Yesterday I travelled from Ayr through the wonderful scenery of the Galloway and Borders on my way to the Keswick Mountain Festival. I passed many of the places where my Dad and Mum took us hill walking over 50 years ago The Merrick, Corserine and many others and the little villages are so part of my love of the wild places and the people who work and enjoy them.
The hills are looking stunning just now so green and the early morning air was warm and full of birdsong. Sadly the rivers could do with some rain but can we complain? This area near my home town of Ayr and many of the villages were in the past mining villages. Sadly this is where many of Scotland’s finest lived and worked. Nowadays the pits and work has gone and Scotland lost some incredible people many moving away or abroad to seek work. I understand that things change but there was little thought of what happens to the people after the jobs are gone. When you see the old mines and the villages it is hard to believe that this was once a huge centre industrial Scotland now lost. It is good to see that the forestry in Galloway is stunning and many take advantage of the walks and cycle paths the forestry is now a great asset for the people. Loch Doon dominates this is a beautiful place my memories of Boys Brigade camps, midges, snow, rain sun and learning about the hills I wish I could have stayed longer.
I stopped at Annan to get a lift from David one of the “Cycle to Syracuse team”and to collect Colin the man behind the idea of our Cycle in memory of the Students in the Lockebie tragedy where 35 from Syracuse University never made it home . It is a commemorative cycle from Lockerbie to Syracuse University on the 30’th Anniversary of the Lockerbie tragedy. It is about “looking back and looking forward” to the future and the memories of those lost an effected by this sad period. (Please go to the Facebook page for more information and if you can please like it.)
It was great to be driven in Dave’s car ( posh) a change from the van and we were soon heading for the Lakes a short drive from Annan.
The M6 was busy but we were soon in the Lakes how incredible these hills are and I have some great memories of grand climbs and walks and a few rescues in the past. It was busy as the Mountain Festival was on and we were meeting Mark Beaumont the world-famous record-breaking cyclist who was giving us some time from his busy schedule to advise us and he was speaking at the Festival.
We also had several members from the “Feachan Flyers” the local Cycle group who are a great help on our journey to Syracuse.
Keswick festival was a massive canvas village a huge change for me from the early days and we had wander round the site some lunch and then waited for Mark’s arrival. Also speaking was Alan Hinkes the first Briton to climb all the 8000 meter peaks. What a lovely man and though he was speaking within half and hour he had a good chat with our group. Alan is an Ambassador for Mountain Rescue England and Wales and plays an active part in supporting Mountain Rescue which is of great benefit to the organisations to have a man of his calibre supporting the cause. Maybe Scottish Mountain Rescue could follow this lead?
Mark arrived introduced himself and then went off to do a sound check for his chat later that evening. He was soon back and we had about two hours of fantastic, advice, chat and information. I am lucky to have met many icons but what a man Mark was he is a humble guy but so approachable and interested in our cycle.
It was a surreal two hours and impressive rarely have I met someone as positive and willing to share of his hard-won knowledge. “Knowledge is power” is not in Mark book, he has a love of the bike, the people and many other things in the outdoors. He is not just a cyclist but a mountaineer, rower, arctic explorer and few have pushed endurance as he has in the world. He is a true Ambassador for getting folk healthy and out in the fresh air. He also is clearly aware of the positives on activity on mental health and what we are trying to achieve with our Cycle to Syracuse for PTSD and other issues. He portrays an incredible life with praise to all from his family to his support team and the influence of team work in achieving his aims. He took us through the dark periods in his adventures and how he pushes his body to places that we can only imagine. I could have listened to him for hours. Yet he still had time to speak to so many who recognised him and wanted a word and photos. So many of our sporting icons could learn from Mark. Thank you Mark it was a superb afternoon and stay safe and maybe you will get some time for your young family and have a break?
It was soon time to leave the journey back was split by getting sized for my kit for the trip then off on the road. I had been a bit fed up with my “wimpy rib” keeping me off my bike but being with Mark and the others was another great experience.
Thanks to all.