Through the Cheviots

The private road through College Valley is a pleasure to walk on this fine day.

One of our less visited National Parks is the Northumberland National Park and late August is a good time to go on a wander into these hills when the heather is in full bloom. A few years ago I had the opportunity to undertake a linear walk through the Cheviot Hill’s which lie on the northern edge of the National Park and border Scotland.

The Cheviot Memorial dedicated to air crash victims in the area during World War II.

Setting out from the car park at Hethpool with my wife and daughter, we head south along the attractive and peaceful College Valley. People have lived in this remote valley since the late Stone Age and during the Bronze Age, when the climate was a bit warmer than now, farmers cultivated the land quite high up and cultivated terraces are still visible. The Iron Age saw much activity with forts being constructed on many of the hills which lie either side of the valley and much later between the 14th and 16th centuries the valley saw much hostilities between the English and Scottish armies.

It’s a fairly late start for the walk but in bright sunshine it is for once surprisingly warm as it is fairly sheltered out of the westerly wind. A surfaced road leads all the way to Cuddystone Hall and the nearby is the memorial to WW ll air crash victims in the area. This is called The Cheviot Memorial and was erected to mark the 50th Anniversary of VE Day. With a number of benches at the site it makes an idea spot for an early lunch stop.

The lane along the lonely valley of Lambden Burn.

For the afternoon we continue up the valley of Lambden Burn and still following a surfaced lane serving a few isolated farms. At Dunsdale, my wife and daughter turns back and I gave them written instructions how they can follow the alternative route via the eastern side of College Burn back to the car. They will then drive to Wooler and have an afternoon tea in a cafe then await my arrival.

Beyond Goldscleugh Farm, most of the walk is now on hill paths.

The heather clad hills east of Goldscleugh Farm. A most pleasant walk into the heart of the Cheviot Hills.

Meanwhile I now press on eastwards but I have set a time limit to reach Wooler. At the isolated farm at Goldsclough, the lane finally runs out. I head east on a path fording a couple of small streams. The path is way-marked but is a bit overgrown with bracken at a couple of points. I am rewarded with a fine purple display of heather which looks really attractive whilst the sun is shining, however by now there is much more cloud around. I walk through the northern edge of a woodland plantation, and much of the area had been felled of trees. An open forest track is joined before turning left to reach a col. A right turn following the course of a quad bike ascends alongside a fence up onto Broadhope Hill where I get views towards the North Sea and up into Scotland.

Following the fence line between Broadhope Hill and Cold Law. Heather burning over the years in square blocks has taken on what looks like a quilted blanket.

The trig point on Cold Law and a few to The Cheviot, the highest point in Northumberland.

Getting away from it all! The isolated cottage at Broadstruther.

Continuing on, I soon join a permissive path which follows a fence all the way to Cold Law and along this section I make good progress over the easy ground of short cropped grass with purple heather but on the way however I disturb many grouse. Many blocks of heather have been burnt at various times making the landscape look quilted. With a short ascent I reached the summit of Cold Law 452 metres and by the trig point, I take a long rest to have a snack and take a look through the binoculars which I have brought along with me. It has clouded up particularly inland with only occasional glimpses of sunshine.

The last ascent  towards Wooler Common on this newly created path.

Heading east and again on a good permissive path, I now pass many grouse butts, but further down I losethe path briefly as the more predominated path veers off in another direction. Crossing a fence I can see my intended path ahead and make for that for the descent into the peaceful valley of Harthope Burn. Some lane walking follows to reach the bridge over Carey Burn and here I take a new path on the left ascending over to Earlehillhead Farm. The warm sunshine has returned for the ascent. Next, I skirt around the edge of Wooler Common to join the St Cuthbert’s Way. This runs down through dense woodland which cloaks Kenterdale Hill. Soon I am walking into Wooler and soon is reunited with my wife and daughter after an excellent walk.