December 30, 2010

The Kielder Stone - where Border Wardens met - before phone coverage!

By Donald Clegg

Note by Clive Dalton: In the North Tyne valley of Northumberland, there's no such thing as a 'stone'. They are all 'staens' (pronounced steens). And it's similar on the Scottish side, so when 'Borderers' set off to meet at a noted landmark Staen, like the one near Kielder - they all arrived at the same place - even if some lived to regret it! Don Clegg's report could only be told in his native North Tyne English.

The Kielder Stone.
Photo by Mick Borroff and licensed for reuse.
In the Geographic Britain and Ireland Project.
Ref" (55:17.8520 N) (2: 34.3470 W)
NT 6300. 5km from Deadwater, Northumberland
Link to Map here.

Planning a hill walk
Phillip, wor youngest thowt it wud be be a gud idea for him and me, to hev worsels a weekend away, hill waalkin like, somewhere on the Scotch side. Aa thowt it was a grand idea an’all, so in nee time the Isle of Arran at the end of April was decideed upon, and the B & Bs and MacBrayne’s ferry wor booked. Champion idea!

Gettin fit for't
Nuw, Aa hadn’t dun ony serious waalkin for a canny bit, so Aa thowt Aa’d bettor git some practeece in. So a few weeks afore tekin off, Aa set off wi’ me flask, some chocolate, me camera and mobile phone (just for fear) to ‘bundle and gan” from Kielder Castle and waalk te the ‘Kielder Staen’ by way of Deeedwattor Fell and Mid and Peel Fells.

So Aa set oot ‘o the car park at the Castle aboot nine i’ the mornin’ and was soon leggin it alang the track for the bottom of Deedwattor Fell. At this bit, the track torned intiv a bit clarty path and then just a stretch of open moor, all heathor an’ bent an’ deed bracken. It got steepor by the minute and was gay rough gannin Aa can tell ye.

Peden's cave
Aa was gannin canny and hardly stopped at aall, apart from tekin a bit keek at Peden’s Cave under an owerhingin rock abun Light Pipe cotteege, and te tek in the treemendus view doon the Tyne valley and ower Kielder wattor.

The last bit te the top was steepor yit, an’ it was a case of just ‘heed doon and keep tewin on’. Aa got te the top just aboot an oor an a half eftor leavin the Castle car park, right on schedule!

It was gay hazy up on the top, but Aa had a grand aall-roond view of hills, forest and lake, as far as the haze would allow. It was also bloomin cad, so Aa didn’t hing aboot ower lang.

Aa'l try me phone
Aa thowt Aa would try me mobile phone, and yiss thor was a signal. Man this modern technology was clivor like nowt! So Aa gave the hoose a ring just te let wor Sylvia the missus knaa where Aa was.

The next bit was deed easy, a bit boggy mind ye, but it ownly took thorty minutes te git te Mid Fell, and another thorty saa is at the Border Fence. Some fence! It wadn’t hev stopped ony o’ the Hott aad yowes Aa can tell ye.

Time te git me flask oot
Time te git the flask oot Aa thowt so Aa had a quick moothful of tea and a couple of Twix’s, sittin in the sun, listenin te the Corlews, and spyin a couple of Golden Plovers porched on a bull snoot. It was like bein on the roof of Northumberland at var nigh 2000 feet abun sea level, sorroonedeed by acres of cotton grass, bent, moss and hethor. Oh man what a grrand smell.

Noo then Aa hade to torn right and follow the rotten fence posts doon past the Kielder Staen, just thre quarters of a mile away. Nee bother man! But afore Aa left, Aa called haeme again on the mobile phone te say where Aa was, where Aa was ganin, and huw lang it wad be afore Aa’d be back haeme.

30 year since Aa was heor
Thor was nee guarantee the phone wud work doon in the Kielder Staen cleugh. It took us just 20 minutes to waalk te the Staen as it was aall doon hill. It must hev been thorty year since Aa was last heor, but it hadn’t changed a bit. Still the same greet muckle chunk of weathered grey sandstone, as big as a fair-sized cuw byre with a heathor thatch that Aa’d remembored.

As Aa walked roond aboot it in the sunshine, it was hard to think that at this ootbye place was yince the meetin place for the Wardens of the Marches, as over fower hundred years ago, this whole countryside was fair hotchin wi’ ootlaas, robbers, kidnappors, rustlers and mordorers, aall oot for what they cud git and neebody really to stop them.

One side as bad as t'other
Scots or English, or mixtures of baeth, it made nee difference, one bein just as bad as the t'other. It was hoped that the appointment of ‘Wardens of the Marches’ wud ridd things oot a bit. The Border history (see The Steel Bonnets by George MacDonald Fraser on woolshed1 blog)

Ivvery yeor, the Scots and English Wardens for the Middle March (i.e. Redesdale and North Tynedale mostly) met at the Kielder Staen te thrash oot thor diffors and settle aad scores an aal. Mony’s the time fightin’ brok oot and mony a split heed te show for’t. Warse than a Saturday night dance in the Toon Haal at Bellingham in the owld days, when the pubs emptied oot at ten o’clock and afore the local Bobby arrived.

