THREE BURNS HORSESHOE

 

To the south of the beautiful Breamish Valley lie three hills which form a high horseshoe around the Smalehope, Sting and Shank Burns. These are quiet, rounded hills with steep ascents and endless views. The highest of these hills, Cushat Law, peers down over the vast green Kidland Forest, whilst the smallest, Shill Moor, forces the River Breamish to make a right angle turn near the remote farmstead of Low Bleakhope. The third hill, when viewed at a distance from the valley, is perfectly conical. This is Hogdon Law, a hill with a fine view but very few visitors. This is a tough little walk across rough terrain. The effort will be well rewarded.

 

 

Hogdon Law

 

A distant Hogdon Law

 

The Walk

 

1. Three miles from Ingram in the Breamish Valley stands Hartside farm, the last point of public vehicular access along a single track road. The valley is a popular summer Sunday picnicking spot for Tyneside families and is often referred to as the Ingram Valley. There is roadside parking immediately before the farm buildings (GR NT978162). The road continues as far as the hamlet of Linhope from where a track climbs to Linhope Spout, an impressive waterfall, and onwards to Hedgehope Hill. However, your route starts by turning left before the farm, following the signposted track to Alnhammoor. Within half a mile you cross the River Breamish via a small bailey bridge and, as you continue past the small farm of Alnhammoor along the gently rising roadway, the sweep of Shill Moor dominates your view ahead. Once past the small plantation on your right the road begins to bend gently towards Snout End (GR NT951160), the obvious `nose` of Shill Moor before dipping slightly downhill. This is where you leave the tarmac behind.

 

2. There is a choice of tracks up the green hillside to your left but all should be ignored other than the track to the extreme right which starts immediately beyond the relatively new cattle grid. The generally steep climb gives you the perfect excuse to pause occasionally to admire the view down to the river and beyond to Northumberland`s North Sea coast. Eventually the winding track, which in many places is difficult to follow, disappears altogether. When this happens you will need to continue straight uphill and before long a post and wire fence will come into view. Behind the fence lies the cropped heather-clad summit of Shill Moor (GR NT944153) along with a trig point and a large, slightly rambling, cairn. Rising to a height of 528 metres above sea level the summit offers outstanding views of The Cheviot, Hedgehope Hill and the remote Upper Breamish Valley.

 

 

Shill Moor summit

 

The summit of Shill Moor

 

3. Once the views have been soaked up, follow the fence in a south easterly direction until you are approximately 200 metres past the first five bar gate. To your right the line of the Salters Road, as it crosses the pass between the flanks of Shill Moor and Cushat Law, can be seen below and a path, rough at first, descends from where you are now standing towards the highest point (423 metres) of the pass. So, as you start your descent by following the path generally southwards you should be able to pick out the tracks which begin to climb towards Bush Knowe on the opposite side of the obvious line of the Salter`s Road. This is where you heading.

 

4. Once on the Salters Road, an ancient track which crosses the Cheviot Hills from the tiny Northumberland village of Alnham to Cocklawfoot in Scotland, make sure to watch out for that faint quad track which begins to climb Bush Knowe on the lower slopes of Cushat Law. When, in a short while, the track splits in two be sure to take the right hand spur and continue to follow this track upwards, pausing from time to time to admire the way you have just come. Once the track peters out, aim for the obvious green mossy area more or less straight ahead. Within less than 100 metres this comes to an abrupt end and a peat step will take you onto a pathless slope although at some point you may pick up a faint quad track. Go straight ahead keeping the cleugh of the Smalehope Burn firmly to your left. Within a very short time you will meet a track cutting across your route from right to left. Follow this track to your left and before you have time to catch your breath the shelter cairn of Cushat Law will come into view. The actual top of the hill is located where the small step stile (GR NT938137) crosses the fence just beyond the cairn.

 

 

 

The Upper Breamish Valley from Bush Knowe

 

5. Standing at 615 metres Cushat Law is the fifth highest of the Cheviot Hills and is known as the Monarch of Kidland. The word `cushat` means `wood pigeon`. Beyond the fence lies the Kidland Forest, large areas of which are now reaching maturity. Harvesting has already begun. Now you must follow the fence off the summit in a south easterly direction and, as you wander gently downhill, you will be able to see the vast expanse of this ever-changing forest. Also, keep an eye open for the series of boundary stones which stand, or in some instances lie, along the line of the fence. Continue to keep with this fence as it bends south, arriving eventually at the forest edge and a large overgrown mound with a tiny cairn on the top. This is Sting Head (GR NT933129), the source of the two burns both bearing the same name, one flowing to the east towards the Shank Burn, the other flowing west to join the Yoke Burn. As you pause at this rather secluded and peaceful spot you will most certainly feel miles from anywhere. You are. Continue with the fence uphill until the gradient begins to ease (GR NT935125) prior to where the fence turns to the south east.  It is time now to leave behind the relative security of the fence and to head generally eastwards over very rough and trackless terrain.

