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Roan Fell, Cauldcleuch Head and Greatmoor Hill. Great moors
by wjshaw2 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:22 am
Grahams included on this walk: Cauldcleuch Head
Donalds included on this walk: Cauldcleuch Head
Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Greatmoor Hill, Roan Fell
Date walked: 09/04/2013
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 26.5 km
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After the previous night's excellent steak pie (well, nothing particularly special about the pie itself, more that I actually got one when I didn't deserve it for being so late), a hearty breakfast at the Liddesdale Hotel in Newcastleton set me up well for another long walk over the Border hills.
But I couldn't just drive past Hermitage Castle without looking in on it so wasted a few hours here talking archaeological landscapes with the site assistant, looking round the castle itself (more impressive on the outside than the inside, but still amazing), and doing a bit of contemplation in the old chapel (which is, rather strangely, moated for defence). Here's a few photos to give you a taster.
Anyway, I eventually got going on the walk at 11.30, which meant that I knew from the start that once again I was unlikely to finish before it got dark. One day, I'll not only wake up on time, but get to the hill early and have remembered to bring everything. That day was not today.
I parked just beyond the turn off to Braidlie on the verge of the road, leaving room for the big tractors to thunder past and not taking up any precious passing places. I parked near a gate which gave access to the open hill via a few more gates, although I did have to go over one low gate-less fence before escaping the improved fields. I got a friendly wave from the shepherd on his 4*4 which just makes the whole experience more joyful. He may not have been happy if he'd found this dead sheep on the way up Din Fell however.
Once on the top of Din Fell, the character of these hills became clearer. In many ways they reminded me of The Cheviot off to the east. The highest hills are flat, featureless plateaus (plateaux? Hmm - online dictionary says either spelling is okay, I think I prefer the x) while the surrounding lower lumps and bumps leading up to the plateaux have a lot more character. The western and northern ends of Roan Fell are very beautiful especially with their snow highlights showing their best side and the same with the hills north and south of Cauldcleuch Head.
However, it became clear that, looking across to Cauldcleuch Head, the spur I'd planned to walk up of Stob Fell and Pennygant Hill had recently been ploughed up for new forestry which prompted a longer route to avoid more of yesterday's ditch jumping. There is a lot of new forestry in the Borders, it's one of two ways that this landscape is rapidly changing, and I think the other might well make its appearance here soon.
From Din Fell I followed the gentle, heather covered slopes with low tussockosity to Hartsgarth Fell, most of the way just following a fence. It's here that there's been digging and the creation of a new access road across the top of the moor. This decreases the wildness of the place by a large degree and also led me to think that the other use for the Southern Uplands, a wind farm, can't be too far behind. I could easily be wrong. But the hole they've dug looks about the right size for a turbine to me. And Roan Fell is nothing if not windy... My advice: get here quick before the turbines and forestry covers the lot.
I don't actually object to either of these uses, but it will look a whole lot different pretty soon if such a thing goes ahead and with all the new forestry already planted. People have to make a living from the land and goodness knows we all need electricity.
It's a straightforward stroll to the top of Roan Fell from here up the track. If there was no fence and no cairn on top and I couldn't see the trig point on the lower peak to the south, I'd probably never have been able to find the actual top because wherever you stand it looks like it's somewhere else. But the cairn is definitely the top (having stood in several somewhere elses to make sure). And all those things are most definitely present.
To get back to walking in the wild, I decided to cut the corner off the walk to The Pikes and Scawd Bank by crossing the plateau with its wonderful, atmospheric frozen bogs. This was rewarded with great views down Tarras Water to the SW and a fall down a hole under some snow - much better than wandering along a track anyway.
I saw two mountain goats with their kid on this short cut and got a picture of them too (about the size of two pixels so I'll leave you to find the picture on the other Roan Fell report which does a much better job). I also passed a goat skeleton - maybe he'd found his own hole. My phone threw a wobbly somewhere along here claiming it had run out of battery which led to it being turned off for a while so that it would forget that nonsense. It seemed to work as it lasted the rest of the walk being turned on and off to preserve the battery.
