Saturday, 20 July 2019

Lush and Flowery Ettrick

Me and Lucky The Dog turned up at Honey Cottage campsite Sunday evening just after a warm eight mile trundle  around County Durham with the Crook and Weardale Ramblers.

I'd been to this campsite before - the last time a few years ago with a selection of grandchildren and, on previous occasions too. I like the site - it's remote-ish and quiet and very friendly and only a couple of miles from the outrageously beautiful Ettrick valley.

So, Monday morning me and LTD travelled all of two of your Earth miles to the nearby village hall and went off on a bit of a bagathon - collecting four Tumps and a Donald (wot I'd done twice before). The hills were empty of other walkers and the summer walking was just superb. The hills here are just for sheep and, a few hardy cattle sometimes, so there's none of this heather burning nonsense (there's no heather anyway). And the land seems specially fertile (I'm willing to be disabused of this notion by anybody who is an expert on such matters) The result is that the summer Ettrick Hills are lush with deep grass and bright with all kinds of wild flowers, bees, butterflies and moths and skylarks and meadow pipits and even a pair of red kites. This is a model of fabulousness.

On the Monday I met just one person - a shepherd on an ATV out couting the sheep that had escaped a recent gathering - about 40, apparently. They must be specially sneaky sheep I suppose. He seemed to have plenty of time on his hands and we had a long chat ranging from phone signals (there is none despite the 6 phone masts), to the posh Neds from That London and That Manchester who have wild drug parties at the local bothy.

 At the end, I escaped from the hill via the yard of Cossarhill Farm where we avoided a barking frenzy by allowing the farm's senior collie dog to continue with his afternoon snooze in the warm sunshine. LTD didn't even notice him.  Down in the valley there are three stone plaques, each giving a verse of a sad and slightly unnerving poem by one Lady John Scott, simply titled "Ettrick" - reproduced at the foot of this blog post.

Tuesday saw us at Tibbie Shiels - no longer an Inn , it would seem. We wandered by Loch of the Lowes to Riskinhope and bagged Muchra Hill, Peniestone Hill and Peat Hill where it seemed that the  warm weather was breaking down. We met just 2 walkers on Peniestone - English people, not specially interested in a chat and we were dismissed with a "see you later"..  so we went. We didn't see them later. Back at camp. it began to rain and rained in monsoon-like conditions for a couple of hours, flooding the low parts of the campsite and turning the river cloudy. The midgies enjoyed this.

We had to come home on Wednesday, but bagged Bonchester Hill at on the way home - another specially flowery hill with a hillfort on the top and a huuuuge view all around. We also bagged a bacon butty at the border teavan. I must say that this was extraordinarily nice and quite cheap. Maybe it's my none-processed foods diet wot I learned all about on the course on how to be a diabetic I had back in April. This excludes much in the way of bacon other than as an occasional treat. It's a bloody good treat, though.

When we first rade down Ettrick,
Our bridles were ringing, our hearts were dancing,
The waters were singing, the sun was glancing,
An’ blithely our hearts rang out thegither,
As we brushed the dew frae the blooming heather,
  When we first rade down Ettrick.
When we next rade down Ettrick,
The day was dying, the wild birds calling,
The wind was sighing, the leaves were falling,
An’ silent an’ weary, but closer thegither,
We urged our steeds thro’ the faded heather,
When we next rade down Ettrick.
When I last rade down Ettrick,
The winds were shifting, the storm was waking,
The snow was drifting, my heart was breaking,
For we never again were to ride thegither,
In sun or storm on the mountain heather,
When I last rade down Ettrick.
When you get to my age, this sort of thing starts to prickle a bit.

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