Introductory. The Great Camp

THE Tweed at Melrose, coming from the hills, flows eastwards through a wider valley. At Newstead the valley contracts, and the river, cutting its way through a comparatively narrow gorge, runs in a deeper channel beneath the bridges at Leaderfoot. The current slackens somewhat and the banks open out a little, above the point where the Leader coming from the north joins with the main stream; and then swinging to the south as they meet the great cliff of the Gate Heugh the united waters encircle Old Melrose, the 'bare promontory' on which St. Cuthbert planted his monastery.

The ground lying within the angle thus formed might be roughly described as a table land tilted over towards the south-east. It is highest where the valley narrows, and there the crest of the ridge on the south bank rises abruptly a hundred feet above the stream, presenting a marked contrast to the easy declivity by which the fords which gave entrance to the Leader Valley were approached. From the summit of the ridge, whence the eye travels across undulating fields that gradually ascend to the hills of the Borders, the ground slopes gently downward on the south like a long glacis, into a little hollow where the main line of the North British Railway runs, and then rises again to meet the slope of the Eildon Hills which overshadow it on the south-west. It would not have been easy for the Romans to find a position more admirably adapted by nature for their purpose. The channel of the Tweed, deeper perhaps in early times, furnished a strong defence on the north and east. On the west, at the foot of the slope down which the village of Newstead straggles, the river unconfined by barriers must have wandered at will through marshy channels. It was only to the south and south-east, in the rear of the invaders, that the ground lay open.