I had just clambered over the border fence onto Scottish turf and was standing on the edge of Corbie Craig, looking down at the long glistening thread of the Rowhope Burn. I had been on my feet for two hours and was 4½ miles into an undulating walk from the magnificent College Valley. I pulled out my camera and was about to take a photograph when up popped a tiny Blackface lamb. It scuttled quickly to my feet, looked up at me and then, realising that I bore little resemblance to its mother, scooted off to a nearby rock. For a moment it appeared to admire the superb view and then, as rapidly as it had arrived, it disappeared downhill to its nervously waiting parent.
Spring was certainly in the air although patches of late snow clinging to the upper reaches of the distant Cheviot reminded me of the harsh winter these hills had just endured. But the sun was out, the sky was an unblemished blue and there was barely a breeze. It was unseasonably warm and I had every intention of making the most of the day.
So, I quickly took my photograph, vacated my lofty perch and headed, fleet-footed to the triangulation pillar-endowed Curr, at 564 metres high, the highest point of my walk. However, summit-bagging was not my sole purpose for plodding up this fine hill. I also wanted to visit the site where a de Havilland Mosquito aircraft had crashed in December 1944, killing both crew members. I therefore continued down the steep northern slopes and soon reached a large patch of wreckage-strewn hillside, stripped down to earth and stone, a bare but poignant memorial to Flight Lieutenant Metcalf and Pilot Officer Bellamy.
As I reflected on the tragic loss of two young lives I could see, way below me, the isolated border farm of Currburn nestling in a sheltered fold of Latchly Hill, whilst way beyond shapely Wildgoose Hill I spotted the white-walled buildings of Town Yetholm. Nothing stirred and the scene was one of supreme tranquillity.
With half my walk now completed I was beginning to feel a mite peckish and with the prospect of a mouth-watering picnic spot I made my way back over the summit of The Curr. I was bound for the head of the Trowup Burn Valley, V-shaped and caught between the magnificent curves of Steer Rig and the steep slopes of Black Hag and Saughieside Hill. I had only ever glimpsed this rarely-visited valley in passing and was now intent on exploring its full and lonely length. I was not disappointed.
After a quick lunch, I descended cautiously over tufted grass with the fledgling and part-hidden burn close by. Pathless and unspoilt this is a gem of a linear valley where intermittent trickles of ice-cold water seep out of the surrounding hillsides and sheep graze happily undisturbed. Well, until I sauntered by.
A trio of mallards flew nosily downstream as I bent down to examine a tiny white flower, its head stretching between strands of dry grass in search of the sun. Star-like and white with six distinct segments and a multitude of yellow stamen, this was a solitary wood anemone, one of the first flowers of spring. I needed no further confirmation that the seasons had finally changed. Nature had spoken. I continued my journey home.
by Geoff Holland © 2014
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.