Open Country with Erica Hume Niven

We all notice how quickly the nights begin to draw in from the end of August. The shorter days are a comfort, I yield to the relaxation of the light.

Dusk brings the remnants of birdsong; as dusk moves on the bats come out to feed. I can feel their weightlessness as I watch them.

I parked at the Waterwheel café at Philiphaugh in the evening and put my wellington boots on.

Some people were having a meeting in the café after hours. I looked at them through the glass doors as they sat in a warm, dim pool of light. The rain was coming again, so the skies were already dull.

I crossed the road and headed up the stony track, looking at where heavy rains had gouged out small fluvial markings and dislodged stones.

The light was obscured even more by the tall trees lining the route. Apart from the traffic on the road, I heard my feet crunching the grit. Whenever the gradient steepened, my pace picked up, my breathing was obvious and the rhythm was good.

After the triangular track that leads to Thirladean, I turned left on to the track by Battlepark Plantation; some light was restored due to the open fields to my right.

After a short distance, spruce are on both sides of me and the light fades again. I look at a track peeling off to the left, thick and soft with pine needles.

My map shows there are traces of the circular walls of an ancient settlement.

From this point I start to feel strangely mesmerised and I am drawn further uphill without consulting my map. I walk round the edge of two fields. The ground rises sharper to the north where I know the promoted route to Tibby Tamson’s grave, pictured top of page, is.

Following a contour round to the west, I know I have overshot the track I am seeking, but I do not stop.

I approach, at pace, and stop dead by a tree as if it has just spoken to me.

I turn to look at a group of oaks. My eyes go into the trees and the darkness comes to meet me, even there at the woodland edge.

The skin on the back of my neck begins to crawl. I feel as if there is a horde of something around me. Oak woods were used by pagans for ritual meetings. Even early Christians would worship under their canopy.

Beside these trees is a metal field gate. Someone has welded a piece of fence wire on to the latch and for no reason I hesitate as if it is an IED (improvised explosive device).

Where has this fear come from? I pull the wire and the latch easily lifts. Not far into the forest on Harehead Hill I realise this is the darkest and dampest place I will walk into this evening.

Still aware I have gone too far west, I keep walking, enjoying the damp cold air and the solitude. The mud is black and the mosses a deep emerald.

After a short time the trees become less dense and I can see the mirky outline of the hills in the Yarrow Valley.

I turn back along the soft track, while the strange tension moving down my back continues.

My thoughts move between my surroundings and friendships.

Friendships that build up slowly are strong and the common knowledge and respect between you and them is solid. Friendships that come about quickly and create an emotion that falls between excitement and nervousness are often superficial and transient.

I found the right place to go through, which had a heavy loop over that secured a pair of gates.

I was walking on a hard track again. Quickly, my thoughts turned to more fundamental aspects of life. I was hungry.

When I returned to the car park I phoned my ‘buddy’ Mark to let him know I was back at my car. Then my line manager, Keith, phoned to check I was off the hill.

Some people do care.