Rock art on Weetwood Moor


Not far from High Humbleton is one of the best sites in the UK for seeing Neolithic or early Bronze Age rock art. On Weetwood Moor you can find some of the most recognisable ancient cup and ring marked stones in the UK. At least 26 sandstone outcrops are said to be visible, but it’s certain that examples of rock art remain buried in and around the exposed outcrops.

Whilst on the moor, you can also visit a reinstated cairn, part of which was excavated in 1982. Thirty-eight carved cobbles were recovered from the mound; more than from any other excavated mound in Northumberland. A carved kerbed stone boulder marks the location of the cairn.

And when you’re not searching for ancient art at your feet, enjoy the glorious views towards the Cheviots and East over the Till Valley towards Lyham and Chatton Moors.

Weetwood-Moor-bing-maps
(Link to Bing Maps with image courtesy of Ordinance Survey)

A good circular walk can be taken by parking (considerately) on the verge on a small track that leaves the B6348 (between Chatton and Wooler) at a sharp left bend in the road. Walk up the track to the footpath gate on the right and follow the path for a short way before diverting to the right for the first two stones. For the plantation stone, you are best to return to the path and follow it until you are level with the start of the plantation on your right, finding a track across the small stream towards a wooden gate.” Cross Weetwood Moor and join St Cuthberts Way for a stretch before heading across a field and back to the Chatton Road.

Three pieces of rock art can be seen at the following locations. They are not easy to find, especially the gorse bush example (enter from the north east side of the gorse bush!) and be careful not to tread on or otherwise erode the precious rock surface, or damage the natural flora, fences or gates.

Bicycle Rock Art Northumberland

Bicycle Rock – 55.54752 -1.96633

Gorse Bush Rock Art Northumberlandgorse-bush-rock-art-entry-point-northumberland
Gorse bush rock – 55.54782 -1.96745 (search carefully for the access point without damaging the gorse)

Plantation Rock Art Northumberland
Plantation Rock – 55.54847 -1.97033 (within fenced plantation)

There are many theories as to the meaning or purpose of this rock art. Did they mark territories or form part of sacred or religious places? Whatever their purpose, their method of creation seems a little clearer as described by rock art authority Stan Beckensall in his book Prehistoric Rock Art in Northumberland:

“Where rock art has been recently uncovered or has resisted erosion particularly well, individual pick marks that produce cups and rings are visible, especially in low light. The size of the ‘picking’ or ‘pecking’ shows that a variety of tools was used, some with a fine nail-like point and others with a broad chisel, with other varieties in between. The basic requirement is that the pick should be made of a rock harder than the surface being decorated, such as whinstone or andesite. Although it is possible to use a sharp pointed piece of andesite held in the hand, it is more likely that a mallet was used to impact the tool against the rock.”

 

Fantastic information and downloads for your phone are available from Rock Art on Mobile Phonesincluding a Weetwood walk PDF with more details of the rock art described above.

Although you can’t beat visiting in person, you can also find a treasure trove of images at Newcastle University’s online Northumberland Rock Art archive.

Homildon Cottage is situated just the other side of Wooler, on the border of the Northumberland National Park. You can drive to the suggested starting point of this walk in 10 minutes, or walk following St Cuthbert’s Way through Wooler.




Salmon and sea trout leap at Hethpool Linn


Take a walk up the College Valley for a chance to see the fantastic efforts of salmon and sea trout leaping up the Hethpool Linn falls.

You can either start your walk from Kirknewton or take a longer loop through the National Park from Homildon Cottage.

We went in late July and chose a dry spell after some heavy rainfall, meaning the falls were a rushing torrent of peaty brown water – and the bracken was soaking wet! But we soon forgot our wet clothes and soggy boots when we caught sight of the fish making their heroic attempts to journey upstream to spawn.

 

If you have the energy, enjoy the wild goats and ancient hill fort on Yeavering Bell on your return to Kirknewton.

view from Yeavering Bell!

A well earned sit down with the view from Yeavering Bell!

 

Northumberland National Park suggests following the route of this walk via its step-by-step instructions or this downloadable PDF.
 

HethpoolLinnWalk

Be aware that unless the weather has been very dry for some time, you are better starting your walk up College Valley along the permissive path that starts on the West side of Kirknewton bridge, thus avoiding a wide ford across the College Burn. The path up the College Valley goes through bracken and broom, and you may encounter grazing cattle.

• Follow the A697 north, away from Wooler for approximately 2.5 miles. At Akeld, turn left onto the B6351, signed ‘Kirknewton.’ Continue along this road for 3.5 miles to Kirknewton to park at the Village Hall on the left alongside the Church.




