The Talla and Gameshope is a huge area of hill and valley situated in the heart of the borders. The hills are truly vast and bare and sometimes boggy. The Gameshope burn is a wonderful and powerful piece of water, and the glen it sits in is a place of quite special remoteness and isolated beauty. Some might think of the Scottish highlands as being the grandest mountains there are, but what these surrounding hills lack in height and cragginess they more than make up for in sheer shapely scale and rugged grandeur. They rest like giants knuckles against the massive bodies of water they guard. They are home to mutton and mosses, dwarf willow and cyclists, walkers and birds of prey. The sense of scale is humbling.
We parked up and walked to the Bothy, forded the burn in a sudden squall, dumped our kit and had a coffee, then went for a stroll in fast fading light. My friends weren't overly equipped so we kept it modest, walking down from Speir Gairs in the dark.
A fine evening followed, enjoying wine and good company. Its a beautiful little bothy, very well kept by Mike and Rab of the MBA. The bothy book is always a entertaining read and this one shows how many love and care for this tranquil spot so close to the urban centres yet so quiet and untamed, and also that this place is borderline Golden Eagle habitat.
There's also a story or 2 about the furry keepers of the hut.
I leave the others to sleep and go out with the camera. I love the night, the wind blowing, the skies slowly clearing for the weather ahead, the tree creaking, the burn roaring, always. Its a different place again, ever changing.
At 6.30am, I wake slowly, turn and look at bright white windows. Eida exclaims, ''its all white, it snowed'' then turns over to sleep a little more. I stir, and go out. 2 inches of cold white magic have transformed the valley again.
The snow continues. The heights blend perfectly from tip to sky. As I pack up my gear in the bothy, I hear the sounds of happiness outside, laughter and snowballs. My friends have found a little corner of quiet sanctuary to enjoy in a brand new world. They may have even forgotten their cold wet trainers.
Later, we brave the icy water and reford the burn. We pick our way down slowly back to the car. On the way we pass the tiny fragment of native woodland that still clings to the valley side. The tops vanish into the sky, limitless.
The vision is that this place has formidable potential for both restoration and education. Joining the Carrifran WildWood and the Grey Mare's Tail in the south, and the Tweedmuir Hills (SSSI designated) in the north, it could constitute the largest upland rewilding project in the whole of the UK. It would take time, but in a decade or two, native woodlands could take hold again and much needed habitat for insects, mammals and predators could be restored. And being so near the urban centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle, it could offer access to conservation learning and inspiration in nature for nigh on 2 million local people.
This is conservation for everyone, and on a landscape scale that's needed for wildlife to really thrive and make a home.
The John Muir Trust and the Borders Forest Trust have entered into a partnership in order to make a bid on the estate. This place is under threat from potential development. To find out more, and to make a pledge of financial support, however large or small, please visit http://www.jmt.org/talla-gameshope.asp
UPDATE: 19/03/2012. Unfortunately, despite a fantastic level of interest and financial support from the public, the partnership was outbid late on Friday last week. The incredible amount of support really shows that we the people really DO care about wild land, and not just the big, northwestery 'iconic' stuff but also the local, accessible, and full of potential for re-wilding. The result is hugely disappointing, but the level of interest equally heartening.
If you pledged, very many thanks, if you didn't and would like to make a donation for other projects and future acquisitions to enhance and protect wild land in years to come, the John Muir Trust would welcome your donations. Thanks.