Ford Figure-of-Eight Blog
Mon 16th June 2014
This is an exceptional route for close-in observations of some exceptional features, of which more later, and also for distant views of the Cheviots, the Eildon Hills and the odd glimpse of the North Sea. However, due to the generally overcast anticyclonic gloom, high humidity and the constantly varying cloud-base distant views were the exception. It was quite good for midges however if sheltered from the light breeze but generally speaking nobody appreciated that.
Ten of us set-off from the car park straight into Fordhill Wood for fun with long wet grass with added nettles and thistles, my legs tingled for the rest of the day. Out into fields of even longer and wetter grass and the first bit of avoiding the really clarty bits including jumping over streams and pointing out distant features that ordinarily would be visible - but werenít! The electrified pheasant rearing pens on the way to Ford Moss and the predominance of Scots Pine plantations provided a bit of a distraction and we were soon at the interpretation board adjacent to the chimney (the old colliery chimney and engine house) prior to the walk across the heather covered sandstone Broomridge. Pausing on top of the ridge to view the Moss we saw our first roe deer of the day bounding down the slope towards the cover afforded by the mixed woodland on its southern edge. Elevenses had been promised at the Goatscrag rock shelter above Routin Linn Farm even if we were early (we were), unfortunately the midges also attended. The engravings of what are interpreted as four deer on the sandstone of the rock shelter gave rise to a conversation, OK a mini-discourse, on the Mesolithic (i.e. Middle Stone Age 10,000 to 4,000 years BC) hunter-gatherers nomadic lifestyle and what the local environment would have been like then. However archaeologists canít be certain that the engravings date from that period. To be fair I distinctly remember warning everyone before the walk started not to ask too many questions because the answers might put them to sleep.
Elevenses over we set off across the top of the ridge to descend by farm track for the waterfall in the Broomridgedean Burn. We arrived to find a photo shoot in progress involving a tame buzzard so we didnít stay long. The next stop was the Routin Linn rock panel the largest cup and ring marked outcrop in England which gave rise to lots of speculation and discussion about their origins and meaning. Incidentally the Ordnance Survey spell Routin Linn on their maps as seen but different publications often use Roughtin Linn instead, I didnít want you to think I canít spell. The adjacent ancient enclosure consisting of three rows and ditches was hidden beneath lush grass and wildflower growth and some rampant bright pink rhododendrons. Almost time for lunch now so a quick dash up the road towards Lowick got us onto pastoral land for lunch in the lee of a large mound with sufficient ďventilationĒ to discourage the midges but not before spotting some purple orchids (their colour not their name) along the verge and using the local knowledge of one of our number to direct a lost motorist to some kennels.
Following lunch we set out on an anticlockwise yomp through the fields towards the eastern entrance into Ford Moss Nature Reserve, a lowland peat bog of post-glacial origin. The access was ďgeet very clartyĒ (North East Mud and Mere Scale) necessitating a slight route deviation for several hundred metres before regaining the path near to the fenced-off remains of the collapsing former colliery managerís house. The huge sandstone blocks of which the building was constructed looked out of scale with what remained of the shored-up crooked windows and doorway. Coal mining had taken place here from medieval times and finally ended just before the First World War in 1910. We had a look at one of the fenced-off bell pit shafts and the associated spoil heap which were now grassed-over and blended into the landscape. However, once everyone ďgot there eye inĒ the whole area was littered with these small scale industrial archaeological remains. Shortly afterwards we heard a deer barking ahead of us surprised a roe deer in a clearing just before emerging out of the conifer plantation adjacent to the Friendly Hound B&B.
The large southern loop of the figure-of-eight route now completed we travelled gently uphill towards Brownridge Moor for the final coffee, tea and photo opportunity of the walk. From the ridge top we could easily pick out the three humped silhouette of the Eildon Hills, known as Trimontium to the Romans, almost 42 kilometres away as the crow flies to the west-south-west. After this it was literally all downhill back to Ford village – then uphill again to the cars. There were lots of incidentals along the way like the cuckoo we heard somewhere in the trees on the edge of the Moss, the buzzards overhead, the rabbits everywhere etc plus my own very occasional observations (aka droning-on). Considering it didnít actually rain everyone had a thoroughly wet time. I hope that the high squelch factor (wet vegetation, streams, bog etc) didnít put anyone off too much. Oh and Iíve included a few panoramic photos of what we would have seen had the visibility been better. And donít think that I didnít notice the huge decrease in questions as we approached Ford, there were certainly no slow learners present. I hope you all enjoyed the day; I know my wife did and she thanks you all for it.