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Peebles and Selkirk
Surface and General Features


The part of southern Scotland known geographically as the Southern Uplands, a region now cut and carved into valleys and watersheds, was formerly a lofty tableland. A line drawn through Penicuik, Galashiels and Melrose, where the Tweed leaves the Uplands and enters the plain, and another line from the Moffat hills to Melrose along the ridge separating the Ettrick from the Teviot, will practically cut off that portion of the Uplands which contains the counties of Peebles and Selkirk. The whole of this portion is filled with hills the tops of which are flattened or rounded, the sides smooth, and (except in the highest parts, where peat and heath are frequently found) covered with grass, crags and rocks being rare. This region is in the main pastoral and has hardly any cultivated ground except along the haughs or on the lower slopes of the hills. The most extensive areas of hill peat are found on the Moorfoots on the high ground overlooking the Leithen water and also on the Manor hills to the south-west. These uplands are bare of any natural wood, but in the lower reaches of the Tweed and its longer tributaries, many of the hills are clothed to their summits with woods and plantations, most of them planted within the last hundred and fifty years. The district south of the Tweed including all Selkirk and more, was at one time the Forest of Ettrick.

Starting from the central mass of the Uplands in which rise the Tweed, the Annan and the Clyde, the trend of the valleys, and, therefore, of the ridges between them, is towards the north-east, till we come to the bank of the Tweed, when we are met with ridges on the north side with a trend to the south-east. The former valleys are called longitudinal, because in a line with the strike of the strata, and the other transverse, because at right angles to the strike. Examples of longitudinal valleys are: Ale, Ettrick, Yarrow, Holms, Tweed (to Broughton), Manor, Quair; of transverse valleys: Biggar, Lyne, Eddleston, Leithen, Walkerburn and Gala. These ridges and rounded masses approach so near and interfold and overlap on each bank so closely that, apart from other proofs, it is apparent that the whole region has at one time been a plateau which the Tweed and its tributaries with other agencies have scoured and grooved and rubbed down into what resembles a rounded, billowy ocean.

The only comparatively level part within the two counties is the district towards the north, stretching between the Moorfoots and the Pentlands from a low watershed, sloping away on the one side towards the shores of the Firth, and, on the other, towards the south-west into the Clyde valley. A flattish range of hills between Eddleston and Lyne waters divides this vale in two, the western portion running north-east and southwest between the Pentlands and the north-western edge of the Southern Uplands. This plain varies in breadth from four miles at Auchencorth in Midlothian to less than one hundred yards in places between Romanno Bridge and Skirling. The surface is arable, well cultivated and wooded, with stretches of moorland towards the Pentlands.

A line from Leadburn through Romanno, Skirling, and Culter separates these two distinctly different regions, the one lowland and arable, the other upland and pastoral. This line coincides with a great "fault" between two different geological formations.

Six sections may be distinctly marked out in this upland region. The first is Selkirkshire, with its parallel ridges lying north-east and south-west from the high central mass culminating in Capel Fell and Ettrick Pen and forming the watersheds between the Tweed and the Yarrow, Yarrow and Ettrick, Ettrick and Teviot. Each of these valleys has its south-western end wild, mountainous and treeless; its middle region pastoral, with grassy or heathery rounded hills and occasional clumps of dark pines near the farm houses; its lower end a region of wood and hill, pasture and arable land. The second section is bounded by the ridge between Peebles and Selkirk on the south and the Tweed on the west and north from its source to Galashiels. This area is occupied by the parallel masses separating Tweed and Manor, Manor and Quair, and other lesser streams till Ettrick meets Tweed. Here, as before, the valleys have the three-fold character of wilderness; pastoral; mixed pastoral, woodland and arable. Thirdly, there is the triangle bounded by the Eddleston Water, the Tweed, and the boundary line through the Moorfoots—a high region, several summits being over 2000 feet. Intersected by the transverse valleys of the Leithen and the Walkerburn, it consists mainly of pasture and moorland. In the extreme north above Portmore Loch the ground is low and forms part of the valley between the Moorfoots and the Pentlands. Round Portmore the ground in the lower reaches near Eddleston is well wooded. The fourth section, mainly pastoral, is an undulating region, the chief heights being the Meldons between the Eddleston Water and the Lyne. The fifth division consists of the heights behind Stobo and Broughton, bounded on the north by the Tarth and on the west by the Broughton Burn. Beyond that again is the last section, the agricultural region stretching from Skirling, Romanno and Leadburn to West Linton and merging into the moorland towards the Pentlands on the northwest.


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