Early Outing for 2011

`Start as you mean to continue`, is the motto for the New Year. So January 3rd and 4th found the author out on the Watershed in the hills in the area between Hawick and Kielder. Still a lot of snow and ice around, which lingered deeper in the cleuchs and hollows and gave the surrounding hills a special kind of articulation in the winter sunshine. But the views had to be enjoyed whilst on the move, as a steady breeze kept the temperature low. No bootprints in the snow - no New Year greetings to be had on the Watershed - perfect solitude, though someone had clearly skied this way to mark the passing of the old year. Crossed the B6357 at the point where it is much more intriguingly referred to as Note o` the Gate (see p51) and up to find a suitable spot to camp on the forest beside the ancient pilgrim crossing of Wheel Causeway.

Day two called up the need to engage both memory and imagination order to visualise the landscape, for all was shrouded in mist. Still the same cold wind, and above the 500m contour, ice had a firm grip on both vegetation and peat hag. So from Hartshorn Pike a compass bearing for Peel Fell was definitely called for. That small herd of wild goats that had had such appeal back in 2005, were nowhere to be seen; they must have moved to their winter quarters down in the forest - don`t let anyone say that goats are daft! Then, oh so reassuringly, the old fenceline that more or less marks the Border appeared out of the gray mirk, and led to the summit only a few metres away. 

No time or inclination to dilly-dally, no photo opp`, no bootprints - but very real wildness, for sure; time to descend. That old fenceline, some scrappy remains of a dyke, and in places a ditch, seemed to mark the Border, so it was very easy to follow down into the forest, and much softer snow underfoot. Eventually, the sound of a passing timber lorry heralded the unclassified road to or from Kielder Village, and the sign beside it proclaiming `Welcome to Scotland`.