I headed out of the pretty riverside hamlet of Ingram on a bright October morning relishing the thought of a day alone in the hills. But, as Robert Burns famously wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley”. He was, of course, absolutely right.
The diminutive summits of East Hill and Old Fawdon Hill were taken at a canter and, with 3½ miles comfortably under my belt, I was in a relaxed and carefree world of my own. Then up she popped, seemingly from nowhere in particular, cute as a Disney Dalmatian and looking for a friend. Resisting the temptation to be overly chummy I adopted my walker’s anti-social pose, bid her “au revoir” and continued on my way. But, as I was soon to discover, a young hound barely out of nappies is not so easily offended.
She followed me like a shadow, splashing through Rocky Burn, sniffing past Thieves Road Plantation and plodding on through a commando course of mud towards Ewe Hill. Once there, she seemed intent on claiming her first top of the day and, like an X Factor wannabe, she ‘coyly’ posed for a quick-fire succession of photographs beside the large rambling cairn. I was beginning to warm to this doe-eyed pooch and by the time we had reached the triangulation pillar on Hart Law, a neat little hill with superb views across the Vale of Whittingham, it had dawned on me that my pocket-sized companion was definitely in it for the long haul. We had, it seemed, become an inseparable pair and I now felt totally responsible for her welfare.
So on we went, following the rain-sodden course of the medieval Salter’s Road to the impressive Shepherd’s Cairn Memorial Stone, erected in 2007 to commemorate the deaths of two local shepherds who died nearby during a 1962 blizzard. With a fantastic backcloth of Hogdon Law and Cushat Law this was the perfect picturesque place to take a well-deserved breather. We shared my lunch.
Now joined together by an invisible thread we wandered on past Cobden Cleugh and then towards the isolated and empty dwelling of Chesters. Crossing the neighbouring tree-shrouded burn should have been a breeze but my canine companion decided to spectacularly belly-flop into the knee-deep, crystal-clear water. A worrying and slightly comical moment soon passed and we doggedly headed on over Cochrane Pike and the adjacent hillfort-topped Wether Hill.
From here it was all downhill to Ingram and eventually, one man and his very tired dog, reached the end of their day on the hills. As I changed out of my mud-splashed clothes my sleepy-eyed four-legged friend lay at my feet waiting for my next move. Had I permanently acquired an irresistible hound? Alas not. By various ways and means this cute little tail-wagging pup was reunited with her true owner later that day. I returned home alone.
by Geoff Holland © 2011
Geoff Holland is the author of four books of self-guided walks, ‘The Cheviot Hills’, ‘Walks from Wooler’, ‘The Hills of Upper Coquetdale’ and ‘Walks on the Wild Side The Cheviot Hills’ , is a regular contributor to ‘TGO (The Great Outdoors)’, ‘Country Walking’ and ‘The Northumbrian’ magazines and is the operator of the highly acclaimed website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. His books are available online from www.trailguides.co.uk or from all good bookshops and he can be heard reading a selection of his poems on www.listenupnorth.com. He has lived in Monkseaton for almost 40 years.