Day 4 of St Cuthbert’s Way: Kirk Yetholm to Wooler
Anna and I knew we would be walking some in the rain along St Cuthbert’s Way, mainly because over the half the walk is in Scotland. And if there’s one thing I have learned about Scotland in the last year, it’s that you can count on some rain.
But getting rained on a bit here and there is a different story from suiting up and heading out into the downpour. It’s a bit disheartening to be thoroughly wet when you’re only twenty minutes into a thirteen mile day, but we tightened up our hoods, put smiles on our faces and marched on into the cloudy hills. Pretty soon, I could no longer see out of my glasses. The wind was blowing the rain under my hat and all over my face, so visibility was nonexistent behind my frames.
We sloshed through the muddy fields and up to the border of England and Scotland. In an effort to record the fairly anti-climatic moment, I took a wet picture of the sign and continued on up the hill.
We could not see very far into the distance so we were grateful for every little St Cuthbert’s Way circle marker we passed, as a confirmation that we were still on the right track.
We knew we were looking to pass a small settlement called Hethpool, a cluster of cottages which would be our sign that we had gone five of our thirteen miles. Before we reached the settlement we passed through dark forest, and we were delighted to discover that the trees kept the rain from hitting us for a while. Even the pine needle floor of the forest seemed dry. We took of our hoods and enjoyed being able to hear one another again as we walked in the woods. It was almost dark inside of the trees, bringing to mind childhood stories of haunted forests or movies someone falls through a hole in the forest floor.
When we emerged on the other side of the wood, the rain was no longer falling. Or rather, it was still falling behind us. We could see the hills in the distance still covered in clouds, but ahead of us the sky was a brighter shade of gray. It turns out that bright gray can sometimes be my favorite color.
Or actually, now that we’ve moved to the UK, bright grey can sometimes be my favourite colour.
Thankful for the break in the rain, we slowed our pace as we walked through Hethpool. Automobile traffic is limited to twelve cars per day, and even less during lambing season. It’s a little haven of another time. A small world all unto itself. I noted that there’s even a little YHA you can stay in if you wanted to hike in and spend some more time in Hethpool one day.
We pressed on towards Wooler. Past ancient stone settlements and more sheep than you can imagine.
At the end of our walk on the train ride home, Anna and I tried to estimate how many sheep we’d seen.
“I think we’ve seen at least 10000 sheep,” I said.
“No way,” she said. “More like 1000.”
“Are you kidding me? We saw at least 1000 every day.”
I can’t say for sure, but we walked by a LOT of sheep.
Soon the rolling green hills turned into moorlands. This part of the walk can be treacherous in bad weather, because even on a clear day, it’s hard to see your path through the dark boggy land. This part of Northern England is straight out of Charlotte Bronte novel.
When we stopped for lunch, I imagined that Heathcliff was going to happen upon us at any moment. But instead we saw one lone biker.
We were constantly amazed by how few people were walking the beautiful St Cuthbert’s Way.
After we finished what were probably the best tasting peanut butter sandwiches of all time, we dragged ourselves up and walked the rest of the monotonous moor. When we reached green hills again, we spotted the town of Wooler, which we wandered into in time to have tea at the only shop still open on Sunday afternoon.
Then we checked into our bed and breakfast, showered and headed off to dinner at a divine little Italian restaurant that Anna found. While I would forever be happy to grab a can of soup and eat it straight out of the tin, Anna, naturally, lives for the next yummy meal. It’s always a good idea to just let her order because she has a knack for choosing the best dishes on the menu. This night was no exception.
We had lovely homemade pasta and split an entire bottle of wine between us. We were already turning giggly at the table when one of the waiters came over to inquire if we wanted dessert.
“Howdy!” he said, “You ALL want some dessert?” Emphasis on all.
Anna and I looked at each other. “Is he making fun of us?“ we said with our eyes.
Anna snapped back, “Well, howdy yourself.”
“Oh-my-gah-are-you-American?” he said in all one breath.
“Yes.” we both said.
“I’m so embarrassed.”
George went on to explain that he is a huge fan of American country music, hence his affinity for “Howdy” and “You all.” Also, his life dream is to meet Reba McIntyre. We found this so incredibly fascinating that we bombarded our seventeen-year-old waiter with twenty questions about his relationship with country music. He is headed to Canada this summer for the Stampede. Reba will be there, and I really hope he gets to meet her, because I’m sure she will find him as adorable as we did.
Plus we laughed so hard on the way home about how horrified he was when he realized he had “Howdy y’all-ed” two American girls.
It was good to giggle a little because it helped us not too badly dread what was coming.
A 5am wake up call to get our final and longest day started early enough to beat the tide on Holy Island.