Four walks and a bike ride

Right folks, let’s talk bridges.

I’ve been sat at my desk for less than 3 minutes and I can already sense my monkey mind taking us off down the path of writing about something else, almost certainly related to the negative automatic thoughts that seem to have become a theme of this blog.

But fear not, people. I’ve promised you bridges and today it is bridges you shall have.

You will recall that, in my post of May 17th, entitled “Abridged”, I told you that I had visited five bridges on a wee jaunt around my hometown of Peebles. I did a proper write-up of one of said bridges (Manor Bridge) and showed you some photos of me looking sweaty on the other four (Neidpath Viaduct, Fotheringham Footbridge, Tweed Bridge and Priorsford Footbridge) as evidence that my feet have set upon them and so they can be considered “visited”.

Today, however, I will reveal to you further progress has been made in the goal of visiting all 55 (or maybe 54, more on that later) bridges over the River Tweed.

I can confirm (with photographic evidence in support) that the totaliser now stands at a respectable 19 (NINETEEN) bridges.

I have also spent a bit more time with my wonderful, wonderful maps, cataloguing the bridges in a spreadsheet, as you can see from this completely natural, not-in-any-way-staged, piece of reportage photography.

A real photo of a man at his desk

This panning exercise (as well as causing me to settle on the total number of bridges as 54) has revealed several nuggets of pure gold, that will no doubt feature prominently in future blogs. To give you a flavour…

One of the bridges claims to be the longest bridge in the world made of recycled plastic (a claim which will be verified before being formally attributed in these pages).

Another purports to be just yards from where Merlin (yes, that Merlin) suffered his self-predicted “triple death” from bludgeoning, piercing and drowning.

A third (or the bridge that preceded it on that site) was apparently built by German soldiers being held at a nearby PoW camp.

We’ll get to those tales in good time when I do the detailed write-ups in the individual bridge pages. For now, though, let’s canter through the 14 new bridges and the journeys that took me to them.

I decided fairly early on in this project that I wanted to properly visit each of the bridges, not merely drive up to it, take a quick snap, then go on my merry way. So, I’ve tried to build the bridge trips into longer walks or cycles, so I am able to articulate to you the context of the bridge, rather than just the composition of the spandrels (no, I still don’t know what a spandrel is). The bridges of which I bring you news today were visited over the course of five days in June and July 2020 – four walks and a bike ride.

Walk 1, 6 June – Lyne Station

Back in early June, Mrs Tweed Chronicles (not sure she’d appreciate that name, I guess we’ll find out soon enough!) and I went on a lovely walk out to Lyne Station from our house in Peebles.

As you can see from the photos below, it was a stunning day for a walk. We ended up walking for 8 miles, appending Lyne Station onto the 5 mile / 5 bridge loop that I told you about before.

Lyne Station is a tiny village (maybe even a hamlet, can’t be more than 10 houses) about 3 miles upstream from Peebles. It is so-called because of (a) the River Lyne, which flows from my old stomping ground of West Linton into the Tweed at Lyne Station, and (b) the fact that there used to be a train station there before the prick Beeching took his axe to the railways of the Borders.

The evidence of historical train action is not just in the name, you can still see bridges and even some of the trackside ironwork that they didn’t bother to remove. Indeed the path which took us back into Peebles is built on the old railway line, and a very nice walk it is too.

The bridge at Lyne Station is a small footbridge of little note. It looks like it was built to replace a ford, slightly further downstream. When we were there, there were four teenage boys hanging out on the bridge bothering absolutely nobody. They appeared to be enjoying the clement weather and were happy to both give and receive nods of gratitude for observing the social distancing rules that were in place at the time.

On the way home, we spotted our dear friend Mirren roosting up in a tree, keeping an eye out for any potential prey. There’s a separate blog to be written about the herons of the Tweed (and herons more generally) as I am learning that they are not universally adored, particularly by owners of garden ponds. For now, though, let’s raise a glass to Mirren and her kin.

Lord of all she surveys

Cycle, 12 June – Walkerburn via Cardrona and Innerleithen

Another railway sob story for you here. But this time with a happy ending!

It turns out that old abandoned railways make great cycle paths (once you’ve cleared away the sleepers and put some tarmac down) and I can’t think of a better example of this than the Tweed Valley Railway Path, the venue for our (again, Mrs TC and I) cycle from Peebles to Walkerburn and back on 12 June.

This 8-mile-long path gives you easy access to 7 crossings over the Tweed, as you can see from the highly evocative photo essay below.