College Valley


The peaceful College Valley is an unspoilt place, less frequented by visitors than some further south. They are missing out as it is truly one of the gems of Northumberland National Park.

The valley is one of the five main valleys that intrude into the northern Cheviots and is a short drive from Homildon – or you can walk there across country.

Within the valley, the casual visitor may drive as far as Hethpool down the single track road. There are a number of lovely walks that can be done from the carpark at Hethpool such as this circular walk to Elsdonburn and Great Hetha.

The road beyond here is owned by the College Valley Estate and restricted. It is closed to cars, except for those using the estate facilities (such as the remote Cuddystone Hall, which is even available for weddings), or those with a day-permit to drive on the estate’s private roads.

Unless you are willing and able to undertake a much longer walk, a day pass is well worth the small £10 charge, as it enables you to drive as far as Mounthooley Hostel and more easily visit the quiet and extremely beautiful far end of the valley.

The College Valley is the site of a memorial to airmen whose lives were lost in the Cheviot Hills during World War II. The memorial stands outside Cuddystone Hall and was commissioned by RAF Boulmer in 1995. The road forks here, offering a choice of heading onwards to Mounthooley or towards Goldscleugh.

Further down the valley you will pass Fleehope farm (homemade jams or curds and fresh eggs are sometimes to be found in the honesty box by the gate) and onward to Mounthooley YHA.

From Mounthooley, one option is to walk up the valley until you reach Red Cribs, the steep sided end to the valley. A path leads up the right hand side of the gulley and eventually emerges on the Pennine Way, on the Border Ridge (around 45 minutes’ walk from Mounthooley). To your left is the Hen Hole, a ragged gouge in the lower slopes of the Cheviot which is said to be so deep no sun reaches its interior even in the height of summer:

“On the north-west side of Cheviot there is a deep chasm called the Hen Hole, in which there is frequently to be seen a snow egg at midsummer. There is a tradition, that a party of hunters, when chasing a roe upon cheviot, were wiled by the fairies into the Hen Hole, and could never again find their way out.” – Rambles in Northumberland, and On the Scottish Border by William Andrew Chatto (1835)

Just along the Way to your left is the Auchope Rigg mountain refuge hut, with the fence behind allowing a splendid view south into Scotland.

College Burn above Mounthooly
College Valley view from Red Cribs
Empty road College Valley
Hen Hole College Valley
Valley near Goldscleugh

 

College Valley directions

Driving north from Wooler along the A697 you soon reach the row of flags at the corner to the B6351 turning toward Kirk Yetholm. Turn left here and continue through the hamlets of Yeavering and Kirknewton until you reach the signpost to Hethpool and YHA on your left. The car park is just beyond Hethpool House [map].

Day car permits for the College Valley are available for £10 from the estate agent, now Savills, on Glendale Road (the road with the chemist on the corner) in Wooler – 01668 281 611, Mon – Fri: 9.00am – 5.00pm. These permits allow you to drive beyond Hethpool, and as far as Mounthooley.

There are several ways to walk to College Valley from Homildon Cottage. The simplest is to turn right out of drive, walking straight uphill for five minutes to pick up St Cutherbert’s Way. Follow this, passing between Newton Tors and Yeavering Bell, to Hethpool. The distance is around five kilometres and the difficulty moderate. Alternatively divert via Commonburn House to head between Cold Law and Hare Law to emerge a little way south of Cuddystone Hall and the war memorial. There is a stunning view of the side of the Cheviot along the way, not least when the heather is in bloom.




Auchope refuge hut, Border Ridge, Pennine Way


Many a life has been saved by the mountain refuge huts of the Cheviots, from hillwalkers caught out by wintry conditions to a group of endurance runners completing The Spine race along the Pennine Way.

The insulated mountain refuge huts are a lifeline in the wild Cheviot hills, where weather can change in a moment, and the forecast is never to be trusted absolutely.

College Valley view from Red Cribs

View back into College Valley from Red Cribs

There are two shelters on the Border Ridge, one at Auchope Rigg near the Cheviot and the Yearning Saddle refuge hut at Lamb Hill, further south. The shelters were built and maintained by Northumberland National Park Authority rangers and volunteers and the Mountain Rescue Team, with materials flown out by the Royal Air Force. This airlift by the Boulmer rescue helicopter was back in 1988 and the hut is dedicated to the memory of Stuart Lancaster. There is also a plaque for this walker who perished in a snowstorm beside the summit of the Schil.

