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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Good map is a work of art with wealth of information

EVER since I can recall, I have had a profound interest in cartography or maps.

DC trainy
One of the last trains from Hexham at Riccarton Junction; hence the wreath on the front of the locomotive

It all started when I was a bit bairn and was off school with measles or something; my father gave me two Bartholomew’s half-inch maps of Dumfries and Galloway. I spent my infected days planning imaginary journeys through the Lowther Hills and across into Galloway, although at that age I had no idea just how much ground I was hoping to cover on my bike.

A good map is a work of art and can impart a wealth of information but there are a lot of gie puir yins.

To a practised map reader, a map presents a picture of the area but more than a picture it presents a story, especially if the information is accurate and the Ordnance Survey maps of Britain are superlative.

Not only do they show directions and shapes but they can indicate heights and gradients.

I have no idea how many maps I have collected over the years but each one represents a wealth of memories and emotions.

In just such a way I was pouring over our local maps when in the upper right hand corner I spied a jumble of intriguing names such as Hurklewinter, Queen o’ Fairies, Old Toll Pillar, Bloody Bush, Kielder Stane, Scotch Kershope, as well as the strangely familiar name Scotch Knowe, to match up with my own house Scotts Knowe.

But, according to my map, all the area had been obliterated by the Newcastleton, Kershope and Kielder forests. Any paths had been swallowed up and replaced by a plethora of rides with not one going in the direction of the Bloody Bush Toll Pillar which, on this occasion, I wanted to explore.

I paid a visit to the Langholm Library and found a wealth of history on the areas around us. In an intriguing book The Border Line by Logan Mack I was able to trace the border from east coast to west coast.

In the British Museum there is a book with the improbable and cumbersome title of A Book of the Survaie of the Debateable and Border Landes belonginge to the Crowne of Englande, Lyeinge between the Eastern and Western seas and abounding upon the Realm of Scotland, consistinge of severall parts as in the table following appeareth: taken in the year of our Lorde God 1604.

The surveyors appear to have been Johnson and Goodwyn who charged King James I and VI the sum of £371 18s 4d.

The King was so pleased that, “he geve them a gueift of a further somme of Poundes CCLI by way of reward for their paynes and traveils herein”.

The Border Line describes the national boundary from the Sark to the Esk to the Liddel and finally up the Kershope Knowe and The Bloody Bush.

The Bloody Bush Toll Bar had been erected by the side of what must have been a comparatively busy route – a short cut from Tynedale to the Western Scottish Borders.

It should be remembered that 400 years ago there were very few roads and Carter Bar was used only for local traffic between Teviotdale and Redesdale.

Coal from the Upper Tynedale was probably the principal load, long before railways were known, this coal being carried in panniers on horse or mule back. But for what purpose could such small amounts be used?

The advent of the Waverley Line and the Riccarton to Hexham railway as well as the general use of motor vehicles sounded the death knell of the Dinlabyre to Lewisburn Reiver’s route, drove road, bridle path or cart track.

However, before that happened the landowners on either side of the border cleverly decided that they should cash in on this trade and erected a tollbar at the Bloody Bush.

But more about my visits in my next article.


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