Scottish Youth hostel tour
1965 July 10-August-September 1
July 10 Saturday (90 Miles)
The morning I was to leave started off with a clear blue sky but it was not to last. I had loaded my hike the previous nights so I was ready to go early.
As I live south of London the first thirty miles was all through town and the first rain came as I was crossing Vauxhall Bridge but it only lasted a few minutes and I was
soon out of my cape. Ahead of me was the awful ride out of North London along the A5 and A41. When I reached the AI I cheered up as this was the road to Scotland.
The AI is not a very good road for pleasant cycling but it is the fastest route north. That day I was to go to Houghton Mill a distance of 90 miles. It should have been less but I got lost in Stevenage. I was cycling up to the town when I was told by an aged man on a bicycle that I should ride on the cycle path, whilst I was listening to him I rode straight past the sign post so naturally I took the wrong turning at the roundabout and ended up going on a six mile detour before once again I met the AI.
The rest of that ride was uneventful but easy as the wind was with me but there was a bit of intermittent rain.
I found the hostel quite easily but arrived half an hour early. After I had booked in I had a look round. There were massive cogs made of wood which abounded everywhere in dark corners and many other weird pieces of machinery such as the governor in the common room.
In the evening I went with two other chaps on a punt on the river. It was O.K. until the other two started rowing then we went nowhere fast except from side to side of the river.
July 11 Sunday (108 miles)
I left Houghton mill in the rain but it soon stopped although it remained overcast with stratus. At first I thought the wind was with me but I was wrong for after I left a straight stretch of road it came charging at me from the west, and soon after more rain came. It was light at first but around 12 noon it became rather heavy and I was forced to seek shelter but there was norte to be found so I kept rideing in my cape until I reached one of the many road bridges which cross the AI. It was about four miles before Grantham and as it did not look like stopping raining I decided to have my packed lunch in its shelter.
When I left the bridge it was still raining hard and it did not stop for at least one hour. When it did stop the wind tried its best to push me home and I was extremely glad to see the hostel at Bawtry and have a meal.
In the evening I went out to have a look around the town where I saw many traction engines. When I got back to the hostel another cyclist started complaining about the wind I just put on the appearance that I was listening " to his words of wisdom”.
July 12 Monday (104 miles)
As a reward for the previous two days weather the sun decided to shine on me for the ride to Barnard Castle this made things much easier the wind was also with me.
This ride was uneventful but much more enjoyable than the other two. When I reached Scotch Corner I was well ahead of my E.T.A. but I had the hills to cross and this slowed me down. When I was about four miles away from the hostel it decided to rain again. It was the beginning of a warm front so the rain continued through the night.
July 13 Tuesday (47 miles)
That morning I woke up to a very wet scene, the rain was still coming down and did not look like stopping so rather reluctantly I went out to the cycle shed where I found a flat tire on my back wheel. I was not in the mood to mend it so I just pumped it up and hoped that it would last the day.
My intention for that day was to ride up Tees Dale past High Force then over the moors and down to the hostel at Acomb. When I arrived at high Force the rain was still coming down heavily so I decided to go on and miss it. I cycled on for what seemed miles and I had to look at the map as I thought I had passed the turning off. Naturally the map got soaked and the turning was still miles on so I continued on in the rain, passed the hostel then up and over Langdon Common which was over 2000 feet. It was a steep climb and I was forced to push almost all the way. When I was near the top I entered the cloud, it was soaking wet and I could only see a few yards ahead. Next came the ride down the other side this was just as bad as the ride or push up Because of the cloud and rain I had to go very slowly also there was a notice warning me about quarry blasting. By the time I reached the bottom my wrists were aching with having to hold the brakes for about three miles.
I continued on through St.John's Chapel and had my packed lunch on the side of a hill whilst the rain eased off for a for a few minutes. I do not know why it decided to do this as it did its best to get me wet at every possible opportunity. The rest of the ride was wet and cold so I arrived at Acomb hostel in a miserable state. I was anxious to see the warden and make my bed but as he lives away from the hostel he was not there so I had to go out and buy my food in saturated clothes.
When I returned from the village the warden was there so I booked in and changed into dry clothes. This hostel was my first self-cooker so I had to make a fool of myself and give a saucepan a coating of Chow-mien.
July 14 Wednesday (49 miles)
Before I left Acomb I was told by two other fellows that I had some hills to climb. They were right. It started off fairly flat but when I joined the military road the hills appeared. The road was like a switch-back and from the top of one hill there was a view of the road going straight ahead over several hills in front in a straight line.
The weather was better that day with no rain at first but still it was overcast with stratocumulus, this did not worry me. I had my dinner on an old foot-bridge which spanned the river Pede then continued on to Ferniehurst Castle via Carter Bar.
The climb up to the boarder was rather steep passed the reservoir at Catcleugh. When I reached the top I celebrated by taking a photo of the sign which read "SCOTLAND". From the top there was a marvelous view across the so-called lowlands but it was slightly hazy. The run down was very good after t the long sweat up.
All along the run down towards Jedburgh I was looking for what the S.Y.H.A. handbook described as a "picturesque border castle on the River Jed”. When I saw it I could see no way of getting to it as it was over the other side of the river and there was no bridge. I continued on down the road for about two miles until I saw a drive which led to the hostel, this went back for two miles.
This was my first Scottish hostel and to my surprise the warden filled in the hostel register this is one of the Scottish customs. The hostel was as the handbook said complete with spiral staircase. There are 120 beds there but that night there were only about 7 of us. In the evening the warden told us about the ghost and a few other stories. That evening I saw for the first time the through for washing, it was soon to become a familiar sight. Earlier that evening I was told that Broadmeadows hostel was closed so decided to go there first to see if it really was closed and if it was to go to Snoot.