THE ULTIMATE KIDLAND HORSESHOE

 

The vast green blanket of the Kidland Forest sweeps across the slopes of the high lonely hills which rise to the north of Alwinton, deep in Upper Coquetdale. A plethora of burns twist and turn through the sheltered forest before converging to form the meandering River Alwin. This walk follows a horseshoe route high above the forest with clear views to The Cheviot and Hedgehope Hill. You will look down into remote valleys and across the wide open spaces that stretch mile after mile to the Scottish border and beyond. It is a walk of ups and downs and for the most part you will be utterly alone.

 

 

 

Upper Coquetdale from the Pass Peth

 

The Walk

 

1. The tiny, picturesque village of Alwinton lies at the heart of the Northumberland National Park where the Coquet and Alwin Rivers meet. It is the last village in Coquetdale and is the perfect gateway to the Cheviot Hills. The Alwinton Border Shepherds` Show, which is held on the second Saturday in October, is the last of the Northumberland agricultural shows and is a signal to farmers to start their winter preparations. There is a small car park in the centre of the village and on leaving this base turn left towards the small village green, just beyond the Rose and Thistle Public House. Cut across the green and then the wooden footbridge over the Hosedon Burn before turning left to follow Clennell Street towards the distant Border Ridge. This is an ancient drover`s road which crosses the border at Hexpethgate just below Windy Gyle, before dropping down to Cocklawfoot and the Bowmont Valley. Follow the track as it climbs gently past a farm on the left until you reach a small ladder stile on your right (NT 922068) with a yellow directional arrow affixed to it. Take the faint path across two fields before crossing the footbridge over the River Alwin and joining the track which heads up the valley to your left.

 

 

 

The view from The Dodd and the animal feed store

 

 

2. Follow this track as it makes its way alongside the river, crossing two small concrete bridges and then a cattle grid. After a further 200 metres leave the track on the right, immediately after the burn (NT 924084), and climb the obvious path up the end of the Dodd to its 333 metre top passing along the way a small animal feed store. Continue in a northerly direction, with good views down into the Alwin Valley, and on reaching a slight depression turn north eastwards, aiming for another corrugated animal food store and onwards towards Puncherton Hill (NT 931099). Continue in the same general direction up and over the top of the hill, initially with a fence to your left, and then gradually downhill along a faint quad track towards a five bar gate. Once through the gate you will need to focus on the north easterly edge of the forest which dominates the view to your left and to Wether Cairn immediately beyond.  Whilst there are some sheep traces and quad tracks across the open hillside, none of these lead directly to the ultimate goal and, therefore, you will need to choose your own route. Once the brow of the hill is reached head towards the fence which marks the edge of the forest and follow this until a second fence is reached (NT 941115). Cross over the stile, turning left, and head past the shelter cairn to the trig point which marks the top of Wether Cairn. 

 

 

 

Heading towards Wether Cairn

 

3. From here the route northwards to Cushat Law is initially across rough and featureless moor and it is best to keep reasonably close to the fence and to continue to follow each turn it takes until the depression and the small cairn at Sting Head (NT 933129) is reached.  At this point leave the forest edge and take the path which hugs the fence to your right for a straightforward ascent of Cushat Law. At 615 metres this is the fifth highest of the Cheviot Hills and is often referred to as the Monarch of Kidland. There is a shelter cairn just north of the fence with excellent views to the Cheviot and Hedgehope Hill. Continue to follow the fence downhill and across the boggy depression, where the Ainsey Burn rises, before climbing  to the flat summit of Bloodybush Edge where, in 1585, the English defeated the Scots at the Battle of Bloodybush Edge. This is the sixth highest of the Cheviot Hills and for the next mile and a half you continue across high ground, above the vast expanse of Kidland Forest, to the summit of Yarnspath Law. With the trig point of Bloodybush Edge behind you, and facing north west, descend alongside the middle of three fences to a col (NT 894139), where a path turns off to the right down to the remote farm of Uswayford. Your route however continues to stay with the fence as it climbs easily to the unspectacular top of Yarnspath Law.

