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Miltonrigg Wood

When our host mentioned that they had arranged another hike that was a bit more strenuous, I decided that after panting through the last three hikes I was pretty much done on uphill climbs for the time being. A few other family members must have been worn out as well, for when I declined my husband and one of my daughters threw in the towel as well. I guess they were all waiting for the weakest link to bail out so that they could save face. So while our host took half the party on a hike, our hostess arranged a gentle walk at a local woodland trust property known as Miltonrigg Woods.

After a few days of being exposed to some pretty intense sunshine, it was quite pleasant to walk through a shaded wood. We strolled along a well-groomed dirt path, studying the local ferns and various flowers along the way. In addition to several groups of lavender colored snapdragons, there seemed to be an abundance of wildflowers from the carrot family. Our friend claimed they were hemlock. Between that and recent stories of burns from giant hogweed flowers and wild parsnips, I felt it best to leave these plants alone.

Our journey took a detour down a small side path that led to a pond. Our friend was dismayed at the low water level, more evidence of the drought conditions in the area. We leaned against the fence for a time taking in the peaceful scene of trees reflected in the water. Flitting along the water, we observed numerous blue damsel flies.

We continued along the loop, pausing briefly to study the symmetry of an old tree, a stone and the meadow beyond. Finishing up our walk, I spent the afternoon reflecting on the hikes completed during the week and my difficulties during each. I know as I mentioned two or three times about not understanding why I was having trouble here climbing the same elevation as back home. I know at least one member of our party was annoyed that I mentioned it (I really hope I wasn’t whining too much). Some of you may wonder why I continue to take part in such adventures if it bothers me so. My answer to that is that if I did not push myself during these journeys I would never have witnessed the sunrise from the top of a mountain or enjoyed the magnificent views from a summit. I will continue to push myself to discover and observe the gifts nature has to offer, even if it means slowing my pace. And if my stories encourage one person to overcome their difficulties and strive towards a goal then my stories will not have been in vain.

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Hadrian’s Wall

Following our stay in Edinburgh, we headed south to spend the weekend with friends who lived in northern England. It was amazing that after 17 years we were able to pick up our relationship as if we had just seen them the day before. After a relaxing evening of catching up, we got up the next morning refreshed and ready to tackle a portion of Hadrian’s Wall.

As we walked along the Wall, we discussed the purpose of such a wall that divided the island into two pieces. Did it keep invaders out or citizens in? Was it for trading purposes? I have seen this questions discussed in a number of books but I am not sure if anyone has ever come up with a definitive answer. In any case it was impressive. We did comment that we expected this structure to be a bit higher if it was supposed to keep people out or in, but our friend explained that over time the stones had been “quarried” for other walls and nearby stone buildings.

Once again, this was not a flat walk, offering some significant uphill and downhill moments. As we meandered along the wall, we noticed that the area was not as green as we had imagined. Our friends indicated that the country had not had any significant rain in weeks, leaving the countryside looking rather brown. On this particular day, it was quite sunny to the extent that I may be the only person who ever got a sunburn in England! Who knew?

After an hour or so of walking, we looked around for a decent spot to have lunch. Finding an area with less evidence of sheep than others, we enjoyed the scenery and the conversation before resuming our stroll.

Our journey led us towards another stone wall where a ladder had been constructed to allow visitors to continue along the path.  Here, the trail took a steady uphill direction which gave me some difficulty, but I peresrvered. I was relieved when after a downhill portion and a climb over another section of wall we entered a wooded section. At last, we had some protection from the sun.

As we meandered through the woods, I noticed more of the purplish-pink flowers that I had seen during our visit to Balloch Castle Country Park. This time our friend was able to identify them as Fireweed. Our journey through the woods ended at a gate where we took the obligatory family photos before retracing our steps towards home.