I have this list y’see , of the hills I’d like to bag in 2012. And to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. And yesterday it was time to go a-bagging in the Borders.
Bag 1 was a little way up the M74 from Carlisle quite near to Ecclefechan. This was to be the ancient oppidum or Head Office of the Selgovae, a British tribe local to Annandale and the Solway Firth before, during and after the Roman period. Burnswark hillfort is remarkable in that it has two Roman camps or forts attached to it’s slopes and on the Southern slopes, there are three ballista platforms from which various missiles could be launched at targets on the hill above. The theory is that this was, in fact, a Roman training camp for teaching troops how to use artillery.
There’s a small parking area in the forest on the South side, occupied today by a lad with a tractor, mending the road. I asked him if I could park and he said “nae problem” and went on to say what a nice day it was….
So we parked (we being me and the dog) and climbed the few contours between the car and the top. there’s a fine view of the Solway Firth and Cumbria from the top and a long view Northwards towards the Highlands. Its a very distinctive flat-topped hill. If you were looking for it, you’d see it easily from the motorway, just before you run into the back of that truck…
Ten miles to the East (much too far to walk there and back, so I drove..) is the little town of Langholm. Langholm truly nestles in the hills and has a lovely free car park next to the River Esk which today was occupied by a few cars, a lot of ducks, some oyster catchers, some people with their doggies, and a heron. And some noisy gulls. The heron refused to move when approached by doggies and when I went to get a picture, it eventually lifted off and landed a few seconds later on the other side of the river. Very little effort was involved. The ducks laughed, like they do.
The first hill to attract the attention of the Knipe boots and paws was Warblaw, affectionately and locally “Warbla’” (a bit lazy, that – they just missed off a letter. In other places, they’d call it Warlie or something…) Warblaw has a wireless mast on it and so it has a road going almost to the top. The actual summit is defended by a few acres of soggy tussocks. There’s a cracking view of Langholm form the top and the surrounding hills, including Burnswark….
We descended. The weather threatened a bit. The car’s alarm wasn’t going off and the heron was still ignoring doggies, so we passed through the policies of the Buccleuch eastate and climbed the long ridge of Potholm Hill. This was occupied by a small herd of Galloways, more intent on their hay supply than any dog-chasing frenzy. Potholm is a beautiful Howgill-ish long and grassy ridge. You could have lots of hillwalking fun up here given more time as it links to a huge wild area just to the North. You could spend days wandering happily up in those hills with your little akto and some dehydrated curry….
As for us, we completed the ridge and descended to the woodlands, lodges, and estate buildings of Buccleuch. It seems that they’re unconcerned about people wandering through and, indeed there are benches to rest on and waymarker posts and cheerfully friendly people in camouflage who say what a nice day it was this morning but it’s spoiled itself now. Posh English sporting estates could learn a thing or two about manners here…
We went home. We’d done 8 miles with a magnificent 2500 feet of upness. The heron is still there, apparently.