 

 

 

Boundary stone on Cushat Law

 

 

6. So, with your back to the fence strike out towards the pointed and obvious summit of Hogdon Law. Keeping focused on this striking top choose the best line over the strength-sapping tussocks of moorgrass, patches of heather and bilberry and the leg-stretching army of peat hags. Be careful not to drift too far downhill, you will only have to re-climb this later on, or to push too high, as the peat hags and the heather will only make matters worse. Ultimately, as Hogdon Law draws closer, you might, if you are lucky, pick up the faint line of a quad track. If so, on reaching the upper slopes of the hill, this splits in two. Take the left spur as it wanders easily towards the summit cairn (GR NT949127). If not, simply keep aiming for the summit. At 548 metres and with no other immediate hill to obscure the views this is a wonderful vantage point. Take time to look all around before you set out on the final leg of your journey. Maybe you will wish to linger over lunch. It will undoubtedly be time well spent.

 

 

Hogdon Law

 

The summit of Hogdon Law

 

7. Follow the track which initially heads south and, where it splits in two, take the left hand option. Passing an impressively tall cairn (GR NT951123) on the way, this track heads in the direction of Hushie Cairn before bending away towards the single track road below. An old railway wagon, now used as a temporary feed store, can be seen as you descend and the track eventually passes this en route to the road (GR NT963128). Once this is reached turn left and make your way towards the farmstead of Ewartly Shank. This was once called Shank House. Before reaching the gate and cattle grid into the farmstead the Salters Road joins your route from the right and you will stay with this for a short while. Pass through the farmyard, making sure to follow the sign posts, and you will soon reach a shelter belt of trees on the northern side of the farm buildings. Pass through the trees, emerging (GR NT959136) immediately above the deep valley of the Shank Burn. Pause for a moment and you will see that the immediate steep slopes have recently been planted with a large number of trees which, in the fullness of time, will make this a totally different view.

 

8. Take the track, once again the Salter`s Road, which descends the side of Green Knowe, crossing the Shank Burn by a small wooden footbridge and, once through the gate on the other side, the stiff climb to the top of the relatively small Little Dod begins. There are many hills in Northumberland called Dod (or Dodd) and the name means `rounded`. Continue across the 386 metre top of Little Dod for a very short distance and, on reaching the arrowed fingerpost (GR NT950142), turn right to follow the green track across the slope of Scaud Knowe. With the Shank Burn below you to your right, the track gives easy downhill walking and is marked occasionally with a directional fingerpost. To your left there are good views of Ritto Hill and the granite tors of Great and Little Standrop. Eventually you will cross the Rowhope Burn, before climbing to a ladder stile leading you to the rear boundary wall of Alnhammoor farm (GR NT971154). Continue in the same direction until a fingerpost is reached and at this point turn left through a gate. Walk straight across this small field, with Alnhammoor above you on your left, leaving through a second gate. Turn right along the tarmac road, which will be familiar from your outward route, and after little more than half a mile of further walking you will be back at Hartside Farm. You will be ready for a well earned rest.

 

 

Cairn on Hogdon Law

 

Cairn on the descent of Hogdon Law

 

 

Distance

18.8 km (11.7 miles)

Total Ascent

825 metres (2707 feet)

Grading

Strenuous

Start & Key Grid References

Hartside Farm, Breamish Valley (NT 978162), (NT 951160), (NT 944153), (NT 938137), (NT 933129), (NT 935125), (NT 949127), (NT 951123), (NT 963128), (NT 959136), (NT 950142) & (NT 971154)

Time

5-6 hours

Nearest Town

Wooler

Terrain

Mainly mixed fell of grass & heather, boggy & rough in places, steep ascent & descents, some tarmac.

Map

OS Explorer (1:25000) OL16 Harveys Superwalkers (1:40000) The Cheviot Hills

Accommodation

Wooler Youth Hostel. Telephone 01668 281365.  Small hotels & guest houses in Wooler & two caravan parks/camp sites

Transport

None

Tourist Information

www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk

 

 

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Devised, written & photographed: Geoff Holland 2006 (revised 2011, re-measured & new photographs added 2012 & 2016)