A walk from the upper Coquet valley yesterday brought us back in time. While the rowan trees and even oak may have been in leaf in West Cumbria the trees were far from leaf and the icy northerly wind brought in flurries of snow and hail. There was one lone curlew calling and one skylark bravely singing overhead as we dropped back towards the Trows, dippers too quartered the burns and meadow pipits flitted here and there.
As we arrived at the Scottish border near Mozie Law a group of shaggy brown shapes became apparent in the heather. A small herd of about 12 feral goats were quietly enjoying a burst of sunshine, unbothered by the biting wind. A small bleat revealed the presence of a kid that eventually broke cover to find its mother. These wild goats are part of one of three Northumberland herds: one is on Kielderhead, one here in the upper Coquet and the third in the College Valley and Yeavering Bell area. This last group show more signs of recent domestic inbreeding but the other two groups are less altered, if not entirely pure ancient stock. They have their kids early in the spring but seem to manage to cope with most weather that is thrown at them. The goats are not particularly popular, being a major problem for new tree planting but they are most certainly part of the local heritage. Fortunately we stayed up-wind so avoided the rather pungent smell albeit less pronounced on the nannies than on the older billies.
The top of Windy Gyle lived up to its name, the snow flecked mass of Cheviot sat prominent to the north and the whole vista took in views from the North Sea to the Pennines to the Galloway Hills.
On the lower slopes the Cheviot sheep are still waiting to give birth, lambing has barely started in this part of the county. Meanwhile the black Galloway cattle were carefully watching their more inquisitive calves. The spring is here, just a little slow to emerge.