 

 

 

Shillhope Law from Kyloe Shin

 

4. Follow the fence as it drops downhill over an area of mat grass until you reach a clear track (NT 879128). As you turn left over the stile and enter the recently (as at summer 2016) harvested forest you are once again on Clennell Street, as it heads back towards Alwinton. Continue in this direction until you reach another track (NT 883125), on your right, and follow this, over level ground at first and then steeply downhill, to the former shepherds cottage of Fairhaugh, now refurbished. Once again, this once heavily wooded area has recently (as at summer 2016) been subject to extensive harvesting and for some time to come it will bear the scars of this commercial tree felling. Turn right behind the cottage and cross the delightful Usway Burn, by the wooden footbridge, before turning left to follow the track as it climbs away from the burn. On reaching and crossing the ladder stile (NT 873120) your route heads south eastwards up a clear green path towards the 433 metre high Kyloe Shin (NT 877113). Whilst there is no obvious path over the top of this hill there is a green quad track across the grassy col towards Shillhope Law. So strike generally south westwards at first and then southwards, with the valleys of the Usway Burn and the River Coquet below you on either side. On reaching the gate (NT 873101), cross over and follow the path which climbs steeply, over rough wet ground, alongside a fence to emerge at the trig point and small lough on the summit of Shillhope Law. Walk 100 metres north westwards for spectacular views of Upper Coquetdale and the Border Ridge.

 

 

 

Shillhope Law summit

 

 

 

5. From the trig point, descend on one of the two tracks, with the fence line on your left, to the col, before crossing the fence via a gate, and then climbing to the top of Inner Hill, where there are excellent views into Coquetdale. Continue down the grassy track, with the fence on your right, which in turn becomes a stone wall, until you reach the gravel track (NT 886077) running alongside the Usway Burn. Turn right and follow the track behind the old farmstead of Shillmoor until you reach the access road to the house. This is now used by the Army as part of their dry training area so don`t be surprised to see military vehicles and personnel hereabouts. Turn left in front of the house and proceed through gates to cross the Usway Burn via the wooden footbridge. Continue to walk straight ahead close to the wall on your right, crossing a small burn tumbling down from your left, before contouring the Knocks on a clear single line path passing through a small developing plantation. You are now aiming for the path which ascends diagonally the steep hill directly in front of you.

 

 

 

Heading towards The Knocks

 

 

6. This is known as the Pass Peth and is the sting in the tail of this interesting days walk. On reaching the top (NT 897068), you will understand why. It was on these exposed heights, some four centuries ago, that the men of Upper Coquetdale kept watch, night and day, guarding against the incursions of the Scottish freebooters. The going is now almost all downhill, firstly across the south western end of Green Side and then on the valley road for the final easy mile back to Alwinton. Perhaps it is now time to quench  your thirst in the tiny Rose and Thistle, first seen at the very beginning of your walk, which has been welcoming weary travellers since 1750. You deserve it.

 

 

 

 

Distance

28 km. (17.5 miles)

Total Ascent

1157 metres (3796 feet)     

Grading

Strenuous

Start & Key Grid References

Alwinton, National Park Car Park (NT 919 063), (NT 922068), (NT 924084), (NT 931099), (NT 941115), (NT 933129), (NT 894139), (NT 879128), (NT 883125), (NT 873120), (NT 877113), (NT 873101), (NT 886077) & (NT 897068)

Time

8 hours

Nearest Town

Rothbury

Terrain

Mainly mixed fell of grass & heather, boggy in places, with a number of ascents & descents, some gravel tracks and a mile stretch of tarmac

Maps

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

Accommodation

Rose & Thistle Public House, Alwinton (limited) otherwise small hotels, guest houses & caravan park at Rothbury

Public Transport

None (except to Rothbury & Thropton)

Tourist Information

www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

 

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Devised, written & photographed: Geoff Holland 2005 (revisited & re-measured 2012 & again with minor alterations & new photographs 2016)