Making Gala sparkle: part one

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Bill Jeffrey completed the first leg of his Walk4Gala fundraising mission on Sunday, and he says that despite encountering many difficulties, he feels a lot better about the second.

Bill decided to try to raise cash for Galashiels’ Christmas lights after being a bit underwhelmed by last year’s switch-on.

He hit upon the idea of walking the Southern Upland Way – considered to be one of the country’s toughest walks.

And, in order to fit the feat around his work commitments he decided to do it in two legs, the first being from Cockburnspath on the east coast back to Galashiels, and the second, much longer leg, from Portpatrick to his hometown.

The first leg, which began on Thursday and ended on Sunday, gave him a few pointers.

He said: “I didn’t count on the fact that the day I set out was the hottest day of the year by far, and I used more water than I thought I would.

“Also the Saturday coming into Lauder from the reservoir near Longformacus had to have been one of the wettest – my tent was dry, thankfully, but I was soaked through.

“I found out that my boots were waterproof, as the rain was running down my legs into my boots, and the water wasn’t going anywhere!”

Bill is a lover of the outdoors, but as he has a history of problems with his back, this was always going to be tough.

But he also found out that he has an enviable support network if he gets into trouble.

After hearing he was short of water after the first day’s trek, his pal Elspeth Boland tracked him down with a rescue package of water, chocolate bars and vaseline for his lips.

And on the second night, she brought him some fish and chips from Eyemouth for a wee treat.

Bill said: “My friend Bill Russell will be tracking me from Portpatrick from our start date of August 10, and that takes care of any worries.

“I’ll probably only see him a couple of times on the walk, but to know he’s there if I need him is a great relief.

“I did come up against a few problems on the first leg, but it’s only helped me feel more confident about the task in hand.

“Just being out there in the middle of nowhere with just the pack on my back is incredibly freeing.”

The last part of the walk, from Lauder to Galashiels, took place on Sunday, and he was joined by 28 supporters of all ages, thanks to the Border Boogie Bus, which transported the walkers.

He said: “To see all those people come along to support me was amazing. All of them, and a good few other people have said they would join me on the last leg coming east, so that will be something to look forward to.

“And Sylvia Scott at Quins Restaurant in Gala was so kind, putting on refreshments for all those who joined me on Sunday.”

He’s given himself a target of £10,000, which will go along with £15,000 already guaranteed through the Localities Bid Fund.

He said: “To date, I’ve raised over £3,000, but I’ll be going around with my bucket the next few days.

“There are many other people helping out by raising money for the lights ... Leanne Ford, Lorna Hanif, Anne Carrie and Helen Calder to name a few ... and we’re all just trying to do one thing. make Gala sparkle.”

Bill will be at Asda today (Thursday) with his fundraising bucket.