open country

We walked up the side of the hill as the sun was coming up. Jayjay’s paws gently padding on the frozen ground seemed to be the only sound that morning.

I left my car at the Glack and my friends, Chris and Dougie, had dropped me off at Tantah as they made their way to work.

The north slopes of Cademuir Hill were sitting in the shadow of morning, but we could see the light slowly spilling on to the ridge, which follows a south-west line. After a gentle climb crossing the northern contours, a short sharp climb took us up on to the ridge. How many times have I walked over the north-east corner or walked around the base? I had never gone over the top.

Here I was on frosty grass, taking in the hill’s advantageous situation. I passed two pairs of joggers. Then my dog and I were alone to follow this ridge uninterrupted. A wave of well-grazed green grass and jagged rocks was being warmed and lit by the rising sun. Light made mellow hues. I can turn my mind’s eye to that moment as if it were a scene right next to me.

In the quiet cold air, it was strange to think of the meaning of Cademuir. Cad is from the Old Welsh for battle; cath in the Gaelic. Muir is the Gaelic for big – interpreted as the great battle. This is a battle of legend. It refers to the seventh battle that King Arthur fought against the pagans.

When I returned to take out a guided walk, the mellow light was still there in part but the wind was whipping up chaotic air particles. As we ascended, it was not the sun that rose but the strength of the wind. So powerful was it that it scoured my nostrils, creating a strange nippy pain. I laughed. I never put on a hat. The cold made me feel so alive, so free, a spirit lungeing from one hill to the next with an unleashed passion.

Despite the biting temperature, the group took some minutes to look out at the edges of the forts which impressed them suitably. They should return when they are not fighting the force of nature’s blow, they should spend more time up here. I shouted to them above the roar as I pointed at the chevaux de frise. These were rocks placed like huge jagged teeth, designed to be hidden from enemies approaching who would get caught up in them.

We looked out on to the higher hills around, the visibility was excellent as the met office had predicted. South of us beyond the steep drop to the valley floor lay Hundleshope Heights. They were dark, their tops smoothed by snow. Below them was the tiny fort at the foot of Juniper Crags. Further round lay Dollar Law and Greenside Law at the head of the Manor Valley.

In time for our packed lunch, we arrived at Kirkton Manor picnic spot and the unusual luxury of sitting at picnic tables. The sun poured down the valley, warm on our faces. Manor Water was a strange blue-grey-silver like moon stones tumbling towards the Tweed.

We stopped at the church. There was a warmth inside left from the morning service. A short walk down the track towards Barns House and tower took us to the turn-off for Tweed Walk. Along the river bank, signs of the high winds and floods were present. A huge beech tree had toppled and looked like a giant beached squid – hard and grey and dead.

Our last stop was under the Tweed Bridge. We looked up at the varying stonework and considered how the bridge has been adapted over the centuries. Originally built in 1485, the bridge was just 2.4m wide. In 1834 it was widened to 6m then in 1900 it was widened again to 12m. At the south end of the bridge you can walk underneath and see the joined up engineering works.