Everyone warned me that both the A68 and the old military road which runs parallel to the A69 are lethal, but there was no way I was going to miss visiting Stagshaw Bank, second (or third?) only to Falkirk and St. Faith's as being amongst the most important droving trysts or fairs in the trade between Scotland and England. And without going to a whole load of bother to get special permission from the landowner, I could see from the map that there was no alternative off road access.
Perhaps they have different road traffic rules in Northumberland, but until last week I thought solid white lines were not to be crossed. Evidently not driving along Hadrian's Wall, which appears to be a racetrack for the foolhardy, not just one but many of whom totally ignored my fluorescent tabbard and zoomed past way over the speed limit when there were others doing the same coming in the opposite direction. Just as well M&M are so bombproof in traffic.
After all that, Stagshaw Bank was as much of a non-event as Falkirk Tryst, and just as wet. I rode along thinking of "Tributes to Trysts in monsoon rain". There's a sign saying no metal detecting, and Ian Roberts had told me that the owner won't allow any excavations, which would provide invaluable insight into what happened here, so we can only imagine how busy this place once was. I was pleased to see a belted Galloway grazing where once the cattle were traded, but Magic took exception to it and spun across the main road, nearly enough to make it my last birthday but thankfully the only gap in the traffic for all the miles we rode down the main road down into Corbridge.
After our fracas with the police in Peebles, I daren't ignore the one way system but it was worth it to find that we were trotting down Watling Street, which despite the torrential rain impressed me. It's not just Drovers' Footsteps but Romans' we are following in.
Light was fading by the time we reached Linnel Woods south of Hexham, birthplace of my first Fell pony Lancer, and home of Sarah and Bob Charlton, renowned Fell pony breeders. Soaking in a hot bath, sipping a G&T, before a lovely meal in good company with ponies happily grazing outside was a really good way to end my birthday.