By far my favourite of these is the Woodend Bridge, which is the only (as far as I am aware) dedicated cycle bridge over the Tweed. It is also (I am fairly sure) the newest bridge over the river, built in 2013 to complete the cycle path. Well done to everyone involved.

Walk 2, 10 July – Dryburgh and Mertoun

We jump ahead now, skipping the next 11 bridges downstream from Walkerburn to take in some of the bridges near St. Boswells. This was an opportunistic bridge-grab on my part as I took full advantage of the easing of lockdown restrictions to leave the kids with my Mum at her house in nearby Newtown St. Boswells for a few hours.

This is another lovely walk and on the day in question, very quiet indeed. The landscape in this part of the Borders is quite different to Peebles and the surrounding environs. Once you get past the Eildon hills (below) near Melrose, you are very much in “rolling-hill” country. And so the river spreads itself out accordingly.

The Eildon Hills from the back of St. Boswells

In terms of bridges, I’ve got a couple for your perusal here. The Dryburgh Suspension Bridge is an OK bridge, I guess, but the real surprise was awaiting me on the Northern bank.

There I found the Temple of the Muses, a tribute to the 18th-century poet James Thompson, who was from this neck o’ the woods. Thompson’s most famous work of poetry was “The Seasons”, which was said to have inspired the later Romantic poets, including Wordsworth and Keats.

I am very much an ignoramus when it comes to poetry. I just don’t get it, I’m sorry. I remember sitting in standard grade English with Mr Forsyth, rolling my eyes in cynicism as he tried to explain the true meaning of the work of Iain Crichton-Smith.

I remember thinking at the time that this was just sneaky. If you’ve got something to say, just say it. Don’t bury it beneath several layers of metaphor for the readers of the future to stumble upon.

Of course, I realise now that I was being very unfair to Mr Crichton-Smith and his poetry pals. There is much beauty in poetry, I guess I felt (and still feel) overwhelmed by it sometimes.

And then we have Mertoun Bridge. A good old fashioned road bridge, taking cars (and I suppose carriages at one point in time) from one side of the river to the other. And so, just like that, we have visited 15 bridges. Give yourself a hug for getting this far.

Walk 3, 16 July – Dawyck and Stobo

Heading further upstream from Lyne Bridge, there is a triumvirate of bridges in the valley that carried the Tweed from Dawyck (pronounced “Doik”) to Stobo.

Again, I was accompanied on this walk by Mrs TC. This is where the riverside paths start to break down a bit, so I had attempted to locate the friendliest side of the river on which to walk by looking at my OS maps. I would say this was a partial success. We managed to avoid getting ourselves killed as we walked along the side of a narrow road on the Northern side of the river, but failed to avoid getting bitten to shreds by the local insect population on the South side. I’ll take that, rather than the vice-versa.

The Crownhead Bridge is a road bridge on the B712 close to the turn-off for Dawyck Botanic Gardens. It’s a road bridge from the 1980s, what else do you want to know?

Heading upstream, you then get to another road bridge, but with a more agricultural twist – the Dawyck Mill Bridge. You can see that the bridges are starting to get a bit smaller now, the further upstream we go. I can’t wait until all we are dealing with is a couple of planks over a stream.

And last, but not least, we have the Easter Dawyck Bridge at Stobo. This is the aforementioned recycled plastic bridge, but that story needs some further validation before we go much further into it.

Walk 4, 30 July – Mertoun (again) and Mertoun House

Another Thursday afternoon in Newtown St. Boswells, another bridge-grab whilst the kids are entertained by their Gran.

This time, I drove about 5 miles East from Mum’s house to the village of Maxton. From there, I set out to find the Mertoun House Bridge.

I ended up doing another really nice 5-mile loop along the river bank up to the old Mertoun Bridge (again) and back to the car park in Maxton. Notable sights on this walk included a whole field of thistles and yet another heron, with which the Tweed appears to be absolutely stiff.

Mertoun House Bridge is a cable suspension bridge, which gives partial access to the Mertoun House estate on the North side of the river.

Honestly, this one isn’t for the faint-hearted as it does get somewhat shaky towards the middle. But I braved the warnings from the Estate and pressed on – that’s how much you mean to me.

And so, you are up-to-date. Together, we have visited 19 of the 54 bridges over the river Tweed.

Sorry it has taken me so long to update you on these and that I have not yet found the time to do a more detailed description of the bridge construction and vibes on the “Bridge” pages. I will get to these, I promise.

In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed this canter through the last couple of months in bridges and that you are enjoying some peace and comfort in your life wherever you may be.

Until next time…

3 thoughts on “Four walks and a bike ride

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