The only way is up on Cheviot
PUBLISHED: 11:21 14 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:19 20 February 2013
This month's walk is certainly not on the level, as we head for the highest hill in the North East
It must be odd to live in a flat landscape with no hills to climb or valleys to look down into. Fortunately, those of us who live in Northumberland dont have that problem. If it is a problem. Sometimes, staggering uphill with the weeks shopping, the idea of living somewhere more horizontal has a
This months walk is definitely not on the level. In fact were going to tackle the highest hill in the North East. From this point on well never go higher, which is a landmark event that Ill celebrate once I get my breath back.
Cheviot, at 815m, isnt the worlds loftiest peak. There are mountains on the other side of the Pennines in the Lake District that are far higher. However, Cheviot looks high enough when youre standing in the Harthope Valley near Langleeford. Take comfort, though, that youre already at 270m when you begin this months walk.
Follow the Harthope road northwest, past a sheepfold, to a small plantation on the right. Take the path signposted for Scald Hill and Cheviot just before you reach the plantation.
Scald Hill is a middle-ranking peak in the Cheviot range. Its rather ironic then, that the view from the top is better than that from Cheviot. Well return to why this is a little later but for now a clue can be found looking across the valley to Housey Crags. This strange, loaf shaped crag is an andesite plug. Andesite is an igneous rock formed by Well, lets not spoil the surprise.
From Scald Hill follow the path as it skirts along a fence. Its round about now that youll begin to understand why Cheviot has the reputation of being a wet, boggy hill.
I rarely wear gaiters but I do when Im climbing Cheviot. What makes the wet all worthwhile is the friendliness of the people you meet on the way up. Theres something about being on a hill that encourages people to stop and have a natter. Im all for it as long as I can extricate my feet from the ooze when I begin walking again.
The final kilometre to the top of Cheviot is steep with a few false summits just to tease you. When you reach a stile, cross over it and follow a paved path. The going is easier from this point and it shouldnt take you long to reach a large concrete monument. Congratulations! Youve made it to the top of Cheviot.
Sadly, as mentioned previously, the view isnt that great. The top of Cheviot is a large plateau, flat and largely featureless. However, the view would have been far more exciting some 360 million years ago.
What youre standing on is an extinct volcano that last erupted during the Devonian period. Housey Crags is one of the by-products of this geologically exciting time. Perhaps too exciting. Its one thing to have a flight delayed thanks to the ash from a distant volcano. Imagine having a vast lake of molten lava spreading like hot treacle across north Northumberland. It wouldnt do much for your garden thats for sure.
From the monument follow the path to Cairn Hill and from there to Auchope Cairn. You are now on the Pennine Way, a 429 kilometre path that begins in Derbyshire and ends not too far away at Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.
Descend downhill from the cairn toward Red Cribs. On your right (and dont look closely if you dont have a head for heights) is Henhole, a gorge cut into the rock of the Cheviots by glacial activity during the last ice-age. Now the College Burn splashes its way down through Henhole fissure and into the College Valley.
At a dip in the hill, and before you start climbing again toward a mountain refuge hut, follow a track down to the floor of the College Valley. From there, pick up a bridle path that runs north parallel to the burn.
Cross the burn at a ford opposite a square sheepfold and follow the path that climbs Fawcett Shank through a felled plantation. Continue on to the settlement of Dunsdale.
Opposite the farm at Dunsdale are Bizzle Crags. Like Henhole, Bizzle is a glacial scar. Bizzle Burn runs down through the scar to join Lambden Burn in the valley below. Cross a bridge over the burn and once past the farm buildings join the road that heads east toward Goldscleugh.
Before you reach the farm at Goldscleugh follow the path across a field marked by a fingerpost. The path continues on, following Lambden Burn, until it begins to gently climb toward a plantation. Walk through the plantation to reach Broadhope Hill. The path skirts this hill to reach a fence running across the moorland. Cross over a stile in the fence and begin to descend toward Hawsen Burn along a well-defined path.
The moors of the Cheviots are the home of the grouse with its distinctive go-back, go-back call. Its a melancholy sound and well-suited to the bleak beauty of north Northumberland.
The path now descends steeply to meet with a bridle way. Follow the bridle way down to the Harthope Valley and the end of this months walk. Next time we wont reach such giddy heights, but Ill be sure not to let everything go downhill from this point on.
Start Point: Near Langleeford in the Harthope Valley
Grid Reference: NT 953 225
Ordnance Survey Map: OS Explorer OL16
Length: 12.5 miles (20.3 kilometres)
Difficulty: Difficult (steep climbs and uneven paths)
Time: 5-6 hours
Nearest Pub: The Anchor Inn, Wooler
Nearest town: Wooler
Other Notes: Visit the Northumberland National Park website for more information about the Cheviot Hills: www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk
Join David on one of his popular one-day or residential workshops over the summer and autumn. For more details visit his website www.davidtaylorphotography.co.uk