St. Cuthbert’s Way Run
15th July 2000

by Hilary Spenceley

Ever since Nicki Innes’ inaugural record run in 1997, I’d been keen to have a go at the St Cuthbert’s Way- 62.5 miles (100km) of footpaths from Melrose Abbey to Lindisfarne Priory. Readers may recall the tale of my recce over a weekend in March a couple of years ago - it involved an exploded car engine, a rescue of two stranded soaked runners by the Hawick police in the middle of nowhere in the dark, much paddling in ankle deep mud! Injuries & lack of fitness had prevented me doing the real thing, however things have improved a bit recently. Having done quite a lot of long distance stuff this year (Speyside Way, Manx Mountain Marathon, Bens of Jura, walking from Inchnadamph to Cape Wrath), this seemed like the year to do it. Just a case of finding a time - crucially when the tides for crossing to Lindisfarne were right. 15th July with the causeway clear from 6pm to 1am seemed to fit the bill.
Melrose Abbey(6172 bytes)
Andy, Moira and Jane saw me off at Melrose Abbey just after 8am. The light drizzle crossing the Eildons was the only rain all day and it was a peaceful contemplative start with only an isolated dog-walker at that time in the morning. Generally the weather was cool and dry - ideal, and underfoot conditions dry, unlike the swamps I contended with 2 years ago. Descending through the forest I surprised a red squirrel basking on a log in the early sunlight and on through Bowden and Newtown St Boswells, then along the banks of the Tweed, resplendent in bloom, to St Boswells. I resisted the temptation to cross for a look at Dryburgh Abbey – surely St C. must have visited there? - I had drafted a 12 hour schedule & it was going to be tight. I often have songs or poetry going through my head as I’m running & it was appropriate that in Scott country it was snatches of the Lady of Shallott which sprang to mind - " all along the river lie fields of barley and of rye" as Andy joined me to run through Maxton and on to Dere Street. Moira ran with me from part way down Dere Street past Harestanes with memories of being sodden & stranded on the recce, lovely rhododendrons at Monteviot house then across the now resurrected suspension bridge to Jedfoot Bridge. Over a quarter of the way and 2hrs 53 meant on schedule, but the walshes were starting to pinch. A cup of tea & banana sandwich & off on Dere Street again.
I’d forgotten the stretch across Cessford Moor & mistakenly kept my PBs on but changed them at the road at Morebattle, where it was good to get company from Jane on the tarmac. Andy ran over the hill with me to the road before Kirk Yetholm and it was great to see a sign at the top of the hill indicating the highest point and half way on the St Cuthbert’s Way. This was turning out to be a gastronomic adventure- rice pudding (thanks to JBF), fruit compote, Bakewell tarts being the order of the day.
Weelwood bridge 6246 bytes)
Fenwick (5825 bytes)
It was lovely to see Bill "Bloodhound" Gauld appearing shortly before Wooler Common. I had tried to keep the attempt quiet but he’d got wind of it and done some telepathy to establish when I might start & where I might be. Unfortunately he & Moira were also witnesses to the fruit compote being violently projected back to nature after a queasy spell. I immediately felt better but stuck to boiled sweets thereafter. Waymarking in England was significantly poorer than in Scotland. After Bill guided us through Wooler, Moira and I had a slight hiccup crossing Westwood Moor, requiring a fairly steep unpleasant descent to Weetwood Bridge. 9hrs 21 and 15 miles to go. I was still feeling strong as Jane accompanied me up towards St Cuthbert’s Cave, shortly afterwards we saw Lindisfarne for the first time, which gave me a boost, only to be dashed when I remembered I had to run north to join the causeway then south again along it. The grain was rippling like waves as we ran down through it to cross the main East coast railway line, then on to the causeway, where Moira joined in and we three girls ran across what seemed an interminable way, encouraged at various points by Bill and Andy. The minutes were ticking away but I couldn’t go any faster- it was going to be a close thing. As it was it took 12 hours 2 mins 42 secs, which I’m pretty pleased with.
Mile and a Half to go(4112 bytes)
We celebrated at St Cuthbert’s statue with a bottle of champagne- perhaps he’d have preferred Buckfast? Then off for a good sleep at Wooler Youth Hostel- a good venue for a future club weekend, perhaps. On Sunday I accompanied my fantastic support team part way up Cheviot then drove round to meet them at Halfwayhouse. My intention to support them faltered as I fell asleep in the sun, but I would like to take the opportunity to thank them here- Moira, Jane, Bill, Andy - very much - without them it wouldn’t have been possible. Also Eddie Harvey, Ann & Andy Curtis who helped on the recce, and Nicki for the original idea, encouragement, advice and loan of maps.
After the Run (3587 bytes)

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