Tweed walk is perfect on bright winter’s day

Barns Tower - tweeddale
Barns Tower - tweeddale

Well, the snow has caught up with us at last Although not too troublesome, it has gone some way in sorting things out in the countryside, where spring seemed to be going for an unhealthily early start.

On Sunday, the sky was blue and there was a bitingly-cold north wind blowing as I set off on a walk I hadn’t done for around 14 years. It is part of the Tweed Walk, upstream from Peebles and starts near the Old Manor Bridge. As I set off along the trackbed of the old Symington, Biggar and Broughton railway, the snow was crisp underfoot and it was a winter’s day straight from Utopia.

The scrub bordering the pathway teemed with bird life. Before I had covered a few hundred yards I had seen the likes of wren, buzzard, blackbird, goldfinch, chaffinch, bullfinch, robin, blue tit and coal tit, while the adjacent fields and river yielded rook, jackdaw, carrion crow, heron, common gull, goosander and mallard.

Where the old railway crosses the Lyne Water near its confluence with the Tweed, I paused on the fine viaduct to take in the view towards the Meldon Hills. In the foreground was the old Lynesmill Bridge, with its simple curved arches and natural stone, blending beautifully into the rolling landscape. There are several lovely old bridges on this walk, all demonstrating how man-made structures can actually enhance the landscape.

Once over the footbridge marking the outermost point of the walk, it was into the policies of Barns Estate, to start the return journey. Further from the river this time, the route passes by the imposing Georgian mansion of Barns House, built between 1773 and 1780 by Michael Nasmyth, a successful Edinburgh builder of his day and father of artist Alexander Nasmyth, best known for his portrait of Robert Burns. Nearby is Barns Tower, which has been recently restored and was surrounded by snowdrops poking through the snow. A wrought-iron tripod beacon stand from here, complete with a cast-iron conical container, is in the Chambers Institute in Peebles.

Each of these ancient Tweeddale towers was within sight of the next and the beacons would be set alight at the first sign of southern marauders, in less peaceful times.

After a refreshing wayside coffee, I followed the path back down to the final stretch along the banks of the river to my starting point.

Last Tuesday (January 27) I noticed the first two oystercatchers on my stretch of the Ettrick – a sure sign that spring is on the way.

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