Saturday, 2 May 2015

Freebooting Scottish Marauders.....May 1st.
It's a while since we did the Ros Castle Blaewearie walk . Hit by holidays and family commitments we are down to three this week and have chosen to walk from Hepburn, north west of Alnwick, taking in Ros Castle, the Cateran Hole and Blaewearie itself. The forecast is for a dry but chilly day.
To get to Hepburn from Newcastle take the A1 north, go through the town of Alnwick past the entrance to His Grace's Castle and follow the B6346 through Eglingham (NOT Edlingham). Just beyond Old Bewick take the right fork and after a while look for the narrow road on the right that goes to Hepburn. There is a small car park  on the right with a Forestry Commision Notice board and a couple of picnic tables on the right just beyond the farm. Like many walks this one requires two maps, OS 340 Holy Island and OS 332 Alnwick and Amble. The walk starts at GRNU072248.
 Across the road from the car park stands a ruined bastle. A bastle is a fortified house with a vaulted ground floor, particularly on the Anglo Scottish border. Fortified to protect the inhabitants from the raiding caterans from the north.  A bastle differs from a Peel Tower, also found in the borders, which was a mini castle with battlements and everything. A cateran is a freebooting, marauding Scot from the highlands, dating back to the days when England and Scotland were two independent countries continually scrapping across the border. Today it is done by way of the ballot box but if you don't get what you want this way, we'll have another referendum as soon as possible.
                             The bastle at Hepburn, not a fish in sight.
John H, harry and I left the car park about 11.15 and headed up the track to Hepburn Wood. After a short distance on the forest track we  spotted the path that leads uphill to the ancient fort on top of the hill. It is a steep and, in places, rocky path, not the ideal way to start a walk, I prefer a good flat walk in to get you started.

                                                 Car park of the week at Hepburn Woods.
From the fort, but there is little to see of it, a footpath runs in a generally eastern direction to a minor road. Crossing the road we followed the marked path to Ros Castle, another ancient settlement. Ros Castle looks out over  Chillingham Park, home of the famous wild white cattle. The herd has lived here for hundreds of years, escaping foot and mouth and caterans hungry for beef. They must have been in hiding today, not one to be seen.

                                  "The lights are going out all over Europe"
                             Not so much a castle, m ore a view point

                          With indicator boards to tell you what you can't see on a cloudy day.
 Having admired the views of the distant North Sea in the east and the Cheviots in the west we chose to return to the road  and walk east for a mile or so, past a farm called Botany, until we found the sign post  on the right directing us to Blaewearie.  
Another Lime Kiln
                                                                                        The weatherman had promised a breezy dry day, no mention of the sudden short shower of rain and hail that forced us to put on waterproofs.
                                    Mole picking in the rain, a quaint northern pastime
                                                                                                          The track we followed was a good one and after much less than a  mile we turned left and followed  the track to the top of Cateran Hill. Near the summit, off to the left and a little difficult to find is the Cateran Hole, a fissure that goes some yards into the ground. (CH on the map) It makes a good Herbie Spot but we gave it a miss today, not wishing to disturb any latter day caterans enjoying their spoils. Instead we continued past the cairn on the top of cateran Hill and continued south east.
                                            Hedgehope and the Cheviot. Look carefully, spot the caterans.
                                                      Cateran Cairn, and John H
On the way down from the cairn we turned a few yards off the path to look at the memorial to Douglas Brown, a young shepherd who died at the age of 28. Very sad but what a fitting place for a memorial. Near it was a copy of the poem that was voted the nation's favourite.

                                     The memorial to Douglas Brown
Shortly after we came to a farm track, turned right and declared a Herbie Spot behind a wall designed to keep the wind off. (Near mile 5 on the map) There only being three of us the communal offerings were slight, malt loaf and Czech Chocolate.
Lunch over we continued for a short way on the track before taking a path on the right that meandered over moorland and field before bringing us to the farm at Harehope.
                                                 Harehope farm and cottages.
From the farm we followed the path north, turning northwest up Harehope Burn and as archaeologist Dave was not with us we cheerfully passed several piles of stones without pausing. The valley here is very boggy, both Harry and I tripped and plunged at least arms into the stinking water. But as we climbed out of the burn the ground became drier and soon we reached Blaewearie, another deserted and ruined farmhouse. I believe the name refers to the wearying wind that blows up the valley. Again, having visited the ruin before we chose not to stay but headed west on a good track for a short distance to see the ancient Cyst. (Pronounced "Kissed") A ring of stones, an ancient burial chamber.
                                                               Cyst near Blaewearie
          On the north side of the cyst a footpath through the heather eventually morphs into a farm track heading north to the road we had walked before near Ros Castle, turning left we followed the road downhill, admiring the new dry stonewall, until we were back at the car park.
Once changed we headed home, pausing in Alnwick for a little liquid refreshment at the Queen's Head pub which offered Golden Sheep, sister ale to Blacksheep, and Sunshine from the Hadrian brewery.

The Matrix MMXV H
                                                            steps                              miles
Lidl3D                                                   29391                           11.70
Higear                                                     24143                           10.96
OUTDOORGPS                                                                         11.2

Apart from the discrepancy in steps, I seem to do quite well without Dave!
Another good gadgie walk, great views of Northumberland, not too much climbing and the usual good company.