Auchope Rigg hut can be reached easily from the College Valley (particularly if you buy a car pass and park down near Mounthooley bunk house). A 45 minute walk takes you from Mounthooley, ascends up Red Cribs at the far end of the College Valley, and brings you up onto the Border Ridge by the Hen Hole.

Inside the hut you will find a notebook filled with notes from visitors to the hut – some are just passing by as they near the end of their Pennine Way walk, and some are less fortunate, stuck in the hut overnight while they wait out bad weather. For many years the hut also notoriously hosted a roadworks sign, with an accompanying note claiming a group of hikers had carried it from Crowden – down in Derbyshire on the first leg of the Pennine Way!

Emerging from the hut, you are greeted by a view of the nearby Hen Hole, a deep chasm on the north-west side of the Cheviot. The College Burn descends from the hills in a series of dramatic waterfalls in the Hen Hole. Perhaps it is no surprise that such an atmospheric setting has engendered many tales. Perhaps the most well known is the ballad of Black Adam of Cheviot, an infamous outlaw. The tale goes that Adam raided a wedding party in Wooperton, robbing the guests and killing the bride. Pursued by the groom through a stormy night, he made his escape to the Hen Hole, making a 20 foot leap across the ravine to Black Adams cave. But the groom persisted, causing the two men to fight so ferociously that both fell to their deaths in the College Burn below.

Hen Hole College Valley

On a clear day, the Border Ridge affords a panoramic view over the Cheviots and Borders (as you can see in the video below). From here, it is a short walk to Auchope Cairn, which has been described as the finest view in Northumberland. A bold claim, given the local scenery!

The fence that runs nearby the hut marks the border between England and Scotland. This spot is unusual in that you can look south from England for several miles into Scotland!

You do not have to be walking the Way – you can even visit Yearning Saddle or Auchope Rigg from the comfort of your armchair with Google Street View!

 

The College Valley is 15 minutes’ drive from Homildon Cottage. Read more about car passes, walking the valley and its history in our separate post on the College Valley.




Homildon hill walk


The start of an early morning hill walk from Homildon Cottage into the Northumberland National Park and around the base of Humbleton Hill. Recorded in February 2015, it was the day after we bought the cottage and a wonderful sunny winter’s morning – with beautiful light trickling over the hill. This is a glimpse of what makes the hills around Wooler so magical!




Humbleton Hillfort walk


A steep climb to the summit of Humbleton Hill with its Iron Age hillfort and fantastic views.

  • Start: Homildon Cottage
  • Finish: Homildon Cottage
  • Time: 30 minutes (one way – short route)
  • Distance: 0.75 miles (one way – short route)

 

Climb to the summit of Humbleton Hill (historically Homildon Hill) for expansive views over Wooler and the surrounding countryside. At the summit you will find the remains of the Iron Age hillfort that stood here. Why not take a picnic if the weather’s good!

Turn right out of the cottage gate and go through the gate into the National Park. Continue straight ahead up the track heading past farmland.

After passing by fields, keep an eye out for a footpath signed to your right, visible leading directly up the slopes of Humbleton Hill.

Turn right at the footpath and follow it as it climbs to the summit of Humbleton Hill. (This direct route tackles the contours head on – an alternative route takes a more gentle approach by looping round the hill first.) Upon reaching the summit, the 360° view will open up around you.

You can return the way you came for the shortest route back to the cottage. Or, to extend the walk, continue across the hill and descend on the opposite side. When you reach the path at the bottom (T-junction) you can choose to turn either left or right to loop back around Humbleton Hill to Homildon Cottage.

Homildon Hillfort Walk - OS Maps

Homildon Hillfort Walk – OS Maps

 

To view the route on an interactive map, visit OS Maps:

Search our postcode, NE71 6SU

STEP 1: Search our postcode, NE71 6SU

Select "Routes" at the top, then "Discover routes" on the left

STEP 2: Select “Routes” at the top, then “Discover routes” on the left

If you do not have one already, you will need to set up an account at this stage.

Click the green circle with a number

STEP 3: Click the green circle with a number

Click the green circle with a number over Homildon Cottage's location

STEP 4: Click the green circle with a number over Homildon Cottage’s location

5: In the dialog you can scroll between the routes

STEP 5: In the dialog you can scroll between the routes

If you prefer a paper map, the best choice is the The Cheviot Hills, Jedburgh & Wooler (OS Explorer OL16). Alternatively if you prefer the Landranger maps, the sheet needed is Berwick-upon-Tweed (OS Landranger Map 75)




Humbleton Hill circular


A short circular walk allowing you to get out on the moors for a brief stretch.

