SINCE time immemorial roads and tracks have crossed the Cheviot Hills – ancient routes used for smuggling or droving, reiving or shepherding. Prehistoric settlers, Roman invaders and medieval monks have all left their mark with hillforts, camps, farms, mills or whisky stills.
This book, which contains detailed and informative maps, follows the old tracks through the hills, describing and bringing to life the patterns in the landscape that might otherwise be overlooked.
Since it was founded in 2008, Coquetdale Community Archaeology (CCA), which has more than 100 members, has carried out years of research in the Cheviots to uncover mysteries and shed new light on the way these uplands have been changed by the people who lived in them and travelled through them.
In 2010 members rediscovered the long-lost remains of a medieval fulling mill on the River Coquet near Barrowburn. Four seasons of careful excavation uncovered structures both in the river and on the bank, confirming that it had been built nearly 800 years ago by monks from Morpeth.
In recent years CCA has expanded its horizons and with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Park it has focused on the ancient tracks which cross the Cheviots to link England with Scotland, and which form the content of this fully illustrated book.
The author, CCA’s secretary who has managed the project, said: “Very often people see shapes and structures in the hills – mounds, earthworks and ruins – but know little about them. We explain what they are, provide some of their history and how they fitted into contemporary society.”
Among the five border routes mentioned is Clennell Street, which travels from Alwinton to the border and on to Town Yetholm. There is evidence of Iron Age and Bronze Age activities along the route, which may have been known as the Eagle’s Path in the Middle Ages.
The Salter’s Road runs north west from Alnham to Ewartly Shank, then on to High Bleakhope before joining Clennell Street just south of the border. Sites passed along this route include a deserted medieval village, ancient settlements at High Knowes, and the site of a whisky still named after the legendary Black Rory.
The Street is an old drove road which follows a long ridge south from the border to Barrowburn in the Coquet Valley, where CCA excavated a 16th century fulling mill. Buckham’s Walls is a circular route through an agricultural Coquetdale landscape rich in history with many abandoned farmhouses including the 18th century Yearning Hall.
The fifth border road is Dere Street, part of the Roman road that linked York with Scotland. It travels from Rochester, the site of Bremenium Roman Fort, to Chew Green Roman Fort in the upper Coquet Valley, then over the border to Pennymuir.