The Cheviot and back to Teesdale

Two very different walks this week, but variety is good.

On Thursday I went to Northumberland for the first time in many years for a long walk with my brother Jim. He was wearing trainers and a lightweight rucksack, prepared to walk as fast as he could. I was as usual in my heavy boots and carrying my not so light rucksack, but I managed to keep up with him.

We started from Langleeford near Wooler. The overnight forecast had been for snow and gales at the top of the Cheviot, but by morning the sky was blue, the wind had lessened and there was no snow in sight. We followed the Hawsen Burn north west along a good path and then dropped down from the col to Goldscleugh through thick heather, both of us falling into holes at least once. There was a cold north westerly wind with patches of ice on the path but the air was clear and we could see for miles.

From Goldscleugh we followed a good track to Dunsdale and then cut south west over boggy moorland to Mounthooly. The sun was warmer along College Burn and we were sheltered from the cold wind. Jim started to mutter about how the weather was good enough for climbing, he prefers his rock climbing to walking.

On the skyline we could see a small black building that was our lunch spot. Half an hour later we reached the Auchope Mountain Refuge, a tidy little hut with a few benches and some old sleeping mats. It would be a great spot to spend the night. I had my stove with me so made a cup of tea and we spent a very pleasant half an hour sitting in the sun and drinking tea, sheltered from the wind by the back wall of the hut.

From the hut we toiled upwards to Auchope Cairn, a huge panorama opening up beneath us of the Cheviot Hills and eastwards to the North Sea. We also had views down into the Hen Hole, a rugged and unspoilt rocky gorge with some of the most remote rock climbing in Northumberland on volcanic andesite rock. I climbed there once on a hot summer’s day in 2004 or 2005 with Roland, Jim and my sister in law, Sarah. Roland and I had walked in over the Cheviot while Jim and Sarah mountain biked in from the north, leaving bikes just below the mountain refuge hut. I remember leading College Grooves, a brilliant Hard Severe and Jim no doubt would have led the aptly named Fingery Jim at E1 5b.

Back to 2020 and we soon joined the Pennine Way and continued to the top of the Cheviot over the huge paving slabs which must have taken a huge effort to lay. Snow flurries appeared from the now cloudy sky and we didn’t stop for long on the top. Here we saw the first people we had seen all day and overtook another two on the way down making a total of 4 other people in the entire day. The descent back to Langleeford was boggy and fairly uninteresting, but it was quick and we were soon down. 6 hours, 22km and 1000m of ascent, a great day out.

Friday was a wet walk in Upper Teesdale with friend John and two collie dogs, Rowan and Bo. John has his ML assessment coming up, Covid permitting, and he wanted to practice his navigation. The weather was perfect for that with poor visibility and rain for most of the day.

We met at Cow Green Reservoir and walked south to the dam before picking up the Pennine Way and following it west past Birkdale Farm. From here we picked up tracks heading north west towards the summit of Meldon Hill, although the tracks disappeared after a few km and we walked over pathless, boggy moorland on a compass bearing. I let John decide on the route and look after the navigation, although I took my own bearings to check we weren’t going wildly off course.

We soon arrived at the summit of Meldon Hill. No view whatsoever, continuous rain and a strengthening wind. I was mostly dry. My new Sportiva boots, an Ebay bargain, were doing an admirable job at keeping my feet dry, and my builder’s gloves from Screwfix were doing a brilliant job for my hands. They are the most waterproof gloves I have ever owned at a fraction of the price of branded outdoor ones. My Paramo jacket was as usual completely reliable but the one weak spot was my legs. My thick Paramo over trousers were letting in water and I could feel the rain running down my bare legs. All part of the invigorating experience of Teesdale in November 🙂.

We took another compass bearing down over pathless moorland to the Pennine Way and as far as the footbridge over Maize Beck. It was 1pm and I had my daughter to collect from school in Barnard Castle at 4.30pm so we didn’t quite have time to reach High Cup Nick. Not that we would have had a view, although the rain had eased slightly.

We walked back along the Pennine Way, the dogs finally slowing down, although Bo, the younger dog, looked like she would quite happily go round again. Rowan was struggling to focus on carrying the plastic bottle that he had determinedly carried all day, apart from over cattle grids and through gates. It is obviously too difficult to focus on carrying a bottle while negotiating a cattle grid or gate so he drops it and lies at the other side, staring longingly at the bottle until a human carries it over for him, which invariably we do.

Another good walk, 24km in 6 hours, and we arrived back at Cow Green with plenty of time for me to get back to Barnard Castle.

Copyright of all text and photos – Jane Ascroft 2020. If you like this blog please share it 🙂.

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, climber, backpacker, scrambler, fell runner and lover of wild places

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