The Comb sits is where the public road ends at the top of the picturesque Tarset valley.
The Tarset valley follows the Tarset burn from its source in the wild hills on the Scottish border down to where it flows into North Tyne below Greenhaugh. This is a step into a time gone by, like the living set of a Roald Dahl novel.
Much of the valley is in the Northumberland national park before rising to Kielder Forest and then eventually to the wilderness of the hills and moors immediately below the Scottish border. This is land of old stone farms, thick walled peel towers, castles and bastles with light shimmering border burns banked by matures woods, grasslands and meadows.
A tapestry of varying colours is painted by the seasons and it is home to deer, foxes, badgers, hares, buzzards, owls, rabbits and even the Sidwood red squirrels.
The Tarset valley is in Greysteads and Tarset which is one of the country’s largest Parishes but with one of the smallest populations. A friendly mix of farmers, shepherds, artists, locals and newer arrivals, what the population lacks in number its make up for in character. They frequent the Hollybush Inn a traditional drovers pub with spectacular views from the beer garden and a cozy open fire.
The area sits in the heart of Northumberland Dark Sky Park boasting a breathtaking panorama of horizon to horizon stars with The Comb having the darkest skies of all, think African safari nights.
Tarset is Border Reivers country, steeped in the history of the fierce clan system of the region. It boasts a high concentration of Peel Towers and Bastles. On the many walks, bike rides or even quad bike safaris you can explore the old hidden trials and tread in the footsteps of these original outlaws.
Sitting between the Rede Valley to the east (Otterburn and Carter Bar) and the North Tyne Valley (Kielder Water) to the West, the Tarset Valley is off the tourist track. Friendly and pretty this is valley with something for most.
The Border Reivers was the tribal or clan system of the Scottish, English border that dominated the region from the 14th to 18th centuries. A community living outside or at the edge of external laws, it prospered through alliances that bridged and generally ignored what is now the border between Scotland and England. They lived and protected themselves in Peel Towers or Bastles, being thick walled stone miniature castles. The Tarset Valley has a high concentration of such buildings highlighting the fierce clansman of the area.
The wilderness of the region meant they lived at the periphery of the law with their own code and rules. Loyalty to clan and tribal alliances were the dominant ethics borne from their culture and the demands of securing survival. These were livestock people who reared and reived (stole in armed raids) livestock from their enemies while protecting their own and that of their allies.
Tough people they were skilled in survival in these beautiful but hardy landscapes. Dangerous lives in treacherous times. As well as tribal loyalties and alliances, prosperity was built on skilled horsemanship, detailed knowledge of the hidden hills, burns, dales and glens plus expertise in fighting and guerrilla tactics. As they set forth on horseback on their reiving raids, the men of Tarset had their own rallying cry ‘Tarset & heather bred – yet, yet, yet’.
The crowns of England and Scotland continually attempted to impose their respective rule of law. As part of these they sought to harness and enlist these fierce warriors to their respective causes as part of their efforts to consolidate or expand their power interests and national boundaries both during and outside the wars of independence.
Armstrong (1st man on the moon), Charlton (football world cup winners), Elliott (poet), Hume (Prime Minister), Johnston (US President), Robson (football) are just some of the household surnames that trace their roots back to these border lands and clan system of the Border Reivers.
Why not come and carve your own tale?