Two blog posts in a week – you’re getting spoilt!
Today, in the spirit of my training for that #1000 miles, we had a ramble around the Newtown St Boswells area. We followed directions from a leaflet called ‘Walks Around Newtown St Boswells’ compiled by Roger French. We didn’t quite manage to follow his instructions but still managed to complete the walk, despite the cold and the frost which is still lying on the ground.
Enjoy reading! Anyone else doing the Country Walking magazine #1000 miles in 2017?
Starting in the small village of Newtown St Boswells we make our way to the Old Melrose Road and head uphill to the viewing point at the site of Rhymers Stone. The Old Melrose Road is now closed to traffic at the top of the hill – but we can hear the steady rumble of the traffic on the New Melrose Bypass the whole way round today.
Thomas the Rhymer was a late 13th century character also known as Thomas of Erceldoune (Erceldoune is now known as Earlstown – and is not far from here). Thomas was a poet and was known and respected for his prophecies. He wrote a famous poem called Sir Tristrem which was later edited by Sir Walter Scott. There are many legends about Thomas – including this one about his stone:
While out walking in the Eildon Hills Thomas fell asleep. What seemed to him like a short nap was actually a few years. While he was asleep the Queen of the Fairies kidnapped him and invited him to kiss her lips and enjoy her body. In return she gave him the gift of prophecy. Thomas, on his return to the mortal world, used this power to predict the death of King Alexander III in 1296 and the succession of Robert the Bruce to the throne.
Thomas’s story, much watered down to suit Sir Walter Scott’s prim sensibilities, is told in the ballad of ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ as part of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.
We leave Thomas’s stone behind and make our way along a gravelled track heading towards that busy bypass. We go a bit wrong here I think, and instead of carrying on straight downhill, we turn to the left, following the waymark signs. The track takes us downhill via what might have been an old drover’s way – we still emerge on the bypass, but a bit further along than we should be.
Luckily for us, the path at this point turns right and goes underneath the bypass – very handy! We seem to be on a disused railway line, obviously now used as a footpath. As we look for the way towards the viaduct we spot these lovely pine trees with the most enormous pine cones – partly nibbled by squirrels we think:
Finding our way through the village of Newstead and onto the road to the viaduct we pass the site of the Trimontium
The Trimontium (the place of the three (Eildon) hills) is the site of a huge Roman fort established in 79AD by Gnaeus Julius Agricola. The Romans fought for over 100 years for control of the Borders and the Trimontium was an important front-line fort and then a supply base during that time. There are numerous information boards around the area and its still possible to make out the shape of the amphitheatre in one of the fields.
We head on along the lane towards the viaduct – opened in 1865 to carry the Berwickshire Railway – and much admired by Queen Victoria:
Leaderfoot Viaduct has 19 arches each with a 43 foot span and carried passenger trains until 1948 when the railway was damaged by heavy flooding. It continued to carry freight until 1965 when it was closed.
We backtrack uphill and turn left to walk along a railway embankment towards the bypass again. Crossing the road we continue along the footpath until a right hand turn takes us uphill to Eildon
and then back down over the hill to Newtown St Boswells, stopping to admire the view to our right as the sun finally emerges from the clouds.