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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Borders Bagging at Langholm

tussock city

Its seems unlikely that a huge number of walkers will know Ewes Water. This is not some kind of strange desire to run after sheep with a bucket to catch and consume their Number Ones, but is the fairly short but beautiful dale emerging from Langholm and ending nine or ten miles later at the bealach containing the Mosspaul Hotel.

About half way up this dale is the village hall at Meikledale (Big Dale!) and this is where you can park to undertake a waymarked walk up onto the fells. Which is what I did yesterday.


Superdawg was left at home – mainly because local info asks dog owners not to bring their dogs in March and April – and, I’m aware that at the moment, it’s the crucial time for lambing, with ewes having either just produced , or are about to do so within the next week or so. And I don’t know where the lambing fields are for me to avoid them. And Bruno has a bit of a limp just now, following a fluffed attempt to cross a cattle grid. He usually manages to get across grids pretty easily – without breaking step, in fact. But this time, he failed. He’ll be Ok. he’ll be back out on a proper long walk on Saturday.

So, dogless, I left the knipemobile at the village hall and followed the series of kissing-gates through empty (dhuhh!) pastures to the track up Meikledale. This did have a selection of very fat sheep, however.


Meikledale goes a long way into the hills and, at a sheepfold (fine camping spots around here!) the waymarks tell the walker to climb the hill. Its a bit vague as to whether or not you’re supposed to follow the deep gill of St Martin’s Sike, or the ATV track climbing the breast of the hill. I took the ATV track. This, eventually, dumped me in tussockland in dense hillfog. Maybe I should have followed St Martin.

I blundered on uphill and found the fence – supposedly electrified (I didn’t test it) and a few hundred metres to the left was the high spot of Faw Side – a baggable Donald Dewey (I bet you’ve never heard of these before either!) at 526 metres. Donald Deweys are just like Deweys, but in Scotland, South of the Highland line. There’s loads of them….

that fence

More waymarks invited me to plod on – so I did, not seeing anything but the fence, some tussocks, and enveloping fog. I squelched onwards, (g’wan, ask me how wet it was…)  following the fence over Swingill Height, Blackgrain Height, Middle Hill and Broad Head, which is where I had to get the compass out in order to find the col or bealach between Broad Head and Roughbank Height. This is a huge target for yer navigator and, so, proved fairly easy to find.

near roughbank col 

Roughbank Height has shorter and less vicious tussocks than the other hills and, maybe it’s a bit drier too. Certainly, the hillfog lifted a bit and I got a view. Its a short and sharp climb to the vague and rounded top from the pass.


I descended steeply to Wolfhope, a beautiful deep little side-dale with semi-natural woodland of hawthorn and birch and a pleasant green road for the now soggy feet. Me and Dawn had passed this way last year and had camped at the head of the dale in a little corrie.

Wolfhope leads down to the main road at Bush Farm – just a very short walk up the road back to the car.

I did nine miles and just over 2000 feet of upness. I have more bagging business in this neck of the woods to be done later in the year. It takes me the same travelling time as it does to get to, say, Buttermere and it’s very quiet – the only people out today were some friendly estate staff building pheasant pens. It’s quite hard-going on the tops, though.

faw head



Dawn said...

Looks wet and murky. Err, um, a sensitive question, is a Donald's Dewy when Donald's nose drips???

AlanR said...

I’ve missed a borders trip this year. Always enjoyable and the company is usually good too.

Alan Sloman said...

With hills named Dan's Hags, Peat Rig and Roughbank Height, I think I would have avoided this area like the plague.
Made of stern stuff, Sir.

Mike Knipe said...

Dawn - It was murky (actually it was Wednesday!) - but not wet, except for the feet.
Alan - We've not done a Borders walk for a while. There's always the potential for waking up the Cadair Idris traverse from Barmouth in the summer... I have a plot for this! (Appreciate its not in the Borders..)
Alan - Yes, I should have paid more attention to the place names. Its not quite up to Pennine standards here, though - but the tussocks are monsters.

Quinn said...

That tussocky ground looks exhausting! But then, I'm nowhere near as tough as you.

AlanR said...

Sounds great Mike and Sheila has a week off she can save. We are away for 2 weeks in June i just need to check the dates but yep, count us in. I’m sure we are free.

Mike Knipe said...

Alan - Probably be July - I'm off to the Highlands in May and, probably, Isle of Man in June, so... July... I think it would take 3 days. I could spend the rest of the week asleep.

Mike Knipe said...

Quinn - Yer don't get tussocks like that outside

Gavin Graham said...

Glad you walked this one as the Meikledale walk was developed by Langholm Walks Group a few years ago. I am Chairman of the Group and thank you for coming to our area to walk. We are in the process of re printing our Walks booklet containing 14 way marked walks and will publish it this summer with new OS maps in replacing the old artists impression maps. Hope you get back to this beautiful area again soon.

Mike Knipe said...

Gavin - somebody has certainly been spending resources on kissing gates. I'll certainly be back - I have haunted these hills before on occasion. I have some more hills to do a bit further up the road!