To reach the North sea at the end of the border is tricky as the East coast mainline and 30 metres of sea cliff present substantial obstacles. The best route is a few hundred metres south via Marshall Meadow caravan park which has a footbridge over the train line and more obscurely an abandoned railway tunnel down to the beach, the entrance to which now lies between two static caravans.
It’s been suggested that the 240 ft long tunnel was constructed in a bid to allow farmers to transport seaweed from the shore to the headland above, since the rugged coastline at Marshall Meadows which makes access difficult. In days gone by, kelp was commonly gathered from the beaches and spread on nearby fields, its rich mineral content providing an ideal fertilizer. It’s likely the tunnel was also used by fisherman bringing their catch ashore, as well as the transportation of sandstone quarried from the sheer cliffs.
Bored through solid sandstone, the tunnel passed beneath a stretch of the East Coast Main Line, which had been built by the North British Railway in 1846, and was later moved to the west due to a cliff collapse. It runs at an incline of around 40 degrees from the headland and emerges some 13 metres above the chilly North Sea.
Seacliff tunnel from the bottom
Seacliff tunnel from the top
Perilous concoction of ropes and ladders to climb the last 30 feet
The North Sea and the end of the border
Great final stretch, taking in the Union Chain bridge which spans the border and the Tweed and was the longest suspension bridge in the world when built. Also Chain Bridge Honey Farm, the cereal fields of the Tweed valley and the boundary road that skirts around Berwick.
The Tweed river near Horncliffe
The Chain Union Bridge
Willie Robson, Beekeeper
Berwick boundary route
Final border crossing on the cliff path
As I mentioned them in previous posts but didn’t go on to explain, here’s some background to the Border Reivers, particularly for those from further afield. They are an integral part of border history and contemporary cultural identity.
Map locating Reiver Family Names
From the late thirteenth century to the beginning of the seventeenth England and Scotland were almost constantly in a state of active enmity and Northumberland, Cumberland and the Scottish border counties were the lands across which the battles raged. Neither Scots nor English Law meant anything to the borderers and for self preservation the inhabitants allied themselves to the leaders of local graynes or clans. These graynes comprised the border names – Charlton, Robson, Hall Armstrong, Kerr etc who throughout the sixteenth century were all-powerful and were termed the Border Reivers.
The feuds and fighting which went on are sometimes misrepresented as England versus Scotland; it was also family vs family. There were shifting alliances which were often cross border- a raid on farms where several hundred ‘beasts’ were taken and driven back to England could not have been successful if the families in the Scottish Borders had not been in on the act.
The characters of the Reivers and their activities have acquired a romantic patina over the ages often attributed to the writing of Sir Walter Scott but in truth they were thoroughly ruthless. It is not surprising that their legacy to the English language is the words bereaved and blackmail. Sir Walter and later others collected the folk songs of that time preserving the lives, legends and landscapes of these people. The Border Ballads provide narrative sweep, a dark humour and lyrical poetry to tell the tales of a barbarous era.
Border Ballad illustration by Tom Scott
Border Ballad illustration for The Twa Corbies by C.O. Murray
More Tweed valley agriculture punctuated by the Coldstream Common ridings and Flodden Day. As part of Coldstream Civic Week Coldstream Rider’s Association arrange four ride-outs the largest of which is to Flodden field with more than 300 riders taking part.
Common Ridings can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries when the border lands were in constant upheaval during the long wars with England and because of the tribal custom of plunder and cattle thieving, known as reiving that was commonplace amongst the major Borders families. In such lawless times, townspeople would ride their boundaries, or ‘marches’, to protect their common lands and prevent encroachment by neighbouring landlords. Long after they ceased to be essential, the ridings continued in commemoration of local legend, history and tradition.
The Flodden rideout is perhaps the most significant as the Battlefield of Flodden is where the armies of James IV of Scotland and the Earl of Surrey, met on 9th September 1513. The battle occurred on the slopes of Branxton Hill, starting late in the afternoon and lasting for 3 hours. By nightfall James, most of his nobles and perhaps 10,000 of his countrymen lay dead. Today the battlefield is marked by a granite cross, erected in 1910, and a battlefield trail created and maintained by the Remembering Flodden Project.
Now walking in the opposite direction but for continuity and the satisfaction of ending at the North Sea I will post in an easterly direction. At the refuge huts along the way people leave many useful and bizarre things. Pot noodle, pants, sleeping mat matches, many pictures of Mr Potatohead and my favourite today, a very apt Shakespeare quote scrawled on a sheet of bog roll reminiscent of tracing paper.
“These high wild hills and rough uneven ways, draw out our miles and make them wearisome” Richard III
Refuge hut donations
View from the Schil across the Cheviots
National Carriers lorry – a mystery how it got here
Karen taking a break at the Schil
Made in Scotland for your enjoyment