Mysteries of the Magic Moor
Mon 29th October 2012
We started in a dampening drizzle with an overcast sky but it was noticeably warmer than the previous day when hail and hill snow was on the menu. Thankfully the previous day’s northerly wind had swung around to the west and as the day progressed it just got better i.e. the drizzle stopped and the sky got higher. By lunchtime we even saw the outline of the sun through the altocumulus translucidus, the archetype Tupperware sky.
Following a quick look around Doddington, its overall situation and particularly the unusual three storeys high, three sided (since its partial collapse in 1896), Bastle or Tower House built in 1584 as a result of the activities of the Border Reivers. The massive stones and the size of the buttresses were impressive. The unusual features of the village church whose site dates back to the 12th century were also visited before we started to climb Dod Law through waist high wet bracken. As we climbed the view over the Millfield Plain westwards towards the Cheviots opened up. It was easy to imagine the former post-glacial Lake Millfield occupying this lowland area. Yeavering Bell, Newton tors, Humbleton Hill, Cheviot and Hedghope were prominent even though the last two had cloud caps for most of the day.
Reaching the seat just on the edge of the moor by one of the golf tees was a surprise for some, as was the observation platform with its own windsock for golfers to check the way ahead was clear. The formerly abandoned but now renovated and reoccupied Shepherd’s House on the very cusp of the moor had impressive views to the south and west plus its own fast manic wind turbine. Moving on we spread out locate the first rock art of the day on the very edge of the golf course.
This particular panel was impressive once everyone “got their eye-in” but equally easy to miss, camouflaged as it was by mosses and lichens. This panel was ideal as a training resource as it contained a shield or heart-shaped motif and rectangular designs containing a variety of cup marks and connecting grooves. Looking “beneath” the mosses and lichens and the wet, discoloured sandstone is a quickly enough acquired skill once you know what to look for and how to look. It was here that we saw a lizard tucked-in beneath the rolled-back turf on the edge of the panel. Later we were to see a high-speed mouse run across our path, and a hare making a break for it. We might have seen two, possibly three, ravens. They were a long way off, definitely appeared larger than rooks or crows but didn’t oblige by either coming any closer or calling.
On top of Dod Law we saw the identifying features of the two hill forts, one either side of the trig point at 200m above sea level and also a nearby settlement as well as the North Sea to the east. Hungry now, we were looking for somewhere out of the wind for lunch which we quickly found. The next stop was the stone circle which only one of the stones still standing. The assemblage of lichens on the different sides of the standing stone was impressive and different again from some of the recumbent stones in the long grass. The pink coloured species caught most of our attention initially but with our newly developed eye for detail the variations in colour and particularly form soon became apparent. Unfortunately most lichens don’t have common names.
On the way to the Ringses hillfort we attempted to find some cup and ring marked rocks indicated on the map slightly off our route. Using the archaeologists’ fieldwalking technique we found what we were looking for and on the way towards the Ringses we discovered a few small panels not specifically marked on the map, well done everyone. The Ringses was covered in tall bracken which disguised the ramparts but the latter’s silhouette on the skyline revealed the hillfort from a distance so much more clearly than when standing close-in to the structure. From here we could also see the sandstone quarry and its spoil heaps alongside the golf course where the “red sandstone” (more a dull pale pink) that the village is constructed of.
Reaching the track back down to the village we passed the entrance to both the quarry and the golf course passing along the way conifer plantations containing numerous pheasant feeders. The fields were saturated, even on the slopes there was plenty of standing water. Our own track was muddy except for the lowest point where sand had accumulated due to run-off from the sandstone quarry further uphill. The position of a substantial new timber framed house that was in the process of having its stone cladding added gave rise to envious comments. With that we were back to Doddington. Everyone appeared to have had a good time with lots to see and do in a relatively short walk which included the usual banter and repartee. Thank you all for attending and especially to Andrea and Margaret for providing back-up. Everyone having departed I was about to pull away from our parking spot outside of Doddington Dairy (complete with heart warming honesty box but empty ice cream fridge) my phone informed me of a callout in the Cheviots so I drove directly to the RV at Powburn and put my wet boots and other kit again eventually getting home rather later than expected. As always I enjoyed both your company and the walk; I hope you did too.
Monday, 29 October 2012