IN THE SHADOW OF CHEVIOT

 

The highest hill in Northumberland, The Cheviot, dominates the Lambden Valley. This monster of a hill rises dramatically from the tiny, twisting Lambden Burn and forms a formidable barrier southwards. As a consequence of its relative remoteness, the valley is one of the area`s best kept secrets. The Harthope Valley, much loved and often visited by Northumbrians, lies at the opposite side of The Cheviot and is one of the finest valleys in the county. Both valleys are flanked by an array of other, less imposing hills, the majority of which are rarely visited by walkers. They stand in the shadow of the mighty Cheviot, but a circuit of Cold Law, Broadhope Hill, Preston Hill, Coldburn Hill and Blackseat Hill is a must for those in pursuit of the total Cheviot experience. Start your journey now and add this testing `little` round of hills to your walking C.V.

 

 

Cold Law

 

The `big and bold` Cheviot from Cold Law

 

The Walk

 

1. From the north Northumberland town of Wooler your car journey south westwards to the Harthope Valley takes you along narrow, winding roads, culminating in the steep descent of Skirl Naked. After a further 1½ miles you will pass, to your left and on the other side of the Harthope Burn, the former farmstead of Langlee sitting below the deep gash of Easter Dene. Within ½ mile you will see, on your right, a signpost pointing straight up the steep hillside towards Cold Law, your first summit of the day. There is verge parking nearby (GR NT958228). It is time now to quickly leave behind the valley road and to begin your climb north westwards, alongside the trickle of Cockshaw Sike on a clear green track. As you gain height you will see ahead of you the prominent top of Cold Law. As you go, take time to admire the views which have opened up behind you. With the top drawing nearer, the ground begins to level off and, with the rocky top of Cold Law firmly to your right, leave the track along a thin path. First you will pass a walkers cairn standing on a rocky promontory before reaching the actual summit of this triangulation pillar topped 452 metre high hill (GR NT954238). The panorama is extensive. To the south west, The Cheviot is big and bold, whilst to the east the North Sea coast is clearly visible.

 

2. To regular walkers, triangulation pillars are like old friends. They have been a familiar feature of our landscape since the Director General of the Ordnance Survey launched the re-triangulation of Great Britain in 1935. Surveyors then began the Olympian task of building these concrete pillars on scores of remote hilltops. Deep foundations were dug by hand and staff dragged heavy loads of materials over isolated and often difficult terrain by lorry, packhorse and, in some instances, sheer brute force. This gargantuan task was not completed until 1962. What a shame, therefore, that the majority of these trig points should have now fallen into disuse. Such is progress! Continue the very short distance northwards to the post and wire fence where you will need to turn left to begin your journey downhill. Away to your right lie the Broadstruthers and Common Burns which converge, below the southern flanks of Watch Hill, to form the Carey Burn. This, in turn, flows into the Harthope Burn at the base of the earlier descended Skirl Naked. This is definitely red grouse territory so, as you happily wander along deep in your own thoughts, be prepared to be startled from time to time. After ¾ mile of steady walking you will reach the col between Cold Law and Broadhope Hill, your next objective. You will also cross over the bridleway running between the former dwelling of Broadstruther, away to your right, and the Harthope Valley, to your left. Notice the old boundary stone carved with the letters `SH` on one side and `S` on the other.

 

 

Cold Law

 

A distant Cold Law from the slopes of Broadhope Hill

 

3. Cross over the step stile next to the gate and still keeping with the fence, take a deep breath and start the sharp climb up the eastern slope of Broadhope Hill. Remain with the fence as it first makes a 90° turn to the left and then a 90° turn to the right. As you now head the short distance north westwards to the 517 metre high top of Broadhope Hill (GR NT932234) make sure to watch out for another old boundary stone standing close to the fence. Cross the flat summit and, still with the fence, you will then encounter a height loss of just less than 100 metres in little over 400 metres of walking to reach the narrow depression between Broadhope and Preston Hills. During the turbulent days of the Border troubles this pass, or swyre, was frequented by Scottish raiders as they made their way alongside the course of the infant Broadstruther Burn. A little distance to your left, on the other side of the harvested plantation, lies the head of the Lambden Valley and your return route. But first, two hills to climb and just over 4 miles of relatively high level walking. Once again, take a deep, lung-expanding breath and start the short, steep ascent of Preston Hill up a thin rocky path overhung with thick heather. The 526 metre high summit (GR NT922237) will certainly come as a welcome relief. To the north west of the summit, alongside the fence, there is evidence of a large Bronze Age cairn measuring between 10 and 15 metres in diameter. Enjoy the great views of the cleft ridden slopes of The Cheviot.

