This midweek break was a much needed respite after a year in which I have been pretty cooped up suffering from terrible cabin fever. My trips to Wooler on the bus have to be planned around the fact that, at the time of writing, there are no buses home on Sundays which is why this was a midweek trip.
1/ Langleeford and Cheviot circular. 8.5 miles. Strenuous
2/ Wooler and Commonburn House circular. 7 miles. Moderate
In the walk descriptions I have explained the reasons I decided not to include maps or downloads in this post.
1/ Langleeford and Cheviot circular. 8.5 miles.
The first walk I had planned was an 8.5 mile circular from Langleeford 5 miles up the lovely Harthope Valley. This is the first time I have tackled the Cheviot from this valley. I treated myself to a taxi from Wooler along the road to the start of the walk in order to reach the summit before the hottest part of the day.
Everything was in full midsummer mode, the trees were verdant, the bracken was high, the elderflowers and the foxgloves were everywhere as I set off along Harthope Burn beyond the car park.
Unlike the College Valley, there is little pasture land in the Harthope Valley and the burn lies in a gully. I had intended to go up to the head of the valley and ascend The Cheviot from there, but I lost the path upstream on the the Harthope Burn. I turned back instead and headed up Scald Hill at Langleeford Hope before turning west towards The Cheviot. This is the Northumberland County Top at 815 metres / 2675 feet, although it isn’t the most exciting hill in that area. As you climb there are good views on a clear day across the valley to the distinctive outline of Hedgehope Hill.
The top of Cheviot is a flat plateau composed largely of bog and large peat hags which are crossed by means of the stone flagstones used on many parts of the Pennine Way. Apparently these huge flagstones come from old mill floors in other parts of the country. They have made places like this much more accessible to walkers all year round.
After a quick lunch by the trig point, I retraced my steps across the plateau to descend gradually back the way I had come, down the north east face towards Scald Hill. You can see on the left of the next photo just how much of the Cheviots are managed for the lucrative shooting tourists. I guess they provide a better income for the local economy than the walkers, which is a shame. Obviously it is best to avoid this area and many parts of the Cheviots during the shooting season from August to December.
As I descended down the rough path from the tallest point in Northumberland, everything was laid out below me and I could see as far as the North Sea and Holy Island to the east. After an hour or so I arrived back at my starting point by Langleeford in time to dip my tired feet in the burn. I saw only three other walkers all day and they were all on the summit plateau of The Cheviot.
As I was unable to follow the route I had planned I improvised, but the end result was a bit dull. My route including a long section which was up and down The Cheviot by the same eroded path, which is why I am not including it as a route.
2/ Wooler and Commonburn House circular
This was a deliberately unplanned hike as I have been thinking about creating routes of my own. I set off on the following hot July morning with my map, compass and some lunch to see what happened.
I headed out of Wooler on the popular St Cuthbert’s Way before turning north along the lane towards Humbleton and then west around the back of Humbleton Hill. It was an intensely hot morning, but I had brought plenty of liquids and suncream, and my sun-hat was tied firmly on to protect me from the beating sun.
I slowly skirted the hill along rocky tracks which were dotted with banks of wild foxgloves….
….and past this apparently nameless lake which may be for irrigation on the boundary between the moors and cultivated farmland to the north.
When I had gone around the back of Humbleton Hill, some welcome clouds began to appear in the deep blue sky as I rejoined the St Cuthberts Way. I decided to head west along the broad grassy track for a couple of miles towards a junction by Tom Tallon’s Crag.
Here I turned south along a rougher track amidst the heather to the sounds of busy bees and the occasional cry of a nesting pheasant or grouse. After a mile or so this track reaches Commonburn Farm. Here there is a razor straight, stony farm track eastwards back to Wooler, which is fairly uneventful but direct, and so began the march along it back to my starting point.
The heat started to ease off as I neared Wooler, and the scenery imperceptibly changed from the moorlands above to the gently rolling hills below.
This circuit was not as dramatic as yesterdays walk, but the hills would have been hard work in the heat. The only place I saw any other walkers was along the St Cuthbert’s Way, which seems to be increasing in popularity since I did it two years ago. I discovered that there are only a limited number of route options in that area and that going off piste was not all that interesting. Consequently the walk ended up being too similar to other routes I have written about nearby to include it.
However, although neither walk had the ingredients of a good all round route, they were no less pleasant for all that. This trip demonstrated the advantages of following tried and trusted routes in certain places. I enjoyed two days of glorious sunshine, but as I was leaving on the bus, Wooler was filling up with fell runners for the popular Chevy Chase Race and it began to rain heavily.
Using buses has made me feel more connected to the places I visit and the people I meet, as well as doing my little bit for the environment, but I realised on the bus home that deciphering timetables and planning trips to take advantage of very few buses, can be quite stressful. [It was trips like this which lead to my joining a car club a year or so later].
I used the Harvey Maps Cheviot Hills Superwalker map for these walks.