THE THREEE VALLEYS OF CHEVIOT

 

The Cheviot Hills are England`s most northerly hills where big skies and distant horizons give a sense of splendid isolation. These are windswept hills where solitude is the norm. This is the land of the curlew whose crystal clear call echoes across empty landscapes. At the heart of these hills stands The Cheviot, at 815 metres the highest point north of Cross Fell. From this lofty hill rounded ridges roll away far and wide and green valleys stretch out quietly below. During this walk you will climb The Cheviot and The Schil, cross briefly into Scotland, walk along part of the Pennine Way and sample beneath your feet three of the Cheviots most beautiful valleys, the Harthope, the College and the Lambden. You will clear your lungs and sharpen your senses.

 

 

Track beyond Mounthooly

 

The track beyond Mounthooly in the College Valley

 

The Walk

 

1. The Harthope Valley, 5 miles south-west of Wooler, is the perfect place to start this walk. Park by the single track road, where the Hawsen and Harthope Burns meet (NT 954225). Whilst there is no access for cars beyond this point your route on foot follows this road for 200 metres to where a signpost points the way to the Cheviot and Scald Hill. A clear path climbs to the left of the New Burn to eventually join the ridge (NT 933221) across the top of Scald Hill. A small detour over the fence to the summit cairn will reveal views down to the remote farm of Goldscleugh in the Lambden Valley and beyond to the College Valley. These valleys will be visited later in the day. The path, boggy in places, continues to follow the fence off Scald Hill before climbing steeply to the summit plateau of The Cheviot. At this point, a ladder stile lifts you across the fence, and drops you down on a convenient millstone-slabbed pathway which leads easily across a sea of peat to the elevated triangulation pillar perched on a high and recently (as at 2016) renovated plinth. This is the highest point of the day although not the one affording the best views.

 

 

Cheviot summit

 

The pathway and the summit of The Cheviot

 

2. Continue across the plateau following the pathway and the fence southwards, passing on your left Cairn Hill after half a mile, and then onwards to where the pathway joins (NT896194) the main Pennine Way arriving from Score Head to the south-west. Now step over the small stile in front of you and then over the stile on your right. Continue across the 2013-laid flagstones, which replaced the 1989-contructed, erosion-controlling duckboards, and stride out north-westwards to Auchope Cairn (NT891198). At 726 metres above sea level this point offers extensive views over your route to The Schil and down into the head of the College Valley. On a clear day this is one of the finest vantage points in the Cheviot Hills. You will now leave the summit plateau of The Cheviot although this bulk of a hill will continue to dominate the rest of the walk. The descent from Auchope Cairn, with the fence on your left, is an exciting one and it will be difficult for you to resist the temptation to break into a run over the soft turf. However, time should be taken as you drop downhill to make a short detour to your right to look down into the narrow ravine of the Hen Hole. With its sheer cliffs and sunlight-starved depths it is uncharacteristic of the Cheviot Hills, a remarkable remnant of the Ice Age. Halfway across the depression at the bottom of the descent, on a small rise, and with excellent views down the length of the College Valley, there is a small mountain refuge hut which was built several years ago to replace the long standing railway wagon which stood on the opposite side of the fence on Scottish soil. Here is an ideal spot to raid the sandwich box.

 

 

Auchope Refuge Mountain Refuge Hut

 

Auchope Mountain Refuge Hut

 

