Hogs and I have been visiting the Cheviot Hills together for almost twelve years now. A relatively short time compared to some people we’ve encountered in those years of exploring, but it spans our entire life together. Whenever we’re planning an adventure or looking for a way to spend a day together the Cheviot Hills remain our first port of call. A ‘go-to’ destination of choice that we rely on heavily to while away the hours.
Why always these hills? Is proximity the overriding factor or is there something else?
We ventured into the hills again yesterday (early November as I write this), and despite both waking with minor flu-like symptoms the need to blow away some cobwebs and get some fresh air overrode any aches and sore throats we were suffering.
We set off from Shillmoor Farm up a bridleway to its east that we’d been curious about since we wild camped on Shillhope Law earlier in the summer and then went hunting for whisky stills shortly thereafter; this particular nook of the Hills is fast becoming a favourite.
On the return leg of this short saunter we dropped off an unnamed hill to meet the bridleway that runs from Shillmoor to Batailshiel Haugh along the Usway Burn and pitched up on the side wall of a bridge for drinks and snacks. Then the strangest thing happened. I was gazing down the valley when I felt a tear trickle down my cheek. The blue skies, green mossy hills and the steady rush of water down the burn just overwhelmed me in that moment and it was all I could do to not let all of that emotion bubble over.
What is it about these hills? What is it that draws us back time and time again? Why do we always want to come here over and above anywhere else when we’ve got time together? And why do they have such a profound effect on me?
These are my homelands. My father; a Northumbrian of Durham mining lineage. My mother; a Doonhamer and staunch Scot. My patriotism runs through the borderlands as steadily and faithfully as the burn beneath my feet. I belong here in the sequestered tranquillity of these valleys; the geographical midpoint of my ‘home’. I feel at complete ease here. Walking through these lands feels like pressing a reset button on everything. I love my family. I love my job. I love everything I do. But at times I need to turn my back on it all, just for a few hours. I need to be somewhere that the rest of my world isn’t.
These hills and valleys give me everything I need to maintain the balance of the world. Whether it’s the height of summer or the depths of winter they’ve always got a new story to tell that puts my own into clear perspective.
I think the reason we come back to them isn’t just their proximity. There’s a peaceful privacy and quiet repose the Cheviots offer that nowhere else can match. Their land, their heritage, their history, their beauty. They’re always there for me. And they always welcome me back.