Shepherds Cairns & Hogdon Law
Mon 23rd March 2015
Sunday 22nd March 2015
What an unexpectedly good day. The weather forecasts leading up to the walk certainly didn’t suggest that we would experience such a true spring day. Yes, the wind was a bit draughty in some of the more exposed parts of the walk but it was also dead calm in some unexpected locations too, most notably the top of High Knowes. It was decidedly chilly when we visited the Shepherds Cairn and memorial commemorating the deaths of Jock Scott and Willie Middlemas in the snows of November 1962 so close to home and safety at nearby Ewertly Shank farm. Only half a mile away, on a much more exposed site, there was no wind and warm spring sunshine on our backs, extraordinary.
The morning’s walk included the above location plus a walk over the moor, including spotting an unidentified reptile, into the Upper Breamish valley to visit Nellie Herron’s memorial stone (there are different spellings of both names in different sources) that pre-dated the November 1962 tragedy by almost a century, this event taking place on December 3rd 1863. The stories of both incidents were told and parallels drawn concerning the sometimes harsh realities of living in the Cheviots. Morning coffee, or first sittings, was taken in the shelter of a beautifully constructed sheep stell in a sheltered spot overlooking a tributary of what eventually would become the Cobden Burn which flows into the River Breamish. Returning back across the moor to join the Salter’s Road we had excellent views to the north towards Hartside Farm which was where Nellie Herron was returning to and where she lived with her farm worker husband. The views north towards Cunyan Crags, Dunmoor Hill, Hedgehope and Cheviot, still with its distinctive south-facing snow patch, were excellent. We heard first, and eventually were able to pick out, the yellow speck of the search and rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer flying west south of the Border Ridge. We could also see the smoke from the moor burning appearing from several locations in the Cheviots and several miles to the south along the Simonside Ridge. The burning season will be over soon, it ends on 10th April.
Lunch (second sittings for some) was taken, very unusually for us, in the comfort of our cars as our not quite a figure-of-eight route passed close-by. A comfortable seat, out of the cool wind, but in the sun, with good views and a choice of radio channels or CD-ROMS i.e. not having to listen to someone who shall be nameless spout lots of hot air, an unexpected luxury! The ascent of Hogdon Law followed and was both uphill and into the wind. The shelter of the morning’s session was appreciated at this point. The views opened up quickly with the increasing height and the protection of the summit cairn and shelter were enjoyed by all providing good views to the north, east and south. To the west we looked down into the eastern edge of the Kidland Forest where the clear-felling of recent months had changed the appearance of this extensive feature. The good bit came next being both downhill and downwind and we could see the cars waiting for us in the distance, motivation indeed.
Back at the cars there was one little extra on offer to complete the day. Adjacent to Castle Hill, an Iron Age hillfort (approximately 800 BC to 43AD) on the map is a “Lord of the Rings” type feature marked intriguingly as “The Grey Yade of Coppath.” On the current OS 1:25,000 scale map there is no related symbol to indicate its location but on the older editions of the 1:25,000 blue or green Pathfinders it does indicate the location. The feature is actually a large isolated rock on the north side of the road. A “grey yade” is an old Borderers term for a grey mare or horse. The rock is a detached block of Cheviot andesite lava, pinkish in appearance due to the pink feldspar minerals it contains. In direct sunlight it definitely has a pink hue but in shade, its dense covering of greyish lichens fulfilled the grey yade description perfectly.
We hope that everyone enjoyed the day as much as we did; we were lucky with both the weather and the participants and hopefully a good time was had by all. We hope to see everyone again soon, even on our next walk along the highest part of Hadrian’s Wall and including a visit to Vindolanda on Sunday 19th April – or is that too much of a good a thing? We hope not.
Richard & Ian