A peaceful day in the Tarset Valley is a far cry from the history of this border landscape. To be fair it must have been relatively quiet for most of the time otherwise the people wouldn’t have even tried to make a living. However, this is a land of the reivers; raiders who made this area their own and took no account of the laws of either England or Scotland. Fuelled by family feuds and long-standing grudges the raiders were after cattle and other valuable goods. The result of all this was the construction of fortified houses: bastles. The Tarset valley is dotted with them, most ruinous but with a couple remaining. Black Middens is possibly the best and is managed by English Heritage.
The heavy stone, 16th century, building was constructed with the ground floor for the cattle and the top floor for people. Originally the small doorway at the end, now blocked up, would have been the main way in for both cows and humans, with an internal ladder to the house. The steps up to the first floor door would not have been there at all with a ladder instead that could be taken inside when an attack came. Earlier bastles don’t seem to have had this outside, high door at all so possibly times were a little safer when this one was built.