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The Hounds of Roan Fell

The Hounds of Roan Fell


Postby inca » Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:07 pm

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Roan Fell

Date walked: 24/02/2017

Time taken: 2.25 hours

Distance: 13 km

Ascent: 368m

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Map: OS 1:50,000 no. 79
Attendees: Me, Big Dog, Small Dog
Time taken: 2hr 15m

Hounds
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

I hear the hounds at Twislehope long before I see them. First comes a solitary bark. Then two. A long whine, followed by a chorus of howls. Our scent’s been carried by a cold wind bouncing round the glen. By the time we reach the kennels, the noise is at a crescendo. A baying mob is scrabbling at the bars. There’s probably 25 of them. They’re big, well-kept, muscular dogs and we’re on their turf.

I’d begun the walk 15 minutes earlier. Back to the Borders and another scoot through Hawick to the unclassified road that links the A7 at Findleton to the B6399 at Hermitage. I found ample room for parking at the track entrance to Twislehope (GR 451968). A wooden name plate on the access fencing was broken. Almost exactly in half, gauging from the number of letters left. It now read ‘Twisl’. All ‘ehope’ had gone.

Start/finish point for Roan Fell
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

The dogs and I went through a pedestrian gate and over a small bridge. The track ran southeast, passing an unattended digging vehicle and a field containing calves. They were unusual looking beasts, almost panda like in appearance.

Calves
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

Further on, there were a couple of cottages and a more substantial bridge. Thereafter we arrived at Twislehope and our introduction to the hounds.

It’s hard not to stop and stare. For the most part, tails were being wagged and hackles stay down. It’d be easy to think of them as playful. Perhaps they are. But this is a proper regional hunting pack. They’re bred, kept and trained for purpose. Best not to forget that. I look down at my two. Oddly, they seem nonchalant. It’s probably bravado. I half expect them to whistle next.

I continue southwards, crossing a footbridge and fording a burn twice. The twice could have been once but I’m concerned about the appearance of a second footbridge. Age and the elements have contorted it to the point it’s starting to resemble a helix.

It’s a nervous few minutes for other reasons. In the morning light, it suddenly occurs to me that Small Dog looks like a bit like a fox. A small one perhaps. But a fox nonetheless. What if the hounds are let out for exercise by someone unaware we’ve just passed? Or there’s a faulty catch on the compound? Could I put one, or both of my dogs, in a place of safety quickly? Maybe up a tree? On top of a wall? Looking around, there aren’t many of either. They’re too low anyway. Even if they were higher and I could do it, mightn’t I become collateral damage myself?

It’s an exponential trajectory of worry, much of it absurd. What if there’s a rogue hound that can pick locks? A genius dog no-one knows about yet? What if there’s a solitary confinement wing out back somewhere? For psychotic bad boys and repeat offenders? What if I have to return home with 2 bloodied dog collars and nothing attached to them? How do I explain that to mrs inca? What if, what if, what if…. the list seems endless.

Not surprisingly, I’ve picked up the pace. The track ascends steadily alongside the Caulker Grain burn. We’re on the flanks of Ewe Hill. The gradient’s steep enough to get the heart and legs pumping. Not steep enough to warrant stopping. It’s a good thing. Gradually I forget about the kennels.

Beginning of upward section of the track
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

No Health and Safety Assessment for this footbridge in a while
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

Looking back down route of ascent from Twislehope
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

Higher up, the track curves gently to the southwest. I catch sight of half a dozen deer disappearing over Wetherhorn Hill opposite. We reach the snow line, passing a cairn of large stones on the right, and a fork to Haregrain Rig on the left. The cairn offers a good viewpoint to the north. I have a look at the map and can pick out Ellson Fell (which I was to climb 6 weeks later).

Views north from first cairn
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

There’s a curious collection of other hill names and features here. In a small area to the northwest for example, Crude Hill sits close to Cockplay Hill. In fact, they’re only one hump away from each other. It’s a B list movie in waiting. I keep the map open and I put it together as I move on. Pout Knowe’s the star. Brecken Shank and Guile Hass play supporting roles. It’s produced by Anton Heights, directed by Dinley Fell. The soundtrack’s by Moss Peeble. The film opens to a mixed reception. Gnarly critic Unthank Pikes slates it on social media. Arts journalist Stockcleuch Edge takes a different approach. ‘It’s a tour de force’ he gushes on Radio 4. ‘Fell’s best work since ‘Falling Down’ and a worthy follow up to ‘Falling Sideways’. A lot of people seem to think Fell’s obsessed with the idea of falling. I don’t get that. He’s an upright fellow. As upright as an upright….piano.’ His voice trails off to dead air. John Humphreys quickly cuts to the hyperactive weather lady with the treacly voice.