3. Continue across the depression, with the fence on your left, and up to the rocky tor of the summit of The Schil (NT 869223), just 15 feet short of the magical 2000 feet. This hill was described by A.Wainwright as, `alone amongst the Cheviot heights as having the appearance of a real mountain top `. The summit lies over the fence on the border with Scotland and there is an opportunity for those so inclined to scramble amongst the rocks. Now continue on your way as a mile long descent over fairly easy ground leads to a depression where the ever faithful border fence becomes a dry stone wall. When the signpost (NT 863233) is reached, it is time to bid farewell to the Pennine Way as it heads into Scotland towards Black Hag and beyond. You now turn eastwards, signposted `Mounthooly`, descending along an indistinct path, guided by intermittent marker posts, towards the College Valley. Bear right when this path joins the wider bridleway and follow the track down through the field behind the buildings of Mounthooly, now a well-situated Youth Hostel, to where it joins the valley track (NT 881223). Continue past the plantation on your right. Just south of the plantation, at the deer gate, turn left to the College Burn and once on the other side climb steeply uphill, on a rough track, with the part-harvested forest immediately to your left. At the gate (NT 884223) turn left and head north-eastwards across the grassy hillside keeping as close to the fence as comfortably possible, again on your left. You are now on the lower northern slopes of The Cheviot, with West Hill above you, heading towards the remote cottage of Dunsdale and the Lambden Valley passing a small shed as you go. The superb views across Fawcett Shank towards the College Valley have only recently opened up as a consequence of tree harvesting.

 

 

View across Fawcett Shank

 

The view across Fawcett Shank

 

4. The holiday cottage of Dunsdale (NT 899231) is reached after a mile of easy walking and here it is worth pausing, just beyond the farm buildings, to admire Bizzle Crags to your right. This interesting cleft in the north face of the Cheviot, with its exposed mass of granite, has witnessed over the years several winter climbing fatalities. Continue eastwards along the tarmac track and soak up the peacefulness of the remote Lambden Valley. Just before (NT 912233) Goldscleugh is reached leave the tarmac road and follow the sign marked the `Harthope Valley` across the field and behind the farm. Then cross the burn which is unnamed on the Ordnance Survey map but is in fact the Goldscleugh Burn, climb the bank at the opposite side and then follow the indistinct path to the Lambden Burn. Carefully cross over and continue eastwards, climbing gradually across the lower slopes of Preston Hill through a small plantation and onto an old forest track (NT 925233). You have now reached the head of the valley and within a quarter of a mile you leave the track climbing to your left up through the heather on a sometimes difficult to comfortably negotiate path to the col between Broadhope Hill and Scald Hill.

 

 

The Bizzle

 

The Bizzle viewed en route to Dunsdale

 

5. Cross the fence (NT 934229) and turn left following it northwards and then eastwards when it turns just below the summit of Broadhope Hill. Prior to turning eastwards a short diversion over the fence and past the boundary stone will take you to the top and at 517 metres another worthy trophy. Now continue steeply downhill until a track from the former cottage of Broadstruther comes in from the north-west. At this point (NT 944233), where you will no doubt spot another boundary stone, turn right and enjoy the easy downhill walk above the lovely Hawsen Burn back to the Harthope Valley making sure, as you approach the valley, to take the narrow path which leaves the track to your left before it descends to cross the burn. Once back in the valley maybe your toes will enjoy a wriggle in the cool waters of the Hawsen Burn. They will have deserved this little luxury.

 

Track from Broadstruther

 

Track from Broadstruther

 

 

Distance

25.1 km. (15.6 miles)

Total Ascent

1178 metres (3865 feet)

Grading

Strenuous

Start & Key Grid References

Harthope Valley (NT 954225), (NT 933221), (NT 896194), (NT 891198), (NT 869223), (NT 863233), (NT 881223), (T 884223), (NT 899231), (NT 912233), (NT 925233), (NT 934229) & (NT 944233)

Time

7 hours

Nearest Town

Wooler

Terrain

Mainly mixed fell, boggy in places, with steep ascents & descents, some stone paths & duckboards & a short stretch of tarmac

Maps

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

Accommodation

Wooler Youth Hostel. Telephone 01668281365. Small hotels & guest houses in Wooler & two caravan parks/camp sites

Public Transport

None (except to Wooler)

Tourist Information

www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

 

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Devised, written & photographed: Geoff Holland 2005 (re-measured, updated & new photographs added 2012, 2013 & 2016)