Remembering Roxburgh…

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There was a strong, cold northerly wind on Sunday, as I set off with my canine companion, Tibbie, on the walk from Roxburgh village to Kelso, along the the Teviot. The sun shone from a clear blue sky and it was good to be out, but certainly not a day for hanging around.

Setting a brisk pace, we headed off downstream along part of the Border Abbeys Way, with the wind in our backs. Birdlife off the river was virtually nil, but numerous goosanders, mallard, heron and a solitary cormorant were feeding on the river.

I hadn’t gone far when I met a young man with a metal detector, scanning the sides of the path. He told me that it was a Christmas present and this was his first try-out. I asked if he’d found any treasure yet. “No,” he said, “but I’ve had a good haul of tinfoil!”

As the path wove between the piles of stones deposited by decades of ploughmen from the adjacent arable fields, I had to keep a close eye on Tibbie as there was a fair scattering of dead salmon along the water’s edge, which were well decomposed and emitting an aroma very attractive to dogs. I had no wish to be shut in the car with that pong on the way home, if she managed a sly roll in one.

On a warmer day, I would have taken advantage of the many seats along the route, but stopping for long was not an option.

The route is very picturesque as it passes beneath ruined Roxburgh Castle, built in about 1120 by King David 1. It changed hands no fewer than ten times over the next 450 years. Surely after having been knocked down and rebuilt so many times, the few remaining standing walls will be left in peace to weather away naturally now.

That whole area is steeped in history, especially the part round Friarshaugh, where the point-to-point racing is held. Here one of the biggest medieval settlements in Scotland sprawled across the land between Tweed and Teviot. The town of Roxburgh had five churches and a grammar school and was internationally renowned in the raw wool trade. Not a vestige remains.

Before reaching the town centre I had to cross the lovely bridge over the Tweed, which is soaked in history. Built in 1800 by John Rennie, it was used as a model for the bigger Waterloo Bridge in London, which he later constructed. When it was demolished in the 1930s, two of its iron lamp standards were saved – they adorn the west end of the present bridge.

I had enjoyed a great walk, the lack of natural history being more than compensated for by the abundance of human history in this fascinating corner of the Borders.