A Land Rover with a Mission

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My late father, a very keen archaeologist, decided, with advancing years and failing health, that the best way to survey the local Roman roads and medieval tracks in their passage across the Pennine and Cheviot Hills was by Jeep and, later, Land Rover.

Over some six years, three different vehicles were used, each modified for the purpose in advancing stages. The accompanying photograph of the last and most completely equipped Land Rover shows some of the major items of substantial equipment, which included two aluminium channel girders, four hydraulic jacks, two sets of chains, one bog probe, one searchlight/signalling lamp, one pair of wire cutters and staples, one wire strainer (and a fair knowledge of dry-walling).

The vast majority of the great number of old roads in the North of England hills were traversed by my father, my brother or myself with one vehicle or, on occasions when the going was particularly sticky, two, and I have set out a few samples which might be of interest.

1. Pennines

(a) Maiden Way (Roman road). Start four miles south-west of Alston (Northumberland) at approximately 1,500 ft., to Kirkland on the western slope of the Pennines via the Hanging Walls of Mark Anthony. Maximum height 2,250 ft.

(b) Medieval road from Gearstones, 1,057 ft. (Malaprop with apologies), at the head of the Ribble Valley, to Hawes via Cam-houses (!) and Dod Fell. Maximum height approximately 1,900 ft.

2. Lakeland

(a) High Street (Roman road). From Askham, five miles south to Penrith, to an unclimbable dry wall between High Raise (2,634 ft) and Kidsty Pike (2,560 ft.), following the line of the road throughout (very easily seen in places). Two Jeeps and tackle were needed.

(b) Skiddaw, 3,054 ft. (highest but easiest). This was a before-breakfast job and took about two hours, Keswick to Keswick, without any attempt at record-breaking.

3. Cheviots

(a) Deer Street (Roman road). From High Rochester in the valley of the River Reid, via Featherwood, Middle and Outer Golden Pots, Brownhart Law, 1,664-ft. Ad Fines Camps to Hounam and the valley of the Kale Water in Roxburghshire.

(b) Medieval Drovers Road from Cocklawfoot, eight miles south of Yetholm, Roxburghshire, to Coquetdale and Alwinton, Northumberland, via Windygyle (Windygate Hill), 2,034 ft. Both the above are complete crossings of the Cheviots.

(c) Cheviot Hill (2,676 ft.). The actual top — merely the highest point of an enormous peat bog — is not reachable by anything short of a tank, and probably that would sink (though one man was claimed by the local paper to have reached the top — wrongly, as he admitted himself). However, a spirited drive will take one to Auchope Cairn, approx. 2,400 ft., at the west end of Cheviot itself.

These climbs were largely incidental to the mapping of Roman and other roads and emulation is not advised as, apart from difficulties connected with National Parks, ramblers, firing ranges (rocket and otherwise), etc., a certain amount of goodwill from local farmers, together with local knowledge, is needed, and this, naturally, is only obtained through experience and residence. — Sir Stephen C. de L. Aitchison, Bt.

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