in 1974 was an unforgettable experience. They were away from home for 10 weeks and the fellowship and camaraderie of the tour was like nothing he had ever experienced before or since. It had been a privilege to represent The British and Irish Lions and this gesture of awarding these special caps brought back so many happy memories.   

Thursday 24 May 2018

My Birthday Walk at Lauder

We last did this walk in Lauder in January 2015 on a bitterly cold day with snow and ice all around. I thought it would be good to go back so I selected it for my Birthday Walk. The weather was perfect for walking although the sun did not come out until the last mile. Only us 6 men today as the ladies were all otherwise engaged
Tom and Martin beside the memorial of a young Tree Surgeon called Hamish who was killed in a tragic accident in 2005.
Loads of Gorse
We had a discussion about what these huts could be with some of us thinking they were for pigs but it turns out they are breeding huts for Partridges
The early part of the walk was along an old railway line
Everywhere you look there is Rape Seed plants which are very colourful at this time of the year
Starting to climb up to Blackchester with more fields of Rape Seed in the background
Blackchester which was originally an ancient settlement and then a Roman Fort

The lads on the top of the Roman defensive ditch
This row of outhouses draws the eye to what looks like an optical illusion
Near the end of the walk somebody is making this area of the Harry Burn into a nature reserve
We were booked into a nice Brasserie called Firebrick and the food was excellent. 
The Apple Pancake which was undoubtedly the highlight of the day and superb

Wednesday 16 May 2018

A Beautiful Day in Newcastleton

This was todays walk at Newcastleton. With the small detour to the local cemetery it was just short of 7 miles on such a beautiful day. It was only Tom and myself today as the rest are otherwise engaged.
The view from the east side of Newcastleton and what looks like a superb ridge walk although the distance can be misleading and its probably tougher than it looks.  
This is the garden at Yethouse looking very attractive today
This is my first selfie using my Apple watch as a timer and propping my phone up against my rucksack. I should use a small tripod to get a better centred picture. 
They may be small but my goodness what a noise they made as we passed their gate
The cemetery at Newcastleton where we stopped for a rest and a snack 
On the road towards Newcastleton we passed this house which used to be an old Manse and the owner has gone to great lengths to give his walled garden more light by dramatically cutting his trees.  
We met this gentleman outside his lovely cottage and he was keen for a blether. It turns out him and Tom have a lot in common. Tom is slightly younger but both of them have lived most of their lives in the same house and have never married. They both insist they are still looking though.  
The old and the new bridges
Another cottage beside the road with a lovely blossom and in a day or two's time it will be even nicer as 50% of it is still to fully come out. 
Plenty of Bluebells
A pond full of Tadpoles on the old railway line that took us back into Newcastleton 
The new community Petrol Pumps in the village

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Walking from Bentpath to Langholm through Westerhall

We always walk through Westerhall at this time of the year to see the Azaleas. They are a wee bit late this year so not at their best yet but by the end of May they should be stunning. Starting at Bentpath we noticed this new seat in memory of two locals from the village.
Just as we pass the cemetery we noticed this wall has collapsed so will need some urgent repairs done to it.  
We met Roddy Innes working in the cemetery on behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is paid by them to regularly tidy the paths to various War Graves throughout the area. There is only one War Grave at Bentpath but he has to keep the path tidy and the area round the grave. He obliged by taking a photograph of the four of us. 
This is the War Grave he has to keep tidy. It is a Royal Marine Commando killed in 1943 when he stepped on a mine
Rhododendrons near the big house
The regular pose in front of Westerhall
And the Folly looking up from where we stood for our photo
On the second half of the walk we are in more open country looking towards the Gates of Eden and Craigcleuch
A beautiful Rhododendron at Tom Scott's house at Potholm
Bluebells beginning to appear but not yet at their best
Pens for Breeding Pheasants at The North Lodge. We finished our walk with lunch in the Buccleuch Centre

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