A foot in two nations along the Tweed

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Criss-cross between England and Scotland on this scenic Northumberland walk, says Mark Rowe

An innocuous grassy lane, no more than three metres wide, makes for one of the world's sleepiest borders. You'll find it, overlooked by hazel trees and set against a backdrop of sweeping hills and isolated farmsteads, five miles west of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the town that famously lies in England but whose football team plays its away games in Scotland.

If Alex Salmond has his way, then this strip of land, know locally as the Bounds Road and which comes to an abrupt dead-end on the banks of the River Tweed, will become a destination for lovers of travel curiosities, a border that you really can straddle.

While devolution wouldn't exactly see the imposition of a demilitarised zone or passport checks, the area could have done with them in the past. The borderland between Scotland and England may be tranquil now but historically it has been a riotous place, overrun by Border Reivers – sheep rustlers and general ne'er-do-wells – as well as marauding armies heading north and south and various other opportunistic pillagers.

They were unlikely to have had time to drink in the scenery, which, as I stepped for the umpteenth time from one country to another, is little less than breathtaking. I'd started in Paxton, a small Saxon village now firmly in Scotland and birthplace of the mother of Eric Liddell, the missionary and Olympic gold medallist portrayed in Chariots of Fire. I headed east, surrounded by hills, including to the north (yet curiously in England) Halidon Hill, the scene of a crushing 14th-century English victory. To the south and east stood the heart of Northumberland, the Cheviots.

Bridges feature heavily in this walk. I dropped down to my first, an iron footbridge. The River Whiteadder rushed by beneath the metal flooring, fed upstream by the pleasingly named Blackadder. Together they later join forces to give a surging push to the River Tweed as it rushes towards the North Sea. I was lucky enough to be accompanied on this walk by Ian Kille, a local geologist and B&B owner, who runs "walk, talk and chalk" tours of the Northumbrian hinterland. You can ask Ian to tell you what you're looking at, and he has the knack of transforming the landscape for you. Here, over the Whiteadder, he explained, the Ice Age hadn't really gone away. "The ice sheet here 17,000 years ago was so thick it squashed the land down," he explained. "What's happening now is that the land is rising back up but the water is cutting through the sandstone." The result is the thrilling spectacle of the Whiteadder chiselling its way past handsome sandstone cliffs.

We pushed onwards, crossing high fields with glimpses of the North Sea, the extraordinarily tall spire of Berwick's town hall peeking above the horizon, and the scene framed by the outline of the distant arches of the Royal Border Rail Bridge. Down through woodland we picked up the bank of the River Whiteadder again, this time by a man-made salmon run before crossing the Canty's Brig (County's Bridge) and heading west along the river's south bank. A dog-leg took us to the River Tweed at a point where the waters split politically: downstream everything's in England, upstream the middle of the river forms the border.

On the north bank, back in Scotland, we passed below the grounds of Paxton House. This 18th-century neoclassical house is designed in the local sandstone with great symmetry and positioned in manicured lawns and woodland. It was built by Patrick Home as a house for the women he fell in love with. His love went unrequited and he sold up, heartbroken.

The route ended by walking back via Paxton House to Paxton village. But before doing so, I kept along the river bank for a there-and-back again hike to the Union Chain Bridge, a suspension bridge across the Tweed with a conspicuous "Welcome to Scotland" sign at its western end. It's a rusting, beautiful affair, opened in 1820 and spanning 450 feet, and is the oldest suspension bridge carrying road traffic. Children play pooh sticks here, and the bridge wriggles its hips when a car trundles over – not quite a Highland fling, but a playful reminder that I was walking in a place where nothing stays quite the same for too long.

Step by step directions

From the Cross Inn in Paxton take the road by the bus shelter and turn left and right along Merse View. take the footpath left and then right along wall and follow fingerpost sign for Foulden. Bear left at fork downhill to metal bridge. Turn left over bridge, walk to right of house and follow track uphill to Low Cocklaw. Turn right, signed for Canty's Brig; after woods pick up the River Whiteadder. Cross the Whiteadder bridge, and turn west along south bank. Where river track stops, turn left up lane, dog-leg over road by Paxton Toll House to River Tweed. Turn right (west), following river bank to Union Chain Bridge. Retrace your steps to Paxton House and follow main drive and lane to Paxton village.

Travel Essentials

DISTANCE: Six miles

TIME: Three hours

OS MAP: Explorer 346; Berwick-upon-Tweed

START/FINISH Paxton village green

 

Getting there

Berwick is on the East Coast main line between Newcastle and Edinburgh. The writer travelled to Berwick with Cross Country trains (crosscountrytrains.co.uk); the line is also served by East Coast Trains.

 

Staying there

Northumbrian House (01289 309503; 7ravensdowne.co.uk) in Berwick offers B&B from £90 per night.

 

More information

visitnorthumberland.com

 

Sport
The Aviva Premiership trophy
rugby union All the latest from Twickenham
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood
footballDanny Higginbotham: Tim Sherwood must play game of two halves to cause major upset
News
Caber is trained to help child victims of serious crimes testify
news
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor