Come for the grief, stay for the bridges

Well, this is awkward…

I did a post on Saturday about how I was feeling on the second anniversary of the death of my wee brother Scott. And it seemed to strike a chord with quite a lot of you. Thanks to everyone who read the post, to everyone who liked, shared and followed and to everyone who sent me such kind and supportive messages over the weekend. Your words were a huge source of comfort to me.

It was a tough couple of days, as expected, but easier than last year. And of course, it did indeed pass. Look, here we are at Tuesday already!

I have to break it to you… this isn’t a blog about grief, or about Frightened Rabbit. I set this site up as a blog about the wee challenge I had set myself to visit each of the bridges over the River Tweed. That said, as you will have seen from my other blog posts, I tend to get distracted by events – both inside and outside of my head.

To manage your expectations, there is likely to be a fair bit about emotional and mental health mixed in with all the #bridgebantz. I also wouldn’t rule out a sprinkling of football and music chat at some point. And maybe some searing commentary on whatever TV show my kids are watching in the background, my musings on the respective merits of different crisp flavours and real-time updates on my failed attempts to meet my responsibilities as a grown-up adult human being.

However, despite appearances to the contrary, I have not taken my eyes (completely) off the prize – we’re still all about the bridges in this house, people!

So let’s kick off with a bit of geography for those of you less familiar with the Scottish Borders and the River Tweed.

Short breaks, long river

If you’ve not visited the Scottish Borders (aka “The Borders”), you should. It’s a very pretty, peaceful part of Scotland. Not as spectacular as the Highlands, not as buzzy as the central belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh, not as wealthy as Aberdeen and the surrounding ‘shire. It was once billed by the local tourist board as “Scotland’s no. 1 short break destination”, which is about as thinly-veiled praise as you can get.

I prefer: “The Scottish Borders – you won’t want to stay too long!” or “Book for a week, stay for a weekend!”

I should really work in marketing, I’m wasted here.

In all seriousness, it really is worth a visit if you like a rolling hill or two. It has some world-class mountain bike trails and is the home of seven-a-side rugby!

The River Tweed traverses the entire region, from West to East. The last couple of miles are actually in North England, before the river drains into the North Sea through the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, famously still technically at war with Russia after changing hands in-between Scotland and England’s separate Crimean War truces. A fact so wonderful that it must be false.

Like a mother to an ungrateful child, Scotland gives birth to the river, feeds her and tends to her every need for 80-odd miles, before she turns her back on us just as we are about to head out to sea together. And before she is finally seduced by the bright lights of Berwick, she cruelly gets our hopes up that she might in fact stay by sitting squarely on top of the border itself for about 12 miles. And then she’s off, without a word of thanks (apart from all the beautiful scenery, wildlife and world-class fishing beats that she leaves behind, so maybe we’re about even).

OK, so I’ve clearly got some stuff to work through there. Maybe forgiveness for the Tweed’s spiteful behaviour could be one of the objectives of this exercise.

The bridges

My eldest daughter and I spent some time today going through the maps. I can’t stress this enough – I really like maps.

From our comprehensive and professional map review, we reckon there are up to 55 bridges over the River Tweed. It is difficult to pin down the exact number without actually visiting each and every one of them, which is precisely what I intend to do.

Although there is a chink of light at the end of the lockdown tunnel (we are now allowed to exercise outside more than once a day), I think it makes sense to start local.

There are 17 bridges that I would assess as being easily reachable on a return trip from my house by bike so we’ll kick-off with those fellas.

Those bridges bagged, I’ll be left with 18 upstream and 20 downstream. I am inclined to further divide the Eastern block into sets of 11 and 9 (up and down stream from Kelso respectively).

So, in summary, the phases of the plan would look something like this:

  1. Drumelzier to Walkerburn (17 bridges)
  2. Ashiesteel to Mertoun (11)
  3. Tweed Well to Logan Head (18)
  4. Kelso to Berwick (9)

That feels do-able. And it facilitates a glorious celebration of a job well-done in the notorious party hotspot that is Berwick-upon-Tweed. I’ll see you all there in a few months time for some Nanny States!

Heron chic

As a wee postscript, I bumped into our old friend the Peebles heron on my morning walk yesterday. I’ve decided to call her Mirren (heron Mirren, get it?).

Check her out! Stood on the cauld, calm as you like, with precisely zero fucks to give. She is the boss of all she surveys, and she knows it very well.

Here’s to you Mirren! Damn few and they’re a’deid!

Until next time…

4 thoughts on “Come for the grief, stay for the bridges

  1. Yes, I stumbled upon this blog by way of a link from a story on your dear brother’s passing. But I am damned glad I did. Great writing and I am excited to see how the adventure plays out.
    My family visited from USA last summer, spending 2 weeks there and loved your country. It was rare to go more than 5 minutes without one of us dropping our jaws and exclaiming WOW!
    My 11- and 9-year old daughters ask about once every two weeks when we can go back there. One even recently told us she plans on moving there. I told her I’d join her.
    We even made it down to the Borders one day to visit the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary because my wife is donkey-obsessed. It turned out to be one of the best days of her life.
    Also, she has stopped drinking alcohol and came across a Nanny State in Edinburgh while having a curry and she has been trying to get some shipped here to the States!
    I’ll be following along and looking forward to the journey. Enjoy some Scottish scenery…
    All the best!


  2. I, too, discovered you through your post about your brother, but am glad to have stumbled in! Being married to a mapheid, I understand the enjoyment of looking at maps. And, Heron Mirren – hilarious!


  3. And stay I shall!

    I too came here by the traditional manner (the grief), but I am also a map-obsessive, occasional runner, and I own a bike! Now show me some damn bridges!

    But seriously, I love that you have decided to craft an adventure out of exploring something so mundane as the bridges over your local river… then I skipped ahead to the next post and saw how inappropriate the word “mundane” is to describe bridge number one. Stunning! Carry on!


  4. Another friend here who discovered your blog when you posted about Scott. Your posts are entertaining (that Heron Mirren is amazing), and enlightening. We are Canadian, and Scotland is next on our travel list, once it is safe again. Ideas from your blogs will be part of our planning. Keep writing, you are so good at it. Jen


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