If it rains, these photo locations just get better…
On our doorstep or just a short drive away there are many rivers and burns coming down from the Cheviots, the Lammermuirs, the Southern Uplands and Tweedsmuir. Some pass through steep small ravines or cleughs (similar to ghylls in north-west England). In both Northumberland and southern Scotland, they are called linns. Some just get called waterfalls, like the Grey Mare’s Tail on the road between Selkirk and Moffat, because they are big enough. Some are very hard to reach or don’t offer potential for photography; some are easy to get to but almost local secrets, without very clear footpaths or signs. If you visit Kelso, Jedburgh or Coldstream here are three which you can easilvisit by car with normal walking footwear in the course of a day. The first is just a few minutes from Kelso.
Stichill Linn is at the site of a former mill on the Eden Water, in the grounds of the Newton Don estate. During the winter of 2020/21 the estate put a big effort into making the riverside, woodlands and the linn accessible after many years of neglect which had made it hard to reach and at time impossible to photograph without obstructions. Though you need to know which minor road (from Ednam) to park on and then where to find the start of the signposted footpaths, once you are on the trail it is an easy walk with occasional boggy spots where small streams cross the path. Wellies are advised, and also help if you plan to cross the river and find positions for a tripod. It will be lovely in autumn as the woodlands are mostly deciduous. This usually means the last week in October and first in November. This spot is good for taking your dog as there’s no livestock to encounter and it is very safe to be off the lead.
My next one is Roughting Linn, 20 miles away over the border in England. It can be reached from the village of Ford, or from the A1 side via Lowick. Although the farm estate the woodlands and linn are located on allows access, the paths alongside the stream are not maintained in the same way as Stichill. It’s best to wear shoes or boots suitable for moor or mountain and be prepared to use a stick (or a tripod) to deal with slippery or sloping sections often close to sharp drops into the burn. Wellies are essential to get to the classic position for photography. Sadly some of the moss on the boulders has sheared away and as normal some woodland debris has landed. It’s tempting to go in with help and remove the tree limb which is new feature. The area round the waterfall has some fascinating rock faces, caves, twisted trees and countless interplays of stones, water and light. When I took this in mid-May 2021 the woods were also full of bluebells. There is no phone signal here, there are few visitors and after negotiating a steep scramble back to the path I realise you should really do this in company, not alone. Again, this location does not involve crossing farmland so dogs are OK but the stream at certain points would not be a good invitation.
My final one here is Hethpool Linn, near the farm of Hethpool which is south of the Yetholm to Wooler road, on the College Valley road closed to vehicles except by permit (limited numbers). It’s national park, and also just off St Cuthbert’s Way. There is a car park at the end of the public vehicle access. Beyond it you can walk miles up the College Valley, or turn back a bit and go right down a track leading from the big farm as if following the well-known walking route. Looking at a map you might think the linn could be reached from the east side of the College Burn, but that’s a mistake. Before you reach the crossing, a permissive footpath without signs to the waterfalls crosses farm fields, over a stile on the left of the track. This takes you between the farm woodland plantation, and the wooded banks of the river. A couple of stiles or gates later the sound of the water can be heard and small paths through scrub take you to the edge of the ravine. At some points you can climb down and where the path crosses a wooden footbridge the flow is shallow.
However, below the bridge the river enters a narrow deep mini-gorge, the linn itself. You take a footpath to the left after crossing the bridge and soon enough encounter the more dramatic stretch. The path then drops down, an easy enough scramble to a calm shallow pool of clear water with a pebble beach. The fast-flowing gorge above is not a tripod time exposure – it’s me clinging on to rocks right over the water, holding camera in contact with contours of the stone able to give it a stable support. Again, there is no phone signal and I realised it wasn’t that clever for an old bloke to be balancing (with £4k of camera and lens!) over a deep fast-flowing turbulent plunge a couple of metres below. I had left my camera bag and tripod (useless on the ledge) near the path high above and lowered myself down the rocks to the viewpoint I wanted. It’s something which people clearly do but safer in company.
As for the pool just round the bend after the narrow gorge ends, it’s not all that photogenic but you could bring your own naiad along. Maybe with a wetsuit… this water looks inviting and in the heat of summer it would be fine, but it’s a cold mountain stream nevertheless. Hethpool is very definitely farm land, and lambs were everywhere on the walk so taking a dog to enjoy this very dog-friendly pool would require care and control.
These three linns were photographed on separate sorties, with Stichill Linn in early March a mid-day venture, and both Roughting Linn and Hethpool Linn early evenings in June. Winter can be different!
Since the end of April, I’ve been offering an AirBnB in Kelso – the former offices of PHOTOpro, Photon, Freelance Photographer, f2, Master Photography and Cameracraft converted to a flat by my daughter and son-in-law who are sailing the Caribbean for a year or two, and set it up so it would be suitable for visitors. Everyone loves the town and it’s great to welcome them. I am happy to give pointers to help visiting photographers and the flat has 100Mbps fibre broadband plus a dedicated office with two desks and an (HDMI cabled for laptop) monitor.