HIGH HILLS ROLLERCOASTER

 

As you stride out on this walk through the wild and windswept Cheviot Hills, high above Upper Coquetdale, you will feel history all around you. The reivers, the smugglers, the drovers, the moonshiners, all passed this way before you. This is a landscape of big skies and empty horizons. You will climb to two of the highest summits in the Cheviot Hills, visit one of the area`s finest waterfalls, pass along two ancient drovers roads and reflect how life must have been for those hardy souls from days long gone. So tighten your bootlaces, take a deep breath and enjoy this rollercoaster of a walk through some of Northumberland`s finest hill country.

 

 

The Rowhope Burn at Slymefoot

 

The Rowhope Burn at Slymefoot

 

The Walk

 

1. From Alwinton follow the single track road through Upper Coquetdale for just over 6 miles to White Bridge (NT 859114) otherwise known as Trows Road End or Slymefoot, where there is limited parking. Here the River Coquet squeezes through the narrow defile between Barrow Law and Tindale Law and is joined by the delightful Rowhope Burn. In the 18th century an inn stood nearby whose illicit spirit came from stills hidden in the nearby cleughs. Do not cross over the bridge, instead take the tarmac road which follows the Rowhope Burn and, in time, leads to Uswayford farm. Pass the exceptionally neat farmstead of Rowhope and when you come to the ford and footbridge (NT 855126) of the Trows Burn take the track which climbs away from the road to your left on the opposite side of the burn. You have now begun the ascent of Windy Gyle, the fourth highest summit in the Cheviot Hills, and you will continue upwards for nearly 2 miles on the broad grass ridge between the Trows and Wardlaw Burns. The route heads northwards until just west (NT 859148) of Scotchman`s Ford where it then veers to the north west (to your left). Towards the brow of the hill take the track to the right when the route splits into two. When the Border fence is reached, cross over the stile and walk straight ahead to the elevated triangulation pillar and Russell`s Cairn. Near this spot in 1585, at a meeting of the Wardens of the Marches, Lord Francis Russell was killed and this great Bronze Age burial cairn was so named to commemorate the event. As you walk around the summit the views are extensive in all directions.

 

The crossing of the Trows Burn

 

Looking back to the crossing of the Trows Burn

 

2. Head back to the fence, cross the stile and turn to your left heading north eastwards along the Pennine Way. The going, whilst wet at first, becomes easier when the millstone paved path is reached after half a mile and within a further half mile you reach the signpost at Hexpethgate, also known as the Border Gate or Cocklawgate (NT 871160). Here the medieval trade route of Clennell Street, used by drovers, reivers and smugglers, crosses the border as it makes its way from Alwinton in Coquetdale to Cocklawfoot and the Bowmont Valley in Scotland. You now leave the Pennine Way behind and follow Clennell Street as it begins to descend in a south easterly direction towards the spruce plantations of Uswayford. Shortly you will also part company with Clennell Street, taking the signposted, ` Salters Road` (NT 874157) heading into the forest. Continue down through the forest, via a good graded path and when a cross forest track is reached turn left. Then, after approximately 50 metres, turn right onto another downhill heading graded path. In a short while this will deliver you to the Usway Burn close to a circular sheep stell (NT 884157). There are many places in the Cheviot Hills where twinkling burns cascade into peat brown pools but there are few big waterfalls. However, in this remote valley, secreted deep in the forest, Davidson`s Linn is an impressive and welcome sight, particularly after heavy rain. It is also the ideal place for a spot of lunch. Nearby, on Inner Hare Cleugh, on the west bank of the burn a few grey boulders mark the site of an illicit kiln for drying malted barley, known as `Rory`s Still `.

 

 

 

The Cheviot from Windy Gyle

 

3. Cross the burn, just above the waterfall via a wooden footbridge, and follow the signposted Salters Road as it travels eastwards through the forest. Just before this track emerges out of the forest at the watershed between Lint Lands and Bloodybush Edge be sure to follow the track which climbs slightly to the left off the main forest track, which bends away to the right, and not the forest track itself. Once through the gate and outside the forest boundary (NT 904157), it is time to bid farewell to the ancient Salters Road, which, in times gone by, was a treacherous place for bandits, being described in some old books as the ` Thieves Way `. Now turn to your right climbing, gradually at first, up the northern slopes of Bloodybush Edge. The path becomes increasingly steeper as it cuts its way through peat hags bringing you eventually to the triangulation pillar on the 610 metre high top (NT 902143). This is the sixth highest summit in the Cheviot Hills. To the north you will see the head of the Breamish Valley and beyond, Northumberland`s three highest hills, The Cheviot  ( 815 metres ), Hedgehope Hill ( 714 metres ) and Comb Fell ( 652 metres ), whilst to the south the extensive Kidland Forest stretches below you. For the next mile and a half you continue across high ground as you head for the summit of Yarnspath Law. Now, facing north-westwards with the triangulation pillar behind you, follow the middle of three fences as it descends easily to the col between Bloodybush Edge and Yarnspath Law. Staying with the fence, continue uphill to the unspectacular summit at 540metres (NT 884132). Continue to follow the fence as it drops downhill over an area of mat grass with fine views of the surrounding hills. These areas of grass are known locally as the ` Whitelands ` because the erect spikes which the grass produces in June bleach to almost white as autumn approaches.

 

 

Davidson`s Linn

 

4. On reaching the track turn left over the stile and you are again on Clennell Street, heading into the remnants of the recently (as at 2016) part-harvested forest and towards Alwinton. Continue along this now very messy track until you reach a forest track turning to your right (NT 882125). Take this track, along level ground at first, and then steeply downhill, through two hairpin bends, to the recently refurbished house of Fairhaugh (NT 876122), nestling by the banks of the Usway Burn. Like much of the surrounding countryside, this area of forest has recently (as at 2016) undergone substantial felling. Turn right behind the house and cross over the small wooden footbridge. On reaching the other side turn left and follow the track as it climbs away from the burn, eventually emerging over a ladder stile (NT 873120) into open countryside. Continue straight ahead and enjoy the excellent generally downhill walk to the farm of Barrowburn in Upper Coquetdale. Pass through the shallow ford and, keeping to the right of the farm, follow the track to the tarmac road. Continue on ahead and this road will, in less than a mile, take you back to White Bridge and the end of a fabulous day out in the hills of Upper Coquetdale.

 

 

 

Bloodybush Edge from Yarnspath Law

 

 

Distance

19.5 km. ( 12.1 miles )

Total Ascent

775 metres (2543 feet)

Grading

Moderate

Start & Key Grid References

White Bridge (Slymefoot) in Upper Coquetdale ( NT 859114 ), (NT 855126), (NT 859148), (NT 871160), (NT 874157), (NT 884157), (NT 904157), (NT 902143), (NT 884132), (NT 882125), (NT876122) & (NT 873120)

Time

5 hours

Nearest Town

Rothbury

Terrain

Some steep ascents and descents over mixed terrain, sometimes wet and boggy, with two tarmac sections.

Maps

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

Accommodation

Caravan site at Clennell Hall ( Alwinton ). Hotels and guest houses in Rothbury

Transport

None

Tourist Information

www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

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Devised, written & photographed: Geoff Holland 2005 (re-measured, text amended & new photographs 2012 & 2016)