Archive for January 14th, 2013

January 14, 2013

Windy Gyle with the northern pie man

by backpackingbongos

The upper Coquet valley is one of my favourites in England.  The last village is Alwinton before the single track road twists and turns deeper into remote hill country.  This is not a landscape of high mountains and rocky ridges though.  The attractions are much more subtle, hidden amongst the hills velvety embrace.  These gently rolling hills allow you to get far away from the maddening crowd.  Solitude is easy to find if you want it.

Solitude was in abundance as I passed through a deserted Alwinton in the dark and drove up the valley.  The road is a complete mess, an assault course of giant pot holes that were invisible in the dark.  I was surprised that I had all four wheels remaining when I parked up at Buckham’s bridge for the night.

16.5 kilometres with 620 metres ascent

Windy Gyle

I spent the night undisturbed by any passing traffic and I forced myself out of my rather warm and cosy bed.  I drove a few miles back down the valley to the car park at Wedder leap, where I had arranged to meet Mike Knipe and his dog Bruno (aka The Northern Pie man).  I was early so set about demolishing most of a box of Frosties and numerous cups of coffee for a healthy nutritional breakfast.

Mike duly turned up and after introductions we set off up the road.  We were passed by numerous 4×4’s complete with quad bikes on trailers.  Lots and lots and lots of them.  The odd thing is that the owners did not fit the usual moorland churning demographic.  They were what I would call a bit tweedy.  We would find out their purpose later that afternoon.

Once across the river Coquet we took to a fine track that climbs above the Hepden burn, giving good if rather murky views down the valley.


If you like remote valley walking then this bit of the Cheviots is the place to head.  We crossed the watershed and dived into a forestry plantation before picking up a track above the Usway burn.


Hidden right in its furthest depths is the exceptionally isolated farm of Uswayford.  Mike and myself soon formulated plans to turn a neighboring wooden cabin into top-notch hostel accommodation so that you all can come and visit.  It really did have a location to die for if you like it remote.

The wind turbine above the farm looked like it was ready to take off in the strong wind.  It was spinning at the speed of a helicopter rotor.  For me this is the perfect use of green technology.  The power was being used at source for a property that is a long way off grid.  At only a few metres tall it blended in well with the landscape.  Small scale local energy production is much more preferable than plastering the hillsides with 500ft turbines and then transporting the electricity hundreds of miles by giant pylons.

With Mike telling me tales of ‘orrible murders we continued further up the Usway burn, the water carving a rocky course though the grassy hills.


With no sheep in sight the dogs were let off lead where they raced around after each other, a bit of barking and counter barking going on.  The humans meanwhile struggled on through the increasingly large tussocks.




We finally arrived at Davidson’s Linn, a rather remote and slightly underwhelming waterfall.  It is actually a very attractive spot but would get laughed at if it turned up at a party hosted by the Teesdale waterfalls.  It’s made even more attractive by its out of the way location.


There was a few minutes of rocky excitement as we scrambled to the top of the falls.  There are actually two waterfalls, the smaller one hidden from view by a little rocky arête.  The rocks were wet and a slip would have involved wet feet and possibly wet underpants.  I waited at the top with a camera to see if such a moment could be captured.


There are some cracking camping pitches at the top which we passed on the way to a sheepfold that provided shelter for lunch.  Reuben decided to latch on to Mike as he has learnt that I don’t share my lunch.  He had to make do with the crumbs from Mike’s beard as he licked his face.

The climb onto the border ridge after lunch was at an easy gradient and we were met by lowering cloud.  By the time that we had trudged up the slippery flag stones to the summit of Windy Gyle the clag had firmly set in and we saw pretty much nothing.  We did briefly sneak into Scotland though.




It was pointless staying up high so the bridleway towards Trows was taken where visibility was once again restored.


It was whilst descending towards the farm that we found out what all the quad bikes were for.  There appeared to be a hunt in progress.  This involved lots of hounds running across a distant hillside with men in camo sat watching through binoculars whilst sitting astride their machines.  Even the riders on horses appeared to be doing not very much.  Everywhere we looked we noticed groups standing motionless watching, it really did not look very exciting.   I wonder how strictly the hunting with dogs ban is enforced in such remote areas?

The most worrying thing was just how red everyone’s faces were, either alcohol was being enjoyed or many of the participants are heading for an early grave with high blood pressure.


An enjoyable day in the hill with good company.  Mike is the only other human being I have ever met who knows what a Dewey is.  I cannot think of a better way to enjoy an afternoon than discuss various hill lists.  My inner geek was unleashed as we discussed obscure hills.  Reuben and Bruno appeared to rub along well, neither taking chunks out of the other.

Mikes version of the same trip is here.