|OS Route Map →||Route file →|
Date: 31 May 2006
Start / Finish: Wooler. Long-stay free car park in the town (NT 98940 28175).
Maps: Explorer 16 The Cheviot Hills.
|Day 1||Hedgehope Hill & Comb Fell||10.6 miles / 3310 feet (17.1km / 1008m)|
|Day 2||Cushat Law & Windy Gyle||10.6 miles / 2420 feet (17.1km / 737m)|
|Day 3||The Cheviot & The Schil||12.9 miles / 2252 feet (20.8km / 686m)|
|Day 4||Hethpool Linn & Yeavering Bell||10.1 miles / 1660 feet (16.3km / 505m)|
A circuit of the northern Cheviots from Wooler, visiting the six mountains of the range and returning via the largest hill fort in Northumberland.
Note: In the managed grouse-shooting areas, the right-to-roam access legislation specifically excludes dogs - they are allowed only on public rights of way.
Taking the route we used on our coast-to-coast trip last year, St. Cuthbert's Way (SCW) leaves the main street and traverses Kenterdale Hill to Wooler Common. The attractive valley of Carey Burn had fine displays of gorse this year. The mapped ford at 945252 is now a footbridge, and an easy track leads past the ruins of Broadstruther over the open moor with Hedgehope Hill looming large ahead. This was a fine and surprisingly quiet route into the hills and was deserted after Carey Burn. From the saddle near Hawsen Crags, the track descends into the ravine of Hawsen Burn. Where it crosses to the R side and branches off, a path continues alongside the burn to the Harthope valley road. This is a very popular starting point for day walks in the main range and the car park was full.
Crossing the footbridge over Harthope Burn, the Open Access land on the eastern side contains managed grouse moors, and dogs are excluded. A clear path climbs to the rocky tors of Housey Crags and Long Crags and levels out to a peaty line along the spine of Hedgehope Hill. A stiff climb gains the trig point and ancient cairn, potentially an excellent viewpoint but the views were hazy today.
From this fairly popular summit, the character changes on the peaty and often rather boggy ridge to Comb Fell. Few people walk here and some zigzagging is required to avoid the worst bits. The summit is unmarked near a bend in the fence, though it is far from obvious on the very flat top. The ridge continues in much the same vein and curves around to Coldlaw Cairn, a pyramidal rocky outcrop with a welcome oasis of soft grass nearby for our first pitch. A heathery descent to the infant Coldlaw Burn provided good water.
It rained for much of the night and it was still raining in the morning, driven by a quite strong wind with thick mist. We decided to sit it out for a while and it stopped after a couple of hours. Continuing along the fence to Shielcleugh Edge, we emerged from the mist and descended to join the valley access track alongside the River Breamish. This becomes an old salter's road track that climbs to a saddle, where we planned to investigate an eastern approach to Cushat Law via the nose of Bush Knowe. Naturally expecting this to be rough and pathless, we were surprised to find a good grassy track ascending the exact line we had planned, and it took us almost to the top, petering out at the head of Smalehope Burn. A short pathless walk brought us to the ancient summit cairn, where the mist had cleared to give muted views of the surrounding hills.
The gentle ridge to Bloodybush Edge is a soft and peaty affair and crosses a flat and rather wet col, making the walk more tiring than it ought to be. The bright white trig point looks quite lost at a junction of fences in this rough wilderness, and we moved on to descend to Uswayford, crossing the footbridge to join the track on the N side of Usway Burn. A streamlet emerging from the forest was a good source to top up our water.
At 874138, an MOD track curves around over Hepden Burn and a bridleway is signed on the R, which soon enters the forest. It turned out that walking around the outside of the forest corner would have been easier: the very dark densely planted forest looks almost petrified within, totally silent with a narrow corridor and a single waymark post in the middle. This diverted us L through the stark maze of trunks with no obvious through route. We appreciated the grim weirdness of this gothic fairy tale place, but gave up and clambered through to the edge and walked outside the trees to the waymarked exit point.
An easy path climbs gently to Scotchman's Ford but the stream was bone dry, necessitating a detour SW to the feeder streams of Trow Burn where we located very good water. A final climb to Windy Gyle gave us a fine pitch for the night.
The night was clear and quite cold with clear tops and a chilly wind in the morning. Much of the Pennine Way (PW) is paved or boarded to the Cheviot, making easy work of the ascent. Auchope Cairn was a fine spot in the clear sunshine, with good views into Hen Hole and onward along the ridge and extensive vistas into southern Scotland.
The ridge undulates past a mountain refuge hut towards the distinctive top of The Schil, and the enclosed summit area can be accessed by a protective sleeve on the barbed fence on the eastern side. The top is a fine rocky tor where we lingered a while taking in the views.
The ridge gave superb views throughout, climbing finally to White Law. Beyond Whitelaw Nick, we collected excellent water at the head of Witchcleugh Burn and ascended back to the high ground near the waymark where the PW branches L for Kirk Yetholm. We made a good pitch on the flat grassy top.
It was another fine and sunny day as we joined the SCW and descended to cross the tiny Tuppie's Sike and enter the forest. The SCW leaves the forest briefly, reenters it and emerges to cross an open field to a track to Elsdonburn. The access track makes easy walking to Hethpool, where we departed the SCW on a footpath across fields to a footbridge over Hethpool Linn, an attractive little gorge where College Burn tumbles through as a small waterfall. Climbing out of the ravine, the surrounding area was resplendent with the finest display of gorse we had ever seen.
A clear path ascends diagonally and contours the lower slopes of Easter Tor above the SCW, fading to a thin trod above some small plantations. We contoured the next open field to join the SCW briefly to a ladder stile onto Open Access land (921292). The next objective across a ravine was Yeavering Bell, a major hill fort of 13 acres with the remains of many internal structures and a large enclosing wall surrounding the twin tops. For more information on the fort see the Yeavering Bell section on the Gefrin website.
We descended to cross the tiny stream and followed the plantation edge (not shown on the map) to its corner. The direct ascent of the steep SW face is as good a way as any and is not as formidable as it looks. Crossing the tumbled remains of the outer wall, the first top is quickly reached and the cairned main top is a short way further. The views were outstanding over the coastal plain and the sea while the Cheviots themselves filled the view inland. We expected this hill to be quite busy especially on a sunny Saturday, but the whole area was totally deserted.
Descending S towards a pool (not on the map), a ladder stile lies on the line of an old permissive path, still discernible on the ground. We followed the waymark posts E to the top of another White Law, a very pleasant and little trodden area. The path continues to reach the cleft of Glead's Cleugh and down to the farm track, which crosses Akeld Burn. The bridleway ascends to the fence corner and turns L to contour below Humbleton Hill to the lane to Wooler.