Ring heem - but where's me phone?
Aa checked me mobile, just for daft, an by heck, thor waas a signal. Right, Aa thowt, Aall ring haeme eftor Aa’ve taen a photo o’ the Staen. So Aa had te move back aboot thorty yards so’s Aa cud git the Carter Bar in’t the backgroond, and then when Aa cum back to where Aa’d left me rucksack on the grund te phone Wor Sylvia - the bloomin phone wasn’t theor!

Aah must have spent 20 minutes or mare scuffling aboot i’ the heathor and bent tussocks, checkin inside me bag, afore Aa hed to give ower and mek me way back up te Peel Fell.

Aa'd hev te cum back
The retorn trip was a wonderful repeat of the jorney in, but spoilt by the thowt that Aa’d hev to come back again te sorch for me blowd phone – it was ower valuable just te leave oot theor for the Curlews and Foxees. Anyway, Aa was back haem by half past two te tel me sorry tale.

Aa hed meant te gan back the next day until a freend said that by then the mobile’s battery could be flat, so ringin it up on a second mobile cud be a bit tricky. That settled it! Aa hed ne option but te set off theor and then, armed wi Wor Sylvia’s mobile phone.

Help from a freend
Anuther canny suggestion from the same freend was te tek the car up a sartin forest track tiv a point weel past Kielder Heed farm, and waalk up the side of the born, then follow the Kielder born up te the Staen itsell. This meant three mile insteed o’ six. Ne contest Man - Aa was away like a linty!

Aal went accordin’ te plan until Aa got te the end of the afore-mentioned track. The forst one-and-a-half miles was easy enuff, following a rough road and then a deer track alang the forest side. When this petered oot, Aa made me way doon to the born thruw reshees, heathor and whin bushees, only te find the bank hed given way and Aa cudn’t get ony farther.

Back on me tracks
So Aa had te gan back on me tracks, fightin me way thruw the whins and reshees yit again, dodging hidden rocks and crevicees to try to skort roond the landslide te git to the born farther alang. That done, Aa was faced wi a blummin muckle deer fence, eight foot high, right alang me path. Lucky for me it was kind o’ rotten and Aa was able te clamor ower where the posts hed given up the ghost.

By this time is was nigh siven o’clock, and Ad been fightin heathor for ower an hoor and Aa had three quarters of a mile still te gan. Aa didn’t fancy struggling on an gittin catched be the dark so far from the road. So yince again, Aa hed te admit defeat and mek for haeme! It was gittin a bit of a habit!

Git ahad o' Bornie
Aa got haeme this time at twenty past eight, in not ower gud fettle, and that night Wor Sylvia suggested gitten ahad of Bornie, the Forestry Ranger at Kielder. He was a good freend and might hev some helpful ideas. His reply was ‘nee bother, son! Be at the Castle at ten o’clock the morn and Aa’ll tek ye up te the top of Deedwattor Fell i’ the Landrover. That’ll save ye a canny bit hike.

It torned oot another grand, fine day an Aa was up te the top of Deedwattor Fell by ten thorty. It was gay warm by this time, so Aa was pleased Aa hadn’t had te howk aal the way up from the Castle on foot like yistorday. Aa enjoyed the waalk ower the tops to Peel Fell and went doon the Border fence, feeling croose like a linty.

This time the Corlews wor borblin’ away and Aa sa a couple of Red Grouse inti the bargain. As soon as Aa got te the muckle Kielder Staen again, Aa used Wor Sylvia’s mobile phone te caal my lost mobile. At forst there was nee soond that Aa cud mek oot – only the wind. Aa thowt that the battry’s deed alright, so thor’d be nee chance of finding my lost phone.

Listen! Ring-ring, ring-ring
Then aa hord eet. A faint ‘ring-ring, a pause then ‘ring-ring’ again. So Aa heeded oot into the heathor and cast aboot trying te pin doon the soond – and by man it took some dein. But eftor what seemed like an age, Aa var nigh stood on the blowd thing, lyin in a hoole amang the heathor ruts and coverd in bracken, but neen the warse for its night oot.

Man Aa was that chuffed. Aa rang heame te tell them the gud news and celebrated with a cup of tea, two Twix and two shortbreed biscuits, sittin in the sunshine in the bield o’ the famous Kielder Staen – thinking aboot them meetins o’ the Wardens.

Nee time to lingor
Nee time to lingor, so Aa took off and when Aa reached Mid Fell eftor an hoor’s waalk, Aa rang the Castle and good owld Bornie the Ranger cam oot iv his Land Rover te pick is up and tek is back te the Castle car park.

By the time Aa got haeme at last, me ‘get fit for Arran’ waalk had covered 25 miles an tean var nigh 12 hoors. Nee doot yill be thinkin’ like me that’s a helluva lang waalk just te tek a phone caall!

Footnote by Clive Dalton
Since Don Clegg's blog, a few folk have been in contact trying to find the stone on maps. There seems a bit of confusion, mainly about which is the best place to start your walk.

Don Clegg's instructions from Kielder
Google '' and find OS map OL42, Kielder Water and Forest, Bellingham and Simonside Hills. 1:25 000 scale.
  • First locate Kielder at 628935.
  • Travel due North to Deadwater Fell (3 3/4 kms) 625973.
  • Travel NE then N to Mid Fell 636984.
  • Swing NNW along ridge towards Peel Fell.
  • Before the summit you'll find a broken down wire fence approx 630995.
  • Swing NNE downhill for approx 1km to the head of a small burn - Kielder Stone Burn.
  • Thar she blows! Watch oot for addors and goats!

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