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day four

ninth march 1999

falstone -> bailey mill

on waking, i braced myself for the impact of a significant but probably not fatal hangover, but nothing substantial materialised. phew.
we were treated to yet another cracking breakfast served in the back room of the pub. we sat next to the window, and noted with dismay that the rain & wind had returned after their brief holiday. our host found the prospect of our impending soaking most amusing.
we packed & paid, then set about organising tonight's accommodation. the most logical establishment in the reivers handbook was a place called 'bailey mill' in the 'village' of bailey. we went for it. lou phoned to reserve a room, and agreed to an evening meal. this went against our usual practice of finding a pub to slob in, but this place was not particularly near a pub, or owt else for that matter. hmmm, sounded intriguing.

and so to the day's struggle. we rejected the off-road option round keilder, as neither of us is really an off-road freak. so we climbed the rough track to the dam and crossed the top to the main road. this was very impressive, but i'll tell you what: if i were a worrier, i wouldn't get sufficient beauty sleep to maintain my gorgeous visage if i lived in falstone. it lies in the shadow of the dam, with millions of tons of water held back by only an impressively substantial structue. but i don't live there, and so i shan't go on about it. too much anyway. ooooh it makes me shiver just to think about it, all that water. ok i'll shut up.

once on the road we made acceptable progress. the terrain was rolling, so we had long, slow, cold ascents, and long fast cold descents. not warm then, you gather. the road was a corker, though, and apart from the logging lorries thundering past, was relatively free of traffic.
we arrived at the keilder centre, in the village, and set about looking for somebody to stamp our card. again we had a struggle to achieve this, but we were at least successful this time. we were now getting used to the incredulous looks from those to whom we explained the nature of our expedition.

back on the road, which now metamorphosised into a much smaller road, with passing places. this change in quality did not deter the logging lorries from trying to maintain their terrifying speeds, and the journey turned into a mad dash from passing-place to passing-place in the hope that we would avoid the lorries.
the wind was approximately at our backs, and we maintained an impressive, for us, velocity. unfortunately the weather deteriorated into snow & sleet, and the temperature dropped.

we continued to the junction with the main road. we then took a detour to visit the tremendous, dreadfully beautiful hermitage castle. it's a bit off the route, but it is worth it. for all those fair weather cyclists, i'm afraid to say that it is really at its best in winter, because the viewer can only really appreciate it in truly bleak of conditions, much as we were experiencing. the downside is that it is 'out of season' in winter and so we could not get in without storming it, an operation that it was designed rather well to repel. so we stood there with mouths agape, awe-struck at the scale of the main arch, and then realised that we were freezing to the spot. so we re-mounted our trusty steeds, and rode off into the sludge.

and so to newcastleton. the road from hermitage castle was reasonable, and the weather was improving slightly. we started to thaw out, which meant that we could try and smile, if the inclination took us.
now, i don't mean to be nasty, but i always find places like newcastleton and nearby longtown unnerving. most of the buildings line one long main street. it's as if the traveller were running the gauntlet, one of the less enjoyable extra curricular activities at school. and nothing seems to have changed there in the last 40 years. it's a bit like being in the opening scenes of a horror film, where the heroes are transported back in time to some demon-ridden backwater.

this uneasyness did not prevent us from stopping at a cafe and having a bit of food & a steaming brew. but inside it was just as disquieting, the proprietor and his only customer looked weird enough to get parts in the film. still, lets not worry about that. a dish of soup and a plate of chips please, oh and please don't suck my immortal soul from my very being, it ruins my appetite.
we lingered in the village long enough to buy a bottle of wine for the evening. there were a lot of roadworks on the main street. perhaps they were getting electricity.

the last stage to bailey was approached with some apprehension. the sustrans map has a profile of the route, showing ascents and descents, and their gradient. the route to bailey seemed to have a very high wall somewhere on it, as i could have sworn the profile went vertical. as it turned out, the road merely became very steep for a bit. i gritted my teeth and dropped into the granny-gears. i almost made it, but the combination of gravity & inertia got the better of me.

we arrived at bailey mill shortly before sunset. the place seemed deserted. we wandered around calling "hello", but not too loudly in case the place had been overrun by the dark angels of newcastleton. in the end a pleasant young girl in jodpurs and a riding hat came to greet us, and on explaination of who we were, introduced us to our holiday flat. holiday flat? we were only here for the night. who cares, it was just fine.
once unpacked & settled in, our hostess came and introduced herself. she seemed very pleasant. she explained about the eating arrangements, the bar, and the sauna.

we turned up 15 minutes or so before dinner for an apperitif. the g&t would have been perfect, apart from the fact that the only tonic was of the diet ilk. i think that i would rather have the urine of any one of a host of mammals mixed with my gin rather than diet tonic, but i didn't have the heart to tell our barmaid come hostess. we were introduced to the man of the house, who turned out to be a real character. he & lou certainly got on well, and mutual winding up ensued.

We were shown to the dining table where we were to dine with our hosts & two of their more permanent guests, one being a French student who was gaining work experience trying to sell cattle feed to the local farmers. No mean feat when you consider that the French were currently boycotting British beef!
Although the company was excellent, I can't honestly say that the establishment was an ambassador for British cuisine. The ingredients for the meal being processed & frozen. It was, however, hot & edible. After supper, we had a drink or two with our hosts, who were friendly & entertaining. We then retired to our appartment to watch a film & quaff our bottle of vino, very civilized.

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