Pup’s first hot hike to Three Brethren


After Saturday’s downpours, it was back to glorious sunshine on Sunday and an early start for me, to avoid the heat and humidity of the middle of the day.

I decided it was time to give Treacle – our cockapoo, who is now nearly nine months old – her first “proper” walk, so the destination of the day was the Three Brethren cairns – a good three-hour round trip from the house.

The first section, through the woods of Philiphaugh Estate, was cool and pleasant, but once out onto the open hills at the reservoir at the top of the glen, things began to heat up considerably.

I paused at the edge of the square lochan to look for a plant I first heard about many years ago from the late Arthur Smith.

It always grew near the reservoir overflow and I first found it many years ago, but the flash floods of 2003 resulted in a lot of ground works in the area and I wondered if it had survived.

The plant was greater birdsfoot trefoil (a much bigger version of the common one) and I didn’t need to look long.

It was absolutely everywhere. Its bright yellow flowerheads were towering above the long grass on both sides of the track.

The soil disturbance had obviously spread the plant around and it was doing brilliantly.

The winding hill path to the cairns is flanked with heather, which was just beginning to colour up and hundreds of tiny small heath butterflies were flitting back and forth across the path.

A family of wheatears erupted from the heather at my approach, the parents “chacking” loudly in alarm, and most of the way I was accompanied by the chirp of meadow pipits and the song of skylarks.

A pair of ravens perched on a skeletal dead tree gave off loud gutteral “kruuk kruuk” calls as I passed and a group of half a dozen red grouse were put to flight, much to the amusement of my black canine companion, who had never seen or heard anything like that before.

The final approach to the cairns seemed endless, as the path crossed a series of false summits, until at last, the three imposing drystane cones finally came into view.

By this time I was breathless and not a little damp under the rucksack, but Treacle was still full of running, despite the heat.

As ever, the view was stunning and it wasn’t long before I was joined by an English couple who were enjoying a week’s break in the Borders for the first time.

With only one wet day, they would certainly be returning home with happy memories of our lovely countryside and so would I.