 

Preston Hill

 

Preston Hill

 

4. With miles of empty moorland, except for the lonely farmstead of Commonburn House, stretching away to your right, continue to follow the line of the fence as it passes above Foulburn Gair and then turns downhill towards the corner of a plantation the majority of which has in the not too distant past (as at 2016) been felled. Remaining with the fence, continue beyond the plantation edge until you reach an old metal gate (GR NT908241) and, on the other side, the green track which winds its way down the south eastern side of Coldburn Hill. This is your eventual route to the Lambden Valley, but first you must leave the `security` of the fence and head towards the row of 12 small wooden shooting butts which climb towards the summit of Coldburn Hill. Aim for the sixth butt from the right along a track cut through the heather. When this is reached, turn left in front of the butts and climb to the twin cairned summit (GR NT902241). Standing at a height of 485 metres, this hill enjoys splendid views, particularly to the College Valley, the Schil and the impressive rocky cleft in the north face of The Cheviot. This is where the Bizzle Burn flows from its source, high on the summit plateau of Northumberland`s highest mountain, down to the Lambden Burn. It is the region`s premier winter climbing venue where the most notable feature, the `Bizzle Chimney`, was first climbed on the 5th March 1899. It is also part of a larger Site of Special Scientific Interest. Now return back to the metal gate, pass through crossing over some old railway sleepers so be careful not to slip if they are wet, and follow the green track down to the valley. As you go, the views are superb with the white walled Goldscleugh looking as `pretty as a picture`. Once you have reached more level ground, cross over the Lambden Burn via a shin deep ford and onto the tarmac road. Turn right for 100 metres and then leave the road and follow the public footpath signposted “Goldscleugh ¼ m Harthope Valley 2¾m”. Cut across the field and head around the back of the farm buildings (GR NT914233).

 

 

Coldburn Hill

 

One of the cairns on Coldburn Hill

 

5. Perhaps little has changed in this quiet valley since William Ford Robertson passed this way whilst  researching his 1926 book, `Walks from Wooler`. He described Goldscleugh as being, “…a shepherd`s cottage in the valley of the Lambden Burn, which runs along the northern base of Cheviot”. The present farmstead lies at the centre of a system of dykes and enclosures which are visible on aerial photographs. This suggests that the farmstead may have origins prior to the 19th century. Once you have passed through two five bar gates, turn immediately right, cross the small unnamed watercourse (the Goldscleugh Burn), climb up the bank and follow the thin, faint path until you reach the slightly larger Lambden Burn. Cross with care and then continue eastwards, climbing gradually across the lower slopes of Preston Hill. As you near the hillside plantation, take the left fork, walk through the plantation and out onto an old forest track. You have now reached the head of the valley and within a quarter of a mile, immediately after a five bar gate, you must part company with the track to climb the heather covered slopes to your left, on an obvious green path (GR NT928231), to reach the col between Broadhope Hill and Scald Hill. All the while, The Cheviot looms large over your right shoulder. On reaching the step stile (GR NT935229), cross over and turn to your right and follow the post and wire fence until you drop down towards the infant hillside cutting New Burn (GR NT934225). At a point prior to reaching the burn, turn left and head due east, picking up an extremely helpful track heading in the direction of the top of the 461 metre high Blackseat Hill. From here (GR NT941226), standing beside the small cairn and the craggy summit, you will enjoy excellent views of the Harthope Valley.

 

 

Blackseat Hill

 

Blackseat Hill towards Cold Law

 

 

6. Now it is time to tear yourself away from this airy summit and to start your descent back to the Harthope Valley. So rejoin the track, turn right and continue downhill on the delightful green route which heads all the way back to the valley, crossing the New Burn along the way. Once the tarmac road is reached, turn left and begin a gentle ½ mile stroll through the Harthope Valley, a firm favourite of walkers, birdwatchers and weekend picnickers. As you near the end of your day in the shadow of Cheviot, you will already be planning your next trip into these peaceful, northern hills of which there are a plethora on this website.

 

 

 

Blackseat Hill

 

The track back down to the Harthope Valley

 

 

Distance

15 km ( 9.3 miles )

Total Ascent

755 metres (2477 feet)

Grading

Strenuous

Start & Key Grid References

Harthope Valley (NT958228), (NT954238), (NT932234), (NT922237), (NT908241), (NT902241), (NT914233), (NT928231), (NT935229), (NT934225) & (NT941226)

Time

5 hours

Nearest Town

Wooler

Terrain

Mainly mixed fell some pathless, boggy in places, with steep ascents & descents, a stretch of gravel track & a short stretch of tarmac

Maps

OS Explorer (1: 25000) OL 16. Harveys Superwalker (1:40000) The Cheviot Hills

Accommodation

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

Public Transport

None ( except to Wooler )

Tourist Information

Wooler Tourist Information Centre. Telephone  01668 282123

 

 

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Devised, written & photographed: Geoff Holland 2007 (re-measured 2012, text updated & photographs added 2016)