St Cuthbert’s Way: Part 1

St Cuthbert’s Way is a 62 mile waymarked walk from Melrose in Scotland via the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland to Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. Theo and I walked an extended St Cuthberts Way in September 2012, starting in Peebles and using a couple of sections of the Southern Upland Way to connect us in at Melrose. I’m not intending to blog the whole thing, but just to share some of the places we used and liked along the way in the hope that this might help others doing the walk

We started off at the Old Mill camp site¬†at West Kyloe Farm just off the A1 and with our end point of Lindisfarne in sight a few miles away. This is a clean and tidy site with excellent facilities which mostly caters to motorhomes but will take tents by arrangement. The owner, Teresa Smalley, was very helpful, let us store our car at the site until we got back ten days later and even gave us a lift to the bus in the morning. The only thing to bear in mind if you’re on foot is that the camping area is about a half mile from the road.

We took three buses to get from the Beal crossroads to Peebles. It all worked out fine but I would suggest using Traveline Scotland‘s phone helpline to plan a route like this as my internet searches had failed to track down some services that would have made life simpler if I’d known about them earlier.

From Peebles, we took a section of the John Buchan Way over Cademuir Hill and into the Manor Valley. This was a really great short walk. We really wanted to be in the Manor valley so we could walk south over the hills to Meggett Water and the Southern Upland Way, but accommodation in this dead end valley is relatively hard to come by. The best place is Castlehill Knowe B&B but their rooms were fully booked. However Sue and Roger kindly made space for us to camp in their garden, gave us access to indoor facilities and cooked us breakfast, all for the price of a tent pitch. It would probably be possible to wild camp further up the valley, but a lot of it is owned by a very large egg producer who didn’t sound too co-operative.

The walk from Manor to Meggett is only signed at either end but isn’t difficult to follow and has great views of Dollar Law, one of the highest hills in the Borders. We ended the day at the Tibbie Shiels Inn campsite on St Mary’s Loch. This is in a lovely location but facing three valleys running from SW to NW so it gets a lot of weather. And did while we were there. The facilities are basic and it was feeling a bit end of season, so we decided not to spend a rest day there and continued on after one night. [Tibbie Shiels closed in 2015 under curious circumstances.]

Next time: the Southern Upland Way

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Ashford Traveller – double vs single drive

I mentioned earlier that this was a double drive model. It will actually operate as single or double drive. Here’s what that means.

The drive belt (special string, but string nonetheless) goes around the wheel twice. In double drive mode, one loop is on the bobbin and one is on the flyer pulley. So the bobbin and flyer are both driven directly, hence double drive.

You can see that there is a second groove on the flyer pulley. This allows a different drive ratio to be used. All this movement of the belt changes the tension but there’s a cunning knob and hinge arrangement to retension it.

In single drive mode, both loops go around the bobbin. A brake band (transparent so hard to see, but it has springs at each end to ensure tension which may be easier to spot) is put onto the flyer pulley to stop it turning. Only the bobbin is driven, hence single drive.

Specifically this is “bobbin lead” or Irish Tension single drive. Alternatively, you can single drive the flyer pulley and brake the bobbin. That would be “flyer lead” or Scotch Tension single drive.

Ashford Traveller – 4

No work on this yesterday because I was busy with other things. So a big push now to get it ready for tomorrow. There was more wax polish left in the tin than I’d thought so everything has had a second coat and, in a few cases, a third.

The first parts to be put together make up the flyer assembly. The flyer is the U shaped piece holding the bobbin. The base it all sits on (with the Ashford logo) is called the maiden board – I have no idea why.
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Ashford Traveller – 3

A milestone – everything is now sanded, waxed and buffed. You can still see the variation in colour, expecially in those legs (top centre). About three quarters of the tin of polish has been used. The next step is to figure out which bits will be difficult to get at once it’s asssembled and give those areas a second application.

Ashford Traveller – 2

The spinning wheel is made almost entirely out of New Zealand silver beech. It’s finished to a very high standard so all that’s needed is a light sanding with the supplied sandpaper, concentrating especially on cut ends, grooves and sockets which tend to be slightly rougher. If you were using an oil or varnish rather than a wax, you might need to treat it differently.
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Ashford Traveller – 1

In cahoots with some lovely and generous friends and family, I’ve bought Theo an Ashford Traveller spinning wheel for her birthday coming up this Sunday. It’s the double treadle, double drive model in natural wood. As it needs a finishing coat (I’m using Ashford’s own wax polish) and assembly, I’m going to try to get it up and running ready for the big day.

Here’s the first, and arguably most exciting, stage – unpacking it!

The box. The wheel was supplied by alpacaspinner.co.uk and safely delivered by Parcelforce.
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New, older, oldest

The church of Saint Edmund is interesting just because of its location. Rather than being in the village of Caistor St Edmund, Norfolk, it’s a few hundred yards away inside the remains of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum.

Above ground, this is an otherwise unoccupied field surrrounded by grassed embankments; below ground is a different matter. The church seems to align with the Roman street pattern and it’s possible that the location of the current church preserves a site used for worship since the early days of Christianity.

The nave, the oldest part of the present building, was built somewhere around 1050 and remarkably includes Roman roof tiles, robbed from the remains of the town, in its construction. The picture shows flint in the wall of the 14th century tower; roof tile on the corner of the 11th century nave; and breeze block on the 21st century annex that, by the look of the sink visible through the window, is a kitchen.

Coffee mornings are such an important part of modern Christianity that it’s common to see parts of ancient churches converted to be kitchens. In this case, the 21st century annex replaces, or at least encases, some of the buttresses on the nave and chancel, much to the detriment of the appearance of the rear of the building. I’m surprised they were allowed to do it.

Urban homesteading

The “Urban Homestead” is a phrase that goes back to the 1970s and has become a common phrase in the US for describing a home which is aiming for self sufficiency and self reliance. It has a lot in common with the Permaculture and Transition movements, at the very least sharing some goals and techniques.

The handbook for the movement is The Urban Homestead by Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne – a very fine read it is too. They’ve got problems at the moment though, and here’s why.

The Dervaes family in Pasadena have run an urban homestead for over twenty years, and have made such a business out of it that they decided to apply for a trademark for the phrases Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading. Remarkably they were granted them despite the mountains of prior usage. Now they’ve sent out what they consider to be polite reminders to people not to step on their trademark – unfortunately one was sent to Facebook with regard to Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne’s page about their book, and Facebook promptly took the page down until the dispute is resolved.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation have stepped in and are acting on behalf of Knutzen and Coyne to fight the takedown notices. There’s also a Facebook campaign to spread the word about urban homesteading and make sure the Dervaes’ family don’t succeed in co-opting it for themselves. Hence this page.

Good sources of information are Boing Boing (as ever) and the OC Weekly, the local paper in Pasadena with a charming fondness for words like “dingbats”.

Update: It took six years but the EFF finally got the trademark cancelled!