Day 2 Beverley to Blairgowrie
It soon became clear that my choice of stopping place was not ideal. The B1248 is obviously a major route for lorries. I would first hear them grinding up the hill towards me. The trees would light up as if it was day, and then the lorry would emerge, the four headlights on the roof being augmented by all the lights lower down. In the other direction, cars would hurtle past, engines roaring. In the quieter periods between vehicles, Tawny owls called.
However, despite all this, and the fact that I was crammed into a small 2-seater, I did doze for periods until woken by either the traffic or the arthritis pains. It is surprising how many different ways one can arrange oneself in such a confined space in the vain hope of some comfort. Every time I woke, I hoped to see daylight. It started to rain, but I was at least warm enough under my sleeping bag.
At first light, I breakfasted on more cake, water and tablets, checked oil and water, emptied my petrol cans into the tank and set off again. The weather brightened up, and I wended my way by B roads to the North Yorkshire Moors.
The Morris plodded up the hills, sometimes getting down into 2nd gear, which involved some nifty double de-clutching. It was fairly restrained descending, even in 4th, most of the time, though on some of the steeper roads I had to do a slick change down to hold the car back.
The sun was becoming hot, and the scenery was splendid. I managed to navigate to and then through Darlington without incident, and then sought the A68, which would carry me all the way to Scotland and beyond.
In the past, we had found the A68 a pleasantly quiet alternative to the A1 or the M6, but in a car with a top safe speed of 42mph and the ability to climb almost anything but only at its own speed, the road felt like a rollercoaster, and I was always conscious of holding up traffic. Most drivers were sensible and considerate, but a few took stupid risks overtaking me on blind summits. I stopped in laybys and villages to let traffic pass.
The border at Carter Bar is the best way to enter Scotland, perched on a hilltop with splendid views all round. I celebrated the event by purchasing a venison burger and a cup of tea – my first cup since the morning of the previous day – from the van in the layby, and continued towards Edinburgh.
I passed through Jedburgh and plodded on until I reached the roundabout at Carfreemill where the A697 joined, where I found a queue of traffic. The road ahead was closed following an accident. A low loader was driving off with a horribly crushed car on the back, and a truck pulled across the junction to stop traffic proceeding.
Along with most other people, I took the exit onto the A697, then stopped to look at the map and worked out a cross-country route to the A7 to Dalkeith – a much more winding and hillier road. Pulling into a layby to let a lorry past, I met two couples in very smart Nissan Figaros, and we had a pleasant chat about our vehicles
. Approaching at last the southern outskirts of Edinburgh, I stopped for petrol and bought some coffee and a packet of crisps. I sat in the car struggling to get the lid to fit onto my coffee, and the man at the next pump, seeing my predicament, came over, took the cup from me and manhandled the lid. “I have the same problem myself, pal. There you go! Where’re you going to put it?”
I thanked him and put it in the passenger foot well. “You’d bet put your jersey round it,” he said, reaching in and nestling it in a corner with my jumper wrapped round it. I thanked him again, and drove off. I felt equally warmed by the almost motherly way he’d helped, and worried by the lack of precautions against infection.
I stopped in a side turning not far away, and contemplated my coffee. Should I drink it after he’d handled it? I desperately wanted to drink it. As he wasn’t wearing a mask, I concluded that if he had Covid, I’d probably already been infected anyway, so I removed the lid and drank the contents. (I have since tested myself and I was negative.)
My biggest worry when planning my route was crossing the Firth of Forth. There really is no alternative but to take to the ring road and the motorway. I had some vague idea of timing it so that I crossed either at night or in the very early morning. As I drank my coffee and ate my crisps, I suddenly resolved to go for it straight away. It was towards the end of the rush hour, and I reflected that maybe traffic would be slower when it was busy.
Although I felt very vulnerable, it went very smoothly. I trundled along in the nearside lane and traffic streamed past me. It wasn’t until I was starting to cross the bridge that I realised the camera wasn’t rolling. There was nothing I could do. I was fighting the wheel as the wind blew down the Firth and the slipstreams of massive trucks tugged at the car.
I was so relieved to get off the bridge that I nearly missed my junction. There was already a lorry on the slip road behind me. I indicated left, and he immediately flashed his lights and slowed down to let me in. I found the old Perth road and headed north. I felt that I was really on the way home! The beautiful Loch Leven with its castle appeared on my right.
Wild camping is generally accepted in Scotland, so after I’d passed through Perth I started looking for somewhere to stop. I found an inviting layby with wide, grassy verges, but surprisingly, it had a sign saying “no overnight parking”, so I kept going into the dusk. I turned the dashboard light on, and it came off in my hand! After passing through Blairgowrie, I came to a car park on the northern outskirts, where a motorhome and a lorry had already halted for the night. I pulled in and set up my tent. The air was absolutely still, so I didn’t bother with guy ropes. The groundsheet is an integral part of the tent, so with my weight in it, it wasn’t going anywhere.
I inflated my mattress, supped on fruitcake, water and medicaments as before, and after a chat with the lady from the motorhome who was walking her dog, retired for the night.