22nd January 2017
Here we are again!
A shortish riverside walk from Greenlaw through a beautiful glacial valley, a climb up to an iron age fort and a cup of tea at the Deil’s Neuk. There was mist and drizzle, sleet and snow. We saw deer and dippers and lots and lots of sheep.
Who knew there was such excitement – just along the road!
Greenlaw Dean and the Blackcastle Rings (3.5 miles)
(adapted from Robbie Porteous’s little book – The Scottish Borders: 40 favourite walks)
We start at Greenlaw which is a small town just 10 minutes in the car from us. It was once the county town of Berwickshire until that job went to Duns in 1904. Following the road through a holiday caravan park and alongside the Blackadder Water we soon enter a small wood, taking the muddy track through it until we emerge onto a farm track. From here we can see the river course as it flows through the valley and we pause on the bridge to take in the view.
A tree apparently sprouting from an old concrete slab catches our attention – looking around, its obvious that there used to be a stream flowing beneath here.
Continuing along the narrow, muddy path we follow the river along the valley floor until we reach a wide track heading uphill alongside a wide ravine. From here we walk along a narrow path high above the river and can look down on this glacial valley, which was formed around 12,000 years ago.
As we ramble on, a large flock of geese fly down the valley. They probably come from Greenlaw Moor, where a natural loch named Hule Moss is known to support an overwintering roost of pink footed geese. The Moor is classified as a site of special scientific interest.
We also spot three deer down below us in the valley crossing the river and disappearing into the trees:
Eventually we reach the steep sided ravine known as Deil’s Neuk (Devil’s Nook) at the top of which are the Blackcastle Rings – earthwork ramparts of an Iron Age Promontory Fort and home to many mountaineering sheep.
In 1857, the Reverend Mr Walker took the members of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club along the valley to the fort and gives a very nice description of it:
“An encampment, called the “Black Castle Ring,” very perfect, situated on the high grounds, was the next object of interest. On three sides there is an outer ditch, then a high dyke of earth, then a wide fosse, and then again an inner dyke – a large flat piece of rich-grass ground forming the centre. On the other side is a broken bank, very precipitous, 100 feet and more above the river, from which the camp was quite inaccessible”. ( www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/16174/blackcastle_rings.html )
As we explore, a drizzly rain begins and quickly turns to sleet and then snow starts to fall. We decide to take shelter amongst the pine trees along with the sheep and have a cup of tea.
Down below we can see the meeting point of Blackadder Water and Fangrist Burn:
Our way now takes us down through the narrow steep sided Deil’s Neuk and back to the riverbank. The sheep find climbing about on these valley sides much easier than I do!
Finally we reach the bottom and start to make our way along the riverbank, which is steep sided and squelchy and slippy with red sandstone mud. We spot a pair of dippers darting up and down the river and follow them downstream for a while before finally managing to catch one of them on camera:
As we walk on back along the river path to Greenlaw we decide we like this walk, despite the drizzly cold rain that continues to fall, and will definitely come back in the Spring.
(59.5 miles completed – 939.5 to go!)
this article and photos stirred my memory cells. I’ve frequently walked up to the ‘meeting of the waters’ and the fort overlooking it as a boy with my brother and friends some 60 years ago. Very little has changed, the river and valley looks unchanged. I was born and brought up in Greenlaw and still occasionally visit there to see old friends. Thanks for the memories.
Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I’m glad my blog brought back some memories of this lovely walk for you. Julie
Hi Mike, what a coincidence seeing your name here. As you know I was one of the young lads with you and Stan who enjoyed venturing up this marvellous glaciated valley. I was up there alone just last week up past the now wrecked “Black Brig” and on to the Roman Fort . I walked along the top on the way tae the Meetings and back hame along the the river valley taking many beautiful pics along the route . Not sure if lots o’ folk in our village know about this treasure right on our doorstep? Hope to see you soon old mate. Cheers Pedro.
Thats so good that you are catching up here! We went back last week as well, the riverbank is quite badly eroded isn’t it? We had to head upwards much sooner than we did before. Such a lovely walk though.
The most disturbing thing is that I looked for fish in the river or jumping for the midges but honestly did not see one trout. As a kid and younger adult the Blackadder River was teeming with fish. Very sad !
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