Archive for January 11th, 2013

January 11, 2013

The Cheviots – bimbling round the Breamish

by backpackingbongos

My plan to sneak off from work early was foiled by a last minute emergency.  It was therefore much later than anticipated when I found myself trundling north in the Bongo, via a fish and chip shop.  Five hours later I pulled into the car park at Thrunton wood, just outside the Northumberland National Park boundary.  With the van lights turned off I was surprised at just how dark it was, light pollution being almost non-existent in this remote spot.  On the wrong side of midnight I set off into the woods to walk Reuben, noting which branch I took on the track.  The contrast from a rather frenzied afternoon at work could not have been greater.  I slept well in the van that night, even with Reuben slowly pushing me off the mattress on the floor.

16 kilometres with 640 metres ascent


It was a short drive up the Breamish valley, set within the National Park.  The narrow road was deserted and I parked up just before Hartside, where the public road ends.  There is verge parking for a few vehicles, I was the only one there that morning.

With the dog saddled up we set off down the private road towards Linhope.  Although very mild the weather did not look very promising, the higher hills hidden under solid grey cloud.  A track skirted the main house and followed the boundary of a wood.  Shooting pheasants must be a popular past time in these parts as there was a veritable plague of them making pheasanty sounds all around.

We passed the bridleway we would be taking across the moors, our initial destination being Linhope Spout hidden further up the valley.  As height was gained Hedgehope hill was just beginning to reveal itself.


It had been a few years since I last visited Linhope Spout and either my memory is rubbish or it has shrunk a bit.  It’s a nice enough spot but I don’t think it would be worth the effort of fighting through the masses during peak season for a visit.


The bridleway took us to the edge of the moor where somehow I managed to walk completely in the wrong direction.  I was doing the hikers favourite of making the map fit the landscape.  I realised that I could no longer lie to myself so had a proper look before walking back to the edge of the moor.  I made more of an effort after that.

Hedgehope hill finally shrugged off its veil of mist, showing itself to be an inviting looking hill.  There are two rocky warts on its southern flanks, Great and Little Staindrop.


A small rocky outcrop just below Rig Cairn provided an excellent spot in which to start on the contents of my flask and enjoy a sandwich.  Getting Reuben to pose next to the cairn it amazed me just how well camouflaged he is against the winter moorland grasses.


The bridleway marked on the map towards High Cantle is ruler straight, the path on the ground not following the definitive line.  I regretted leaving my gaiters in the van as I squelched through the soft peat.  Although not particularly high moorland there was a special wild quality about the area.  The view towards Hedgehope at one point almost feeling Grampian in nature.


The hard won height gained was soon to be lost as the bridleway steeply plunged into the upper Breamish valley.  Ahead I could see the Dewey of Lints Lands but my enthusiasm for a detour had diminished just for a tick.  Instead I walked slowly downhill enjoying the wild solitude of these gently rolling hills.



Near the river was the ubiquitous railway goods carriage which was being used for storage.


We followed the valley downstream to the isolated farmstead of High Bleakhope.  The modern style building looks slightly out of character in this wild and remote setting.  It appeared to be empty and I fantasised about winning the lottery as I started walking the tarmac road at the end of its very very long drive.  It is located several miles from any public road.


We set off the dogs barking at Low Bleakhope and started the climb up the track of the Salters road.  The good solid surface gave quick progress and we quickly gained height.  The view back up the valley made the farms seem even more isolated.


This part of the Cheviots are not very dog friendly.  The open access land prohibits dogs except on rights of way.  Therefore the days walk had been planned by joining up the green dotted lines on the map.  Above the track sits the prominent cone of Shill Law and no right of way to its summit.  It was the first week of January and there were no birds nesting so I went up anyway.  Reuben was happy to lead the way.



The summit is a great vantage point, high wild moorland on three sides of the compass falling towards the east coast.



It’s shelter is a substantial structure and thankfully was orienteered towards the east, providing relief from the strong westerly wind.  I sat staring at the view for a long time, finally emptying the contents of my flask and lunch box.  Reuben looked on expectantly.  He was unsuccessful.


The light was beginning to fade, early January giving short days sandwiched between the many hours of darkness.  We set off down the steep and tussocky north east ridge.  Reuben managed to get the wind in his sails, showing his pleasure by having a good roll around.


The lower slopes were pheasant territory, with feeders set next to the track at regular intervals.  The air was full of the birds as we made our way onto the tarmaced right of way.  This would eventually lead back to the farm at High Bleakhope.  However we turned the other way and headed back to the van via Alnhammoor.