Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Cheese Well

The Minch Moor road is an ancient cattle droving route between Innerleithen and Galashiels. As well as being on the Southern Upland Way, it forms part of a newly designated path called the Cross-Borders Drove Road, an off-road route for cyclists, horse riders and walkers that starts on the northern side of the Pentlands at Cauldstane Slap. Centuries ago cattle were driven between the massive annual trysts at Falkirk and Crieff and markets south of the border. I'd always fancied a daunder over this piece of it, returning to the start by bicycle. So one fine day we parked at Traquhair, heading straight up the well-made track, alone except for the distant throb of the machines of the Midlife Crisis Motorcycle Club out for their weekend spin.


The route is well-made and after Minch Moor bothy, steepens towards the top. Just at the point when a wee rest seems in order, The Point of Resolution appears. This is an outdoor artwork, the first and so far only one mooted for the Southern Upland Way. I unworthily wondered if the reason for an artwork was for the same reason the M8 motorway has its heavy horse and pyramids - is it because the route is boring, and needs something to spice it up? There are no artworks on the West Highland Way, for example, where the scenery speaks for itself. However this is unfair. *This* section of the Southern Upland Way doesn't need artworks to be of interest. Perhaps artworks would be more appreciated along some of the western parts of the SUW, to break the monotony of endless conifer plantations.

Looking through the Point of Resolution:

Close to the Point of Resolution is the Cheese Well. At this spring I gratefully refilled my bottle with cool, clear water. In ancient times people left offerings of cheese to the fairies here. The practice continues to this day, but oh dear! People have left objects made of iron. As anyone who knows anything knows, ferrous metals are kryptonite to fairies. I fear they will have been all chased awa'. It would be doing the fairies a favour to remove the metallic objects and, to be on the safe side, the money - nearly £5 worth. It could go to a local charity.

The Cheese Well:

A small detour takes you to the summit of Minch Moor, with wide views of surrounding moorland. The hills here are long and flat-topped, like the northern Pennines, towns and villages hidden at the bottom of steep dales. The area around Innerleithen is criss-crossed with mountain bike trails, Glentress and Seven Stanes making this the busiest off-road biking area in the country.

North from Minch Moor:

We saw some mountain bikers around Minch Moor, and a pair on the Three Brethren, but no one at all for the entire rest of the way. The Southern Upland Way is little walked. Of Scotland's three traditional long distance routes - the Speyside Way is the third - only the West Highland Way has captured the public imagination. The Southern Uplands in general are Scotland's secret, often quieter than wilder looking landscapes in the Highlands.

It looked a long way to go, but glorious, high-level walking on a good path, sometimes stony, usually turf, took us effortlessly towards the distant Three Brethren, where three giant cairns mark the march boundaries of three estates. This is good striding country. Good thinking country too.

On the Minch Moor road, looking towards the Eildons and Three Brethren:

To the north, the village of Clovenfords nestles in rolling green Borders countryside. The view, wind turbines included, is typical of the area.


On descent, treats with wild flowers under the new forest canopy - cuckoo flower, wild hyacinth, primrose, wood sorrel. Treats with wildlife too - a fox up close, a mouse legging it across the path in front of us, buzzards up high and palmate newts in pools along the path. Our legs felt well stretched by the time we returned to the river. An hour's cycle took us a little longer than expected, but the Tweedside scene was mellow and pleasant.

The Tweed at Yair:

There's a good feeling about walking a route in the Southern Uplands. The lack of crowds makes it feels you are doing something off your own initiative, despite in this case our way being marked. And the enclosed nature of the glens and their invisibility from the hilltops gives this the air of an undiscovered country. Give it a go yourself.

Enjoying early evening light along the Tweed:

1 comment:

blueskyscotland said...

Nice set of photos. Not done that walk for over 20 years so it's good to see the sights again. Doesn't seem to have changed that much thankfully and you can always find real solitude down there in the border hills.