Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Hen Hole - a favourite gadgie walk. September 23rd.
    Another pentadgie today but Herbie has been substituted by Ben, Great North Runner.

    This is a 12 mile walk, most of it is quite easy going but there is a scramble and a very steep climb. (You can go round them).
     The walk starts at Hawsen Burn in the Harthope Valley. The directions are the same as those for Carey Burn but instead of parking at the Carey Burn bridge continue for a couple of miles to a polite notice asking you to drive no further. On the left is a grassed area used for parking. It is next to a stream used for cooling your feet after the walk and washing the mud off your boots.  (OL 16 GR 954225)
   On the right hand side of the road take the path on the right hand side of Hawsen Burn  and follow it for about half a mile. At this point the track forks, take the left hand fork and walk on with the burn below you on your left. In spring time we have seen ring ousels in this area and on warm days a basking adder or two, don't wear open toed sandals. Eventually the track  approaches a fence line. It does not matter how hard we gadgies try we never find the path leading directly to the style and have to cross some Lauder grass/heather to reach it. Once over keep on the muddy path until a more substantial forest track is reached. Turn right. The track deteriorates as you approach a small plantation but follow it through the wood until it emerges into fields. Without deviating from the path you will eventually reach Goldscleugh, a small farm. From here a properly surfaced road leads to Dunsdale, another farm but now used as a holiday cottage. For years Harry Nagel has promised we will be met here by a flight of Scandinavian Air Hostesses who will attend to our every need. Hope is fading but it makes a pleasant Herbie Spot. I once shared a taxi in New York with an air hostess. I bet she doesn't remember though. I tell you this so you know I have travelled, a bit. It is similar to the way some columnists like to mention their time at Oxbridge occasionally.Giles Coren of The Times is particularly good at this.
   After a light lunch, for so far the walking has been easy, take the path through the farm yard and across a few fields with an ex-plantation on your right hand side. Along this part of the route you can get a good view down the College Valley,* in my opinion the most beautiful of the Cheviot valleys.   At the end of the plantation  look down on Mounthooly, another ex farmhouse now used as a Youth Hostel. The building is whitewashed and must be one of the most isolated hostels in the country. In the 2009 YHA update it is classified as a bunkhouse but the lady who runs it assured me the full YH service is available. Must make use of it someday. To the left of the hostel is a narrow rectangular plantation and in the adjacent field you can see the outline of an ancient settlement and field system. (Thank you Dave) 

Mounthooly Hostel. On a summers evening, sitting outside with a bottle or two of beer you could write poetry.

Take the path down to the College Burn, cross and follow the track which eventually peters out into a path . At a sheepfold (stell in Northumberland) you have a choice. Either take the path on the right that leads relatively gently up the hill to Red Cribs and the Mountain Refuge before leading on to Auchope Cairn or be a true gadgie and take the left hand rough path that leads into the Hen Hole. **
  The Hen Hole is a narrow, rocky gully where the College Burn tumbles over a series of waterfalls and rocks on its way out of the Cheviot. It is not really dangerous except in icy or very wet conditions when the stream is full, but nevertheless requires some care as it is necessary to cross the stream several times and scramble up some short rock faces.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Waterfall at the bottom of the Hen Hole. Keep left here.

Waterfall near the top of the Hen Hole. Keep to the left at this point

                                                                                                                                           We have found it easier to start on the left hand side of the stream, about one third of the way up cross over and recross some time later before emerging at the top into a natural amphitheatre. You can follow the burn up to Auchope Cairn but it is the test of the true gadgie to take the steep slope directly up to the cairn. There are two cairns in fact and it is a useful place to have a rest and another sandwich after the climb. And the views are terrific!.
   The path from Auchope Cairn to the summit of Cheviot used to be a wearying trudge through peat but the collapse of the Lancashire  and Yorkshire textile industries brought some benefit. The Pennine Way from here to the Cheviot summit and beyond is a good path built of flagstones from mill yards. They might not be pretty but us gadgies remember the old days when you brought enough peat home on your boots to rebuild your garden.
    Follow the path towards the summit. In truth the top of the Cheviot is a rather dull plateau, enhanced by views. As a diversion, at GR 898195 are some remains of a USAAF B17 bomber which crashed here in World War Two.  ***About 50 yards off the path they are quire easy to find.

   From this point the path leads on to Scald Hill and shortly after a path on the right meanders down to the Harthope Valley bottom and a good road back to the car park.

   The Village Inn at Longframlington has its own micro brewery which produces good ale. It is a very friendly pub, highly recommended after a long walk.

* "College Valley" does not refer to a place of  learning. The "lege "part comes from "letch" meaning a place where water flows slowly through a marshy area. I suspect the "Col"it could mean cold. The College Valley is privately owned and access is limited to twelve cars a day. A permit is obtainable at John Sale and Partners, an estate agent in Wooler, at a cost of £10. There is a small free car park at the entrance to the valley at Hethpool.

I hope this doesn't get me into trouble:
My next computer lesson is rotating, clockwise through
90 degrees

** As far as I can make out "Hen " simply means a wild bird. A good name for this area as we saw a peregrine and ravens and the cliffs make excellent nesting sites for these birds.
*** For details of this and other sites see Where the Hills Meet the Sky, a guide to Wartime Crashes in the Cheviot Hills by Peter Clark. There is a memorial stone to the RAF fliers near the Whitehall in College Valley and a map indicating sites of crashes.