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Thread: Trip to the borders, looking for advice

  1. #1
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    Trip to the borders, looking for advice

    I'm starting to plan a trip for June, it's a little ambitious, but I hope I can pull it off.

    The back story- I was supposed to be going on a month long trip to Alaska, but got a work offer (that was too good to refuse) to go for a week to Prague in the middle of June. Right in the middle of my previously planned trip.

    I've been doing some family history research and at some point figured I would head to the border country to visit places my father knew, and where my grandfather and his ancestors were born. I'm now trying to combine the trips. The plan so far is to fly my bike over to London with Air Canada, spend at least 10 days in the border country, head to Prague for the week long conference, and then back to London to fly home. I'll have between 3 weeks and a month for the trip. Air Canada has been running a deal on motorcycle transport, and I've figured the break even vs renting is about 15-21 days. The bonus is I'll be on my own familiar, well maintained and provisioned bike (2015 R1200GS) , riding two up with my wife.

    The only contact I've had was with a person helping me with the family tree, somewhere in Cumbria, who thought it was a bad idea "the roads up there are terrible, it will take three times longer than you plan". After looking on Google streetview the roads look pretty awesome to a flatlander like me!

    I plan on spending the first couple of days at the records office in Carlisle, then heading through the backroads to Stapleton area, Penton, Nichol Forest parish, Kershopefoot and Newcastleton. Spending a few days or more near Newcastleton, exploring and photographing some old farms and cemeteries. Then, if possible, head on a Scottish route to Bamburgh Castle ( a famous Forster area) and come back via Northumberland and then the Keider forest? Or just head for the chunnel, get to Prague and back.

    My wife thinks I'm possibly nuts, but looking at the distances it seems doable to me, and maybe a whole lot of fun!

    I've just downloaded some OSM maps of the area and I'm just starting to plan. Do you locals have any advice on where to stay (Carlisle 2 days, Newcastleton area, possibly a week) that would be reasonably priced (probably won't bring the tent this trip, or should I?)? Any other advice on roads to travel or avoid? Pubs to visit, local sites not to be missed?Any info appreciated!

    Cheers, foz

  2. #2
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    Terrible roads my arse! Some of the best biking in the UK are in the "debatable lands". If your centre of ops is the western borders, then a base near Carlisle makes sense. As I am biased. I would suggest the Scottish side, maybe basing yourself in or around Hawick or Langholm on the Scottish side. That allows you to head down to Carlisle but also over to Newcastleton and then to Kielder and the eastern marches via Hermitage Castle. The English eastern border towns such as Alnwick are worth a look too. A day trip to Edinburgh is easily done via the A7, one of the best roads you can take a bike on. If you subscribe to this site, you can receive messages which can be handy.

    Once you know your travel dates, post them up. There are various local events such as common ridings which will be of interest but they are spread throughout the summer.

    Some winter reading for you: The Steel Bonnets by George MacDonald Fraser. You might come across one of your ancestors!

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    Take no notice of your Cumbrian friend - there's not a bad road in the area you mention. "Summer" time brings out a few more tourists, but none that would bother you on a motorbike.
    Just watch out for sheep which graze loose on many of the border roads (they're unpredictable) and on the quieter tracks there can often be piles of gravel in places where you need traction.

    One tip as far as finding your ancestors, whilst photos can be helpful, many more parish records are held inside the church so you may miss out on some detail.

    Good luck in your quest. Whichever roads you choose to ride, you won't be disappointed.

  4. #4
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    Go for it, beautiful bit of the country , bamber castle is stunning from the north

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    Jedburgh is fairly central to your itinerary.
    Try these folk, http://airenlea.co.uk
    No connection to them, and never stayed there, but they are allegedly bike friendly.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the info! I'll subscribe to the site in the New Year when I get a better handle on my dates of travel. I'm still convincing my wife that this is a good idea! The conference N of Prague is now set for June 11-14th, so I'll probably come for a couple of weeks before or after that date. Is there much difference in the weather late May early June, as opposed to late June?

    The book looks interesting, I've subscribed to the Border Rievers facebook page, and the pictures of Hermitage castle and the area look really amazing. Some of my ancestors were from Hawick, but most were from the English side near Newcastleton (from Stonegarthside in Nichol forest, Dykecrofts is mentioned as well-looks like a mountain biking centre now!). Bamburgh was on my mind when I was writing the post, as I found some pictures and posts of a ride that was organized starting there. Looks like another pretty amazing place. The B&B looks good and in the right price range.

    Can you just rock up to a church and ask to look at records? I'm getting some monumental inscriptions from the Stapleton area, as well as wills recorded in Kirkandrews on Esk on CD. It looks like some of the cemetaries where my relatives are buried (Ettleton and Castleton near Newcsatleton) don't have churches next to them anymore, although St.Nicholas near Penton on the English side does. Another complicating factor in my research is that there are too many Forster's all with the same name born around the same time! Tough to know who is who!

    The roads do look inviting in the whole border area. A trip up to Edinburgh would be in the cards, as my wife trained as a midwife there in the '80's. If this goes well I may even plan another trip in 2018!

