Shades of “The Forest” – The Black Douglas.
“At this time the hills and valleys of the central lowlands were still clothed in the remnants of the ancient Caledonian Forest……this was a vast, little inhabited tract of deciduous woodland, oak and birch and thorn mingling with alder and willow in the swampy valleys, that swathed the country from Peebles-shire to the English border. The roads of Lowland Scotland skirted its fringes, the paths that wound into its depths being little known or used save by the foresters. Royal charters identified three separate forests, of Ettrick, Selkirk and Jedburgh but to Lowland Scots the whole sweep of wooded country was simply “the Forest”.
Control of “the Forest” was now an obvious goal for James……Its trackless depths, penetrable only by those who knew it well or had the foresters’ trust, made it an admirable base for guerrilla warfare. Wallace had so used it……..Within two months James had so far swayed the Forest to Robert’s (the Bruce) allegiance that John of Brittany found it advisable to take possession of fortresses in Selkirk and Teviotdale in the hope of getting Selkirk Forest again under control. He was wasting his time. The Forest might be hemmed in with hostile keeps, but for James it was now itself a stronghold three counties wide.”
From “The Black Douglas” by I.M.Davis.
James Douglas’ raids, ambushes and full frontal attacks from his bases in “the Forest” in the early days of the Bruce’s rebellion were so successful that, after Bannockburn, Bruce rewarded him by making him “Warden of the Marches”. Who better, indeed, to defend this vast uncharted border wilderness from the invader than the Black Douglas? And, inevitably, the Douglas’ main form of defence was habitually attack.