Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Dere St

What a wrench to leave the Bowmont Valley. I had tried to persuade Angela to adopt me, but she wasn't having any of off we went (slowly, with lots of looking back). We followed a hill track from Belford to Hownam (pron: Hoonum). A beautiful day: warm, but with enough breeze to keep the flies away. Sorry to go on about the weather - but it has assumed a major importance to me!

The track climbs slowly to about 1000' - high enough to get some stunning views (and pick up a load of missed calls on the phone - we were 'communicado' again.)

It was definitely not a hurrying day and we meandered on gently, thoroughly enjoying the day and stopping to graze for a while at Horseshoe Wood and soak up some sunshine.

Then down to Hownam...a pretty village, where the Post Office marked on the map is long gone, to be replaced by posters fighting to save the Post Office in neighbouring Morebattle a few miles away...can this really be progress? We stopped to chat to an extremely elderly lady on the main street (well, the only street) who had lived in the village all her life - I expect the loss of the Post Office was only one of the many changes she has seen. Her old eyes did light up when she was describing Hownam during the war with soldiers billeted nearby, but with respect I don't intend to reveal any more about that.

Leaving Hownam we again climbed steeply up - now we were on the Roman road Dere Street, built c.AD74. Unsurprisingly it's very straight! It crosses rough moorland here, again climbing to about 1000'. According to Rob and James who I met later, it was built by 1000 Roman soldiers over a 2-year period - an astonishing feat.

We camped for the night at Upper Samieston Farm in the valley (I had been tempted to camp high but feared the weather would turn- which it did). The farmer provided Doogs and Yeoman with a Grade A ++ field - their classification - which luckily for me was right next to the cottage inhabited by potter Clair and her family: husband Rob, and children Molly and Jessie. They provided me with a delicious supper, all produce from their own garden - a lucky find for me and the ponies! It's always interesting approaching strange farms on spec - we might be welcomed with open arms - or shot. We had a great evening - also with Clair's sister and brother in law who were staying - definitely a lucky guess, that one. Molly was delighted by the ponies who had unexpectedly come to live 'next door' and helped me with all my chores - thanks, Molly. In return she rode Yeoman up the track for a little way the next morning as we set off - actually I'm sure she would cheerfully have ridden the rest of the thousand miles with us, too. Best ask Mummy first, though...

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