The Christmas lights switch-on in Galashiels six months ago was such a disappointment to one local community councillor, he’s decided to walk 210 miles this summer on one of Scotland’s toughest trails to ensure they are better this time round.
The Southern Upland Way is one of the toughest in the country, coast to coast, and it’s certainly going to be a challenge and a half for Bill Jeffrey, a 60-year-old with a history of spinal injuries.
He told us: “It was really disappointing last year as there were a lot of kids there and it was not great.
“People were blaming the council or the community council, but it’s all our faults.
“When we started shopping in all the big shops, the shops that actually paid for our Christmas lights are all closing down, and the ones that are left don’t have the same money.
“So we have to find new ways of funding these things.
“So, I just thought I’d try to walk the Southern Upland Way.”
Bill said he worked on the fences and styles on the Borders end of the path when it was being built, and always fancied walking it, but injury got in the way.
He said: “I also want to publicise the Southern Upland Way. When you see the equivalent in the Highlands, it’s as busy as Princes Street, but you rarely see people on ours.
“To walk it, it’s like walking up 25 of the world’s highest mountains, one after the other ... you’re going from coast to coast through some of the most remote areas of the country ... it’s a challenge.”
As Bill is a Gala man, he hopes to maximise his return home by doing it twice, splitting the walk into two.
From 26-28 July, Bill will take on the section from Cockburnspath on the east coast to Galashiels. And Bill has turned it into a major fundraising event by inviting other sponsored walkers to join him on the last leg between Lauder and Galashiels on July 28 – search Facebook for Walk4Gala for information on how you can take part.
And in the second and third weeks of August, he’ll walk from Portpatrick on the west coast to his hometown – by far the most difficult part of the way.
He said: “The training has been tough, but I’m not kidding myself how tough the actual walk will be. When I’m training I’m going home to a hot shower and a memory foam mattress. On the walk, I’ll have a sleeping bag in a tent.
“Age is another factor. When I was younger I would have ran it. Nowadays the only thing running is my nose.”
He says the training has given him a whole new perspective on the Borders.
He said: “It’s stuck me that we live in an impossibly beautiful part of the world ... and not many know about it because we don’t shout it loud enough.
“When you stand on top of these hills, you feel tiny. It’s fantastic.”
Bill is looking at a target of £10,000, and he has been helped along the way by several local companies.
He said: It would be great to raise £10k, but there’s no point in stopping there.
“I looked at my step counter the other day and it shows I have done more than 1,200,000 since February 1.
“Imagine, if I had been sponsored £1 a step, how good the lights would be this year!”