Okay, maybe I’ve taken that too far now :crazy: I’d have been on to Oscar acceptance speeches next. One of the great pleasures –or perils depending on how you see it- of walking solo is the time to think. Safe to say I might have too much of that here. In my defence, the track’s flattened out to a point where there’s little to see. And yes, all the names in the early part of the above paragraph are on the map. (Some minor hills, tops, ridges, a col, a dollop and a house if you’re really interested.)

Ewe Hill wraps into Hartsgarth Fell. On the high ground, a gate and fence line are reached. This is where the old track ends and two newer versions begin. At first sight, there's no obvious purpose for either. One heads off to the west. I follow the second. It continues south to the left of the fence line. I come across a few grouse butts. They appear newly built. So it's a shooting hill. That explains the presence of the track.

The fence marks the boundary between Eskdale and LIddesdale. 10 minutes and 40m of ascent later, I’m stood at the summit of Roan Fell. There’s a cairn here with a stick in the middle. The views are reasonable but we’re on a large plateau. It gives no context or perspective to the surrounding hills, as views from the previous cairn had done.

End of the old track, start of the new
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

Final section of track towards summit
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

Summit cairn
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

I had thought about continuing south to visit the trig point. It’s 1k to the south and some 8m lower than the summit cairn. I decide against it. A large bank of cloud has appeared overhead. It’s ominous grey-black in colour and the temperature is dropping. Heavy rain or snow inbound?

Cloud bank coming in
ImageUntitled by NDM, on Flickr

My return’s back the same way I came up. Predictably, I’m half way down the track when the cloud vanishes and the sun reappears. There’s a repeat of the barking and howling passing the kennels. It’s old hat now obviously. Nothing to see here, no cause for concern. I find my pace quickening again regardless.

Almost back at the car, the local postie appears. He waves as he goes by, a cheery looking man whose face is the same colour as his van.

And that was it for Roan Fell. A decent hill on a straightforward route. The hounds were an interesting feature. Would I have done anything differently? I doubt it. The track made for rapid progress. If there are alternative routes to Roan Fell that don’t involve lengthy treks over rough terrain, I’ve yet to hear of them.

Postscript

This is another trip report finished later than I’d like. It’s now the second week of 2018. In spring 2017, I would encounter packs of hounds twice in the hills. The hounds were running free and had my dogs in plain view on both occasions. There were no issues. A gamekeeper friend of mine says working hounds rarely pose a danger to other dogs. For historic reasons, this is particularly true in the case of Border Terriers (as my 2 are). Rationally he’s probably right. Even so, on the day I’m still glad I didn’t have to test this at close quarters.
Last edited by inca on Tue May 08, 2018 7:17 am, edited 6 times in total.
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inca
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Re: The Hounds of Roan Fell

Postby Sgurr » Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:42 pm

I remember feeling the same about these hounds. In fact, I put in my trip report that had I been a fox, I would have dropped dead with fright at the sound of them. Obviously your dogs are made of sterner stuff, or could understand they simply weren't interested in them.
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Re: The Hounds of Roan Fell

Postby inca » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:11 pm

Sgurr wrote:I remember feeling the same about these hounds. In fact, I put in my trip report that had I been a fox, I would have dropped dead with fright at the sound of them. Obviously your dogs are made of sterner stuff, or could understand they simply weren't interested in them.


Hi Sgurr,

Glad to hear it wasn't just me then. I'm still not sure about my two. Maybe blasé. Then again, maybe just too stupid :lol: I did come across your trip report online btw. It proved helpful on the day. Cheers.
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Re: The Hounds of Roan Fell

Postby Bothybob » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:27 pm

Good report, cattle are Belted Galloway
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Re: The Hounds of Roan Fell

Postby PeteR » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:56 pm

This looks an interesting little route. Particularly liked the shot of the bridge :shock: Definitely one on my radar over the coming months.
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Re: The Hounds of Roan Fell

Postby inca » Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:29 pm

Bothybob wrote:Good report, cattle are Belted Galloway


Thanks. Appreciate the cattle identification. Always better to know what you're looking at. I didn't in this case.

PeteR wrote:This looks an interesting little route. Particularly liked the shot of the bridge :shock: Definitely one on my radar over the coming months.


I had commitments later on the day I did this Pete. So both the hill and the route worked for me. Made for a good half day, including travel to and from Edinburgh. I know you're west side of the country but I'd imagine overall timings wouldn't be dissimilar.
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