Tunnel of love (and light)
We’re getting very excited about the forthcoming Tweed Valley Tunnel Trail Run which takes place on Saturday 20th October 2018. Now in its 3rd year this event is organised by Hillside Outside, the team behind the tweedlove.com and Tour o The Borders .
Billed as suitable for seasoned trail runners or complete beginners, the event sees runners choose from three distances: approximately 4k, 10k and 20k, all off-road. All courses start and finish in Peebles’ beautiful Hay Lodge Park, taking 450 or more runners on an autumnal journey along riverside paths, through gorgeous mixed woodland, and out into the hills before diving into the Neidpath Tunnel – a 600m-long disused railway tunnel that will be rigged up with all sorts of special lighting effects.
But while hosting a trail run may be a departure for a team best known for bike events, it’s likely to appeal to many of the same people. “There’s such an active community here … a lot of people ride and run locally,” explains event organiser Neil Dalgleish.
“The idea of putting together some kind of trail run was too good not to explore further, so we’ve created routes that really focus on the natural beauty all around, particularly now with the autumn colours. And, of course, the tunnel just adds another twist!”
Ah yes, the tunnel. Familiar to those who regularly walk in South Park Wood above the Neidpath Viaduct, it’s a legacy of the old Symington Biggar & Broughton Railway. The tunnel opened in 1864 and remained operational until 1954, although the passenger service ended a few years earlier.
As can be imagined, there are many interesting stories attached to it, not least when in the early part of the 20th century the Nobel-prize-winning scientist CTR Wilson used the tunnel to conduct experiments with his cloud chamber to explore the existence of cosmic radiation. The line also saw heavy traffic during World War Two and is rumoured to have once provided shelter for the Royal Train.
After its closure to trains, the tunnel was used by the Wemyss & March Estate, which owns the surrounding woodland, for the transport of timber.
The tunnel is usually dark, dank and just a little bit spooky, but not on 20th October. Working together with Black Light, one of Scotland’s leading technical lighting creators known for its work at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens, the tunnel will be completely transformed. With the discovery that several species of bat roost at each end of the tunnel, the lighting has been carefully arranged to comply with guidance from Scottish Natural Heritage.
“The tunnel is 600m long and on a curve so when you’re in the middle, you can’t see either end,” says Neil. “The lighting plan we have in place will make running through it a unique and impressive experience!”
Why not head to Hay Lodge Park on the 20th October, or even out on the course to cheer on the runners – a great excuse to also enjoy the wonderful autumn colours that are just starting to reveal themselves.
The Tweed Valley Tunnel Trail Run is on Sat 20th Oct (start times from 10 am). For much more, visit www.tunneltrailrun.com
Photography: Ian Linton