  7. #7
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    Compulsory registration only started in the 1850s. Before then, you have to dig into parish records. In England, I think these have been collected in county records offices. Have you contacted the Cumbria County Records office? http://www.cumbria.gov.uk/archives/ They should be able to give you general advice which could save you a lot of time when you get over here.

    In Scotland, there's https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/?...cHEaAqtK8P8HAQ

    It would be a lot easier if you had ancestors only on one side of the border D

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    Quote Originally Posted by scotboxer View Post
    It would be a lot easier if you had ancestors only on one side of the border
    And when did a Border Reiver ever take any notice of a border?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeBiff View Post
    Jedburgh is fairly central to your itinerary.
    Try these folk, http://airenlea.co.uk
    No connection to them, and never stayed there, but they are allegedly bike friendly.
    I know them personally, and have stayed there - Airenlea is probably one of the best B&Bs I know of. Plenty of assistance with good roads too.

    Al
    If I am ever on life support - Unplug me......
    Then plug me back in..........

    See if that works .....

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by fozbiker View Post
    Can you just rock up to a church and ask to look at records? I'm getting some monumental inscriptions from the Stapleton area, as well as wills recorded in Kirkandrews on Esk on CD. It looks like some of the cemetaries where my relatives are buried (Ettleton and Castleton near Newcsatleton) don't have churches next to them anymore, although St.Nicholas near Penton on the English side does. Another complicating factor in my research is that there are too many Forster's all with the same name born around the same time! Tough to know who is who!
    You're really better off starting your research using ancestry.com before you leave home.
    Then narrowing your lineage down to some more defined dates, and places, to visit to maximise on your limited time.
    Ancestry have a service where they'll search for you, but I'm not sure what their fee is, nor how far back it stretches historically.
    Forster is a common name on the English side of the Reivers, but that's no real help without a bit more of your family details, etc..
    With a bit of luck and skill, you can run back to the early 1800's with census records (using Ancestry) but, further back than that, you will need to start using the parish records.
    Generally, with churches, it is best to give them a bit of advance notice; many churches these days don't have a resident vicar/priest/clergy and those that do, often serve several churches in their locality - so they may not always be available to enable you access.
    If you find that your forebears hail from the English side, then the Northumberland Records Office, in Woodhorn (near Ashington) is a useful place; though it's not really on your planned route. See http://www.experiencewoodhorn.com/collections/


  11. #11
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    Interesting , thanks for the additional info. I've started with searches on the GRO site and Scotlandspeople, then joined the Cumbria Family History Society. After the Christmas break I'll hit up my local LDS Family history centre that has free access to ancestry.com and lot's of records (I'm not mormon but probably 70% of people in my area are!). On my grandfather's side I'm back to the 1800's where my GG grandfather (John) went and married (well maybe) a Margaret Forster (nee Forster). I haven't found a marriage record, just the birth rego of my great grandfather. There are so many John and Margaret's about the same age that it makes it difficult sorting out who is who, especially since the census info has them living at the same farm at different times!

    Even if I don't sort it out it still makes for a great excuse to ride around the borders on my bike! I may also try to get back in 2018 for an extended trip (especially if my wife enjoys this one!).

    I'll start to make some more solid plans in January. The Air canada fly your bike program starts in May, with info usually available in late Feb.

  12. #12
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    I don't know if I missed it and it's already in there somewhere but what's the family name? Having grown up in Langholm and having distant relatives in Newcastleton which, by the way, is always know locally as Copshaw or Copshawholm, I may know some people who you could contact.

    If you do stay in Copshaw, take the hill road over Whita Hill to Langholm and then the B709 to Eskdalemuir and the Tibetan Centre at Kagyu Samye Ling. The rest of the B709 is a hoot as well, if not for the inexperienced rider. I'd also recommend the B7068 from Langholm to Lockerbie.

    Feel free to get back to me for any more local knowledge.

  13. #13
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    If you're coming over for 15 - 21 days then you have plenty of time to tour further afield.
    Scottish highlands NC500 route is just beautiful scenery and riding up through Glencoe to get there is stunning (like the Rockies but smaller and older).
    If you do venture into the Highlands (and really they should not be missed) you're welcome to stay with us en route if it suits us all. I'm 40 minutes east of Inverness but will be riding in mainland Europe late July to mid. August.
    I used to live on the Yellowhead just east of Edmonton and miss your country so much!

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    I was at the rally at The last Chance Saloon, Wayne in 2002 - great weekend!

  15. #15
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    Totally random and unrelated, I see that Lethbridge or rather the University of Lethbridge, is in the news - http://themindunleashed.com/2015/02/...beginning.html

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schtum View Post
    I don't know if I missed it and it's already in there somewhere but what's the family name? Having grown up in Langholm and having distant relatives in Newcastleton which, by the way, is always know locally as Copshaw or Copshawholm, I may know some people who you could contact.

    If you do stay in Copshaw, take the hill road over Whita Hill to Langholm and then the B709 to Eskdalemuir and the Tibetan Centre at Kagyu Samye Ling. The rest of the B709 is a hoot as well, if not for the inexperienced rider. I'd also recommend the B7068 from Langholm to Lockerbie.

    Feel free to get back to me for any more local knowledge.
    Hi Schtum! My family name is Forster. My grandfather was born in Newcastleton (Underbournmouth on his birth rego) but his family came from over the river at Stonegarthside.

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