The walk over Scawd Bank gave views to the remote valleys to the south and across the other lumps on the north side of Roan Fell were, with hindsight, probably the best of the day. Hence the reason my phone wasn't working to take the photos at that point . I'd originally planned to go back down Wetherhorn Hill and Cockplay Hill and then over Stob Fell and Pennygant to Cauldcleuch Head, but the new forestry had pushed me a couple of kms to the west and I certainly don't regret doing that. It meant I'd include the other big top which isn't a Marilyn, Tudhope Hill, and also that I'd go down the lovely descent of Millingwood Fell to the upper glen of Twislehope Burn which is quite beautiful. The wonderfully named ruined cottage of Twislehope Hope made me want to move in and do it up, but I carried on up Dog Knowe and got my phone to work again looking back where I'd come from and forward to Tudhope.
I chose to skirt Geordie's Hill and head straight for the shoulder of Tudhope Hill. The forestry on the east side of the spur has mainly been felled, and some replanted. Of the whole day, this was the longest sustained climb, 300m in a km and a half, but nothing ever too steep. But it gave excuses to pause and look around.
The top of Tudhope brought views to the west over the three Sub 2000ft Marilyns on the A7 between Hawick and Langholm which looked like an obvious walk for another time soon. Tudhope Hill, more prominent and higher than any other local hill apart from Cauldcleuch Head, isn't on any list I know of, but was definitely worth a visit.
The murkiness that had been threatening all day was finally getting close by so I carried on reasonably quickly across the 4*4 flattened tussocks along the fence line towards Cauldcleuch Head. The murk turned out to be hail, but in very light and brief showers that tickled more than struck me.
While going along this fence line I gradually became aware of a building noise, sounding ever more like an approaching train. And suddenly, from behind the murk and Cauldcleuch Head, I was buzzed by an Apache helicopter. I think they'd used me for sneaky target practice, diving for cover would never have saved me. They disappeared off down into the valley and were briefly heard but not seen on their return journey to wherever they came from. I've seen and jumped at lots of low flying jets, but this was a new one on me. Too slow on the camera I'm afraid.
The murk had come down pretty completely by the time I got to the top - the top itself defined by a snow drift raising the top by a metre or so. It made a nice seat for a sandwich anyway.
I didn't hang around, getting a bit short on daylight by now carrying on along the fence line towards Greatmoor Hill which made a fleeting appearance through the clouds on the way there.
There was just enough daylight for a summit photo. The shelter seems to have been built out of a previous large summit cairn.
In rapidly failing light now I descended to the south adding the tussocks-in-the-dark experience to all the other varieties of tussock over the past few days and went down the spur between Braidley Burn and Tongue Burn, following the track which I met there past Old Braidlie and Braidley and back to the car by torchlight for 9.15. When getting the torch out of the bag in the gathering gloom I managed to ping open the battery holder spreading the batteries all over the path. I kept wanting to reach for my torch to help find the torch batteries...but did eventually find them all and get them back in.
A more satisfying walk than yesterday, picking off all the highest tops for a wee way around and feeling much less contrived. I'm glad I did it before the forestry grew up and before any further development on Roan Fell.
by Johnny Corbett » Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:05 pm
by gmr82 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:56 pm
by AlisonFox66 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:48 pm
by wjshaw2 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 8:48 pm
gmr82 - I didn't see any new forestry on Ellson. Where would you start from to do that walk? My legs were surprisingly good after the walks. I think I must've actually bashed my knee when I disappeared down the pictured hole, it twinged a few times.
by wjshaw2 » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:12 pm
wjshaw2 wrote:From Din Fell I followed the gentle, heather covered slopes with low tussockosity to Hartsgarth Fell, most of the way just following a fence. It's here that there's been digging and the creation of a new access road across the top of the moor. This decreases the wildness of the place by a large degree and also led me to think that the other use for the Southern Uplands, a wind farm, can't be too far behind. I could easily be wrong. But the hole they've dug looks about the right size for a turbine to me. And Roan Fell is nothing if not windy... My advice: get here quick before the turbines and forestry covers the lot.
Actually, what I've written in the report does sound like I said there'd be forestry on Roan Fell. I was more talking about my general experience on several Borders hills. The previous day's walk on Fanna Hill was affected by new forestry, and walks in the Ettrick Valley on Law Kneis (now completely surrounded by forestry) and Ward Law (the summit is marred by a brand new deer fence with no gates within about a mile of the summit - if you come to the summit from non-forested side you just won't get there without climbing the fence) have shown me that the area covered by forestry is defintely on the increase.
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