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"End to End via the Margins"
-the diary of a walk.

- Dunbeath to Watten

Diary

I forgot to mention from the previous day's conversation at the shop all the End To Enders' tales that the proprietress had gathered. One group of cyclists had said they had been stoned by kids in Glasgow when they stopped to read the map, and oe of the group had had to continue with a broken elbow.

Looking out to sea from our tent in what there was of last night we could see a rig flaring off gas.

In the morning, soon after starting, I saw a word to inspire the faintest heart; "tearoom". Naturally, I went in.

There's a lot of ancient stuff around here - brochs, standing stones, chambered cairns. Once this area was something of a breadbasket. Now there aren't so many people to disturb the remains.

I had lunch with "the team" at the cairns in Camster. A biker came to look at them cairns. A military jet flew overhead. "Ancient and modern", he said. The cairns I suppose, made for the dead with so much effort, show how precious people were to their communities. Military hardware - you could argue that the preciousness of life was a consideration in modern military planning - precise bombing, "policing" roles etc.. But the reality can be brutally different. Not that stone age people were free of brutality of course. Anyway, the biker stayed at the cairns a long time.

It was good being on that narrow road across the moors to Watten, with the curlews and the wind and the road, and seeing the Orkneys for the first time.

The solitude was too good to last. I had just passed some small but enduring standing stones, when a man (who said he was the best known in the north of Scotland outside of people who sit on committees) drew up beside me in his van and told me some of his life story. When it became clear that we were blocking the traffic (a car), he said "are you diabetic", got out, walked round three sides of the van, pulled out a handful of fudge, gave it to me and drove off. I ate it gratefully, with my mother's injunction not to accept sweets from strangers ringing in my memory. The power of the ancestors! And the kindness of people - this is something that has surprised me all my time on the road.

Something else that seems to have lasted the whole walk is spring. I'm still seeing at least some lambs that are tiny. The gorse looks pretty similar to the way it did two months ago in Cornwall. I've seen primroses not long ago. Admittedly there are more leaves on the trees now. I suppose part of my reasoning in going south to north was to make spring last longer ... for ever? Trying to make spring last for ever is a dangerous thing for 50 year old men to do. You could end up like that string fellow. But for me this is no longer about showing how young I am, if it ever was - the End To End tales I hear convince me it's as much an old man's game as a young man's game. And for me it has just been a great deal of fun (apart from the pain obviously). And I have learnt a lot (in case my funders are wondering if the money has been misspent). Much of what I have learnt is still to be digested, of course, and that will happen over the weeks to come.

And if the chance ever came, I'd do something similar again.

The nearer future, however, is the last day's walk. Only one more day - I don't have to be so fussy about my feet any more.

Pictures from today...
Arch
Highland cow and calf
Scarecrow "A nonsense pointing nowhere to all who hurry by" ... B Wren?
Version of the above at higher resolution (400kB) for those who want to download it
Stone age burial cairns at Camster - unusually intact
Where peat has been harvested for heat
Prayer
Living God, help us to recognise the signs of your life
in the world around us,
of creating,
of giving health and salvation,
of inspiring.

The world's brutality from millennia past to now
is the same as that which crucified Christ.
The world's kindness
is a sign that we were made for love.
The world is your world:
let us love you in it.


Bob Warwicker. The words here may be reproduced freely, but not for gain, or without attribution. All alterations must have the permission of the author.