Raider’s Road: Clatteringshaws to the Otter Pool

8.03 miles 4h 1m ascent 293m

Spring. A cuckoo’s call in the calm air and cuckoo flowers in the verge. Sunshine that didn’t call for hats or sunscreen, and warmed but didn’t overwhelm. Coltsfoot and wood sorrel readying to yield to the bluebells and stitchwort. The red flowers of summer yet to bloom.

Lockdown. Car sharing is still banned. The Raider’s Road is closed to cars which seemed an opportunity to walk the route (or part of it) without the hassle of dodging cars.

The weather was better than forecast, with sunshine for all but the last five minutes. We parked at the northern end of the Raider’s Road in an almost empty car park and set off to explore the footpath before hitting the road itself. This took us past a shelter in the forest (without any obvious purpose) and down to the river but not back up to the road. Some self seeding here had created a mini-forest of saplings. Mabel looked like a giant.

We retraced our steps until we could see the road then set off through the full size trees. It would probably have been easier to walk back to the car park, but where is the fun in that. Instead we could pick our way through tanged undergrowth, fallen branches, boggy sphagnum and eventually the stand of brambles lining the road itself. Mabel needed lifting over some of the more difficult ground and the brambles. Christy and Audrey just took it in the stride.

Once on the road we ambled along enjoying the views. There has been quite a bit of harvesting so the views have changed since last I walked here. Benniguinea and Black Craig of Dee (which once held the award for most unpleasant terrain I had walked) to our left, Fell of Fleet and Shaw Hill across the river.

There is a large spiral earthwork marked on the OS map as ‘Labyrinth” and connected to the Raider’s Road by a little used path. The path is overgrown close the the labyrinth and leads into boggy ground. The Labyrinth itself is a spiral earthwork with a cairn at its centre. We wondered if and the low ground flooded in wet weather? There is a burn above it, too small to appear on the map. I remembered it as being less wild and overgrown in the past (I walked along the earthwork in 2009 but didn’t taken any photos.) I’m pretty sure it stood in a clearing among trees back then.

The labyrinth is an ‘Art in the Forest’ installation officially called “The Path”. It is by land artist Jim Buchanan who says “Walking a labyrinth can have a positive influence on how we feel. There is a connection between the labyrinth form, the cadence of movement with our physical and emotional state.” This labyrinth isn’t on his website but there is one in Chesterfield that looks so similar I thought it was this one until I read its caption.

Back on the Forest Drive we walked along admiring the wildflowers, a distant cuckoo the only sound beside the wind in the tree tops. A distant rumbling warned us that a lorry was approaching and we had to step aside a few times on the walk. Further on a road much sturdier than those the forestry need is being constructed. I suspect we will be seeing turbines on these hills sooner rather than later. And I don’t know whether to feel bad about that or not.

We crossed the Laggan Burn and then had a two mile walk downhill to the Otter Pool. I didn’t notice that we were walking downhill on the way down but it was certainly obvious on the back.

It is only after reflecting on the day that I realised we had been alone at the Otter Pool. It can be quite a busy spot. I think it was because it was quiet, save for the murmur of water on the rocks that I so much enjoyed my stay there. We sat on the Rosnes Benches by the river, then ate our sandwiches at an actual picnic bench and watched the dogs play in the water. I took off Christy’s harness so he wouldn’t be wearing a sodden harness on the way back, but he jumped in the water again when I put it back on!

We returned the way we had come, strolling along in the sunshine putting the world to rights. Christy had a knot of wood about the size of tennis ball that kept him entertained and Mabel just trotted along beside us. The sky darkened as we approached the car park and the first drops of rain were falling as I was taking off my boots. Timing.

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