The previous evening and night was a perfect van ‘wild camping’ experience. I parked up at around 7pm and no vehicle passed until 9am the following morning. Time was spent generally lounging, eating and reading the latest TGO magazine that I had bought along. Reuben was much more settled that night, probably due to the absence of the MOD blowing things up in the surrounding hills.
9.9 miles with 550 metres ascent
It was a good morning for a fester. The day dawned grey and drizzly with low cloud shrouding the hills. A mate was coming to join me for the day at 10am so I sat around in the van, content to do not very much at all. 10am came and went and the car park remained empty. By 12pm I decided that I could not sit there all day so packed my rucksack and headed off down the narrow road towards Carlcroft, hoping to bump into them on the way. No familiar cars passed so I located the bridleway and headed into the hills. The path contoured at an easy angle, the ground soon dropping away, the surrounding hills every shade of green.
As a gate was approached I noticed that a sheep had somehow managed to get its head stuck in it. For some reason it had put its head through the metal bars (grass greener on the other side?) but forgotten that it had horns. The sheep spotted Reuben and Reuben spotted the sheep and there was a bit of excitement on their behalf. I ended up tying Reuben to a fence a good distance away where he stood a whined whilst I set about untangling the sheep. I was baffled how it even got its head in there in the first place. Ten minutes were spent doing a ‘live sheep puzzle’ before I finally cracked it and the poor beast was released.
The track named ‘The Street’ was soon reached and I sat to catch my breath. As with the day before I was surrounded by green rolling hills in all directions.
My phone suddenly sprung to life, full of messages from the evening before by my mate apologising for not being able to make it today. One of the problems being in a remote area is that communication with the outside world can be difficult. Usually this is bliss, in this instance it was annoying.
Walking along the track towards the Border ridge I spotted a large herd of cows in the distance, milling around my intended route. I have heard (get the pun there?) that they can be a dangerous mix with dogs, especially if they have calves. I climbed and then hoisted Reuben over a fence and passed them with the security of a wire barrier. They approached with murderous intent in their eyes, all of them fixated on Reuben who was blissfully unaware. I have never seen cows act in that way before, the usual docile beasts really looked like they wanted to do him some damage. We walked and they followed for some distance. I think if the fence had not been there he would have been flattened. I don’t think that I would ever risk crossing a field of cows with him in tow.
To my left was the long and winding valley of Rowhope Burn, its secret depths no doubt harbouring many idyllic wild camping spots.
Approaching the Scottish border the grass gradually gives way to heather, the head of Easthope Burn giving great views into its hidden folds.
The border fence itself is shared by the Pennine Way on its final stretch, the Cheviot dominating the horizon. This is probably one of the remotest stretches of that long distance route, the only person passed was on her final day.
Easy and admittedly unexciting walking brought me to the trig on Lamb hill, where once again reuben demonstrated his new-found trig posing technique. Actually to get one of these shots he has to be lifted up and he then immediately jumps off. It takes a bit of perseverance and you have to be quick!
Just below lamb hill is one of the two refuge huts on this long stretch of the Pennine Way. It is a welcoming little shelter, one that I imagine many people have been thankful for. It is well cared for and litter free, voluntary wardens doing a good job. I sat outside for half an hour, shoes and socks off, cooling down in the muggy air.
I think that one of the most appealing aspects of the Cheviots are the long and winding valleys that cut deeply into the hills. The descent into Rennies Burn, which soon leads to Buckham’s Walls Burn was the best part of the day. You get the feeling that not many people walk these little valleys. A thought that sprung into my head whilst walking across what looked like firm short-cropped grass. It turned out to be a thin crust on top of a rather soggy bog, one leg being covered in stinking mud above the knee.
Reuben then made an easy river crossing much more hard work than it should have been. He has an aversion to getting his feet wet!
We were soon back at the Bongo for another evening of solitude, the mist once again settling on the hills as dusk approached.