Thursday, 18 June 2015

Fort Votadini* the Cheviots.....................June18
An extra gadgie walk for Dave and I. We are going to follow the Hillfort Trail in the beautiful College Valley in Northumberland. The walk starts at the entrance to the valley, Hethpool, a large house once the home of Lord Collingwood of Trafalgar fame. You may only drive down the valley if you buy a day permit from John Sales, estate agents, in Wooler. A permit costs £10, only 12 are issued each day but the valley is well worth the money. We are starting from Hethpool itself and there is a small car park just over the cattle grid past the row of cottages. Free too. To get to Hethpool follow the A1 north to Morpeth, follow the A697 past Wooler for about five miles, turn left for Kirk Yetholm, go through the village of Kirknewton and watch for the sign to Hethpool, it's on the left and is a two mile drive down a narrow road, watch out for vehicles coming the other way, especially large timber trucks.
The map for this walk is OS OL 16 The Cheviot Hills and the car park is at NT893280.
                                 Today's car park, quite popular, a group of ladies were setting out for a walk and a couple from Lancashire told me that they thought Northumberland was beautiful and if it wasn't for family they would come and live here. Quite right, I did.
From the car park we walked back past the cottages and the big house and up the lane to the junction for Eldonburn. A short way down the farm road we spotted the first of many "Hill Fort Trail" posts that led us across the well defined ancient Cultivation Terraces before heading north west up White Hill.  Most of the route is well posted, watch out for them, but in some places a few extra would be more than useful. Turning south west and then west we past a homestead before heading for the corner of a plantation.
                           Well defined ancient field boundary.
                                                            Watch out for signs, and follow them.
We went through the wood and came to Ring Chesters, a well preserved enclosure or fort, nobody really knows which.
                        Doesn't look much but it was once the family hearth

                       Worth the effort for the views if nothing else. The tors, Hare Law and Yeavering Bell
Descending the hill having examined the bivallate Ring Chesters we walked down to see the outlines of a farm stead and field system, then retraced our steps  and continued on our way to the farm at Elsdonburn. Beyond the farm we followed St. Cuthbert's Way for a short distance  before heading south east uphill to the forts of Little Hetha and Great Hetha. Little Hetha, viewed from above on its big brother is unusual for a fort as it is rectangular, like the traditional Roman fort.
Little Hetha from Great Hetha. I need a better camera for pictures like this but I am an old age pensioner.
 Still you can make out the shape.
On Great Hetha, which has the remains of the outer and inner ramparts clearly visible we called a Herbie Spot and had lunch admiring the views over to Easter and Wester Tors, the College Valley and the small lake at Hethpool House.
This pile of stones was once the outer ring of the ramparts, built long before the Romans arrived.
Refreshed, it had been a steep climb, we headed south west to Trowupburn. At the bottom of Great Hetha a film crew were taking a break from filming the opening sequence of "Beowulf", to be shown on ITV in the autumn. All nice people but I didn't recognise any celebrities, if there were any.
The Hillfort Trail signs seem to have been forgotten beyond Trowupburn farm bur we followed  a footpath uphill  and walked through a plantation on Sinkside Hill. There is a fort on this hill too but there is also a plantation and a notice saying the footpath was closed due to fallen trees so we gave it a miss, or put it to one side for another day. Walking downhill on a forest road we soon came to Cuddystone Hall (Whitehall on the map) and turned south on the valley road looking for a post directing us to the last of the forts. We found it and had to turn through almost 180 degrees to follow the track to the top of the hill for the last fort of the day. Having examined this one too we headed south downhill to rejoin the valley road and head north back to the car park. We met two ladies on horse back. They had been to watch the filming of Beowulf but had not been offered parts. They maintained they were too glamorous, they were probably right.
                                                  Hazy day in Northumberland
               Memorial to RAF (and some USAAF ) personnel killed in the Cheviots
                                                   Cuddystone Hall, it fair rocks on a Friday night.
On the way home we stopped at the Anglers Arms, Timothy Taylor, Youngs Gold and Youngs Blonde, and coffee for the driver. A good and interesting walk. Should you want to find out more about the many fortys in Northumberland get a copy of " Hillforts. Prehistoric strongholds of Northumberland National Park" published by English Heritage or "Prehistoric Northumberland" by Stan Beckensall. Or just get out there.
 Both maps  Contains OS Data, copyright. Crown copyright and data base right 2015

                                                         steps                                      miles
LIDL 3D                                            37761                                  12.2  Little legs!
OUTDOORGPS                                                                            11.9
etrex GPS                                                                                       12.59
Dave's LIDL3D                              29942                                      12.87
Dave's USB                                                                                     12.31
* Votadini, the tribe who lived in this area when the Romans arrived with their roads and things.