  • Start: Homildon Cottage
  • Finish: Homildon Cottage
  • Time: 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Distance: 3 miles

 

If you’ve got something tasty cooking in the AGA and want to stretch your legs before settling down to eat, this walk is relatively unchallenging though with some gentle uphill sections to get your appetite going. For runners, this would make a nice 5k-ish loop on nice, clear, grassy tracks.

The walk can be done in either direction; this description is of the anticlockwise walk.

Northumberland National Park near Humbleton

Turn right to skirt the edge of Humbleton Hill

Turn right out of the cottage gate and go through the gate into the National Park. In a few metres you will reach a gate on your right leading into a farm field. Pass through the gate and over a style to continue along the grassy track as it contours around the right side of the hill.

Follow the track as it bends left around the hill, before leading uphill between Humbleton Hill on your left and a grassy knoll to the right. Continue uphill on the straight track.

You will pass a footpath to your left leading to the summit of Humbleton Hill. Ignore this, unless you want to detour.

Continue following the clear track until you reach a T-junction where St Cuthbert’s Way crosses your path. Turn left along the Way and follow it until it begins to head downhill. You will reach a fenced field to your left and then a junction of paths near the overturned van. To the right is the path to Commonburn House and ahead the bridleway to Wooler. We must turn left on the footpath passing the van, leading downhill through a gate.

You will join the track that leads you back down, past farm fields and Humbleton Hill to your left, to Homildon Cottage.

 

Humbleton Hill Circular walk route - OS Maps

Humbleton Hill Circular walk route – OS Maps

 

To view the route on an interactive map, visit OS Maps:

Search our postcode, NE71 6SU

STEP 1: Search our postcode, NE71 6SU

Select "Routes" at the top, then "Discover routes" on the left

STEP 2: Select “Routes” at the top, then “Discover routes” on the left

If you do not have one already, you will need to set up an account at this stage.

Click the green circle with a number

STEP 3: Click the green circle with a number

Click the green circle with a number over Homildon Cottage's location

STEP 4: Click the green circle with a number over Homildon Cottage’s location

5: In the dialog you can scroll between the routes

STEP 5: In the dialog you can scroll between the routes

If you prefer a paper map, the best choice is the The Cheviot Hills, Jedburgh & Wooler (OS Explorer OL16). Alternatively if you prefer the Landranger maps, the sheet needed is Berwick-upon-Tweed (OS Landranger Map 75)




Chevy Chase Fell Race


Perhaps a lesser-known event in the runner or long distance walker’s calendar, the Chevy Chase fell race organised by Wooler Running Club deserves to be up there with the most popular UK endurance trail races.

A 20-mile trail route , the Chevy Chase is an unsigned navigation challenge as well as the chance to take in some of the most breath-taking (perhaps in more ways than one!) scenery of the Northumberland National Park.


 

Starting from the Youth Hostel in Wooler, there is only a short section on tarmac with an otherwise unrestrained freedom of the hills. So long as chasers pass each of the checkpoints in the correct order, they may choose their own route along the footpaths, sheep paths and rough fell of the surrounding countryside. Entrants will ascend both the Cheviot and Hedgehope Hill over the course of the race, via the landmarks of Broadstruther and Langlee crags. In fact, the event involves a climb of some 1,200 metres over the course [PDF].

Interviewed in 2008,Claire Bagness from Wooler Running Club said:

“You just cover this huge area of land because it takes in Cheviot and Hedgehope. There are people who have done it for 25 years who keep coming back. It’s just that exhilaration of having overcome the challenge. There are steep uphills and then the exhilaration of coming down and the battle to finish at the end.”

The race is open to both walkers and runners so all can take part. But be aware – though the race is run in July, the weather in the Cheviots can turn in a moment, so go prepared!

2015’s Chevy Chase is taking place this Saturday, 4 July. It’s too late to enter for this year, but spare some encouragement for any entrants you see passing. There’s no doubt they will be earning their cake and sandwiches at the finishing line! Or why not get a group together and put the training in for 2016? Teamwork to find your way, hours spent in beautiful scenery and the satisfaction of a tough challenge completed can surely not be beaten.

As this “fly over” from Google Earth reveals, it’s a truly stunning course:




Walk to Wooler from Homildon Cottage via St Cuthbert's Way


Follow St Cuthbert’s Way to Wooler on a walk that mixes a little bit of everything: hills, fields and woods.
  • Start: Homildon Cottage
  • Finish: Wooler
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Distance: 2.75 miles

If you fancy a more leisurely stroll than the direct route to Wooler – perhaps before stopping for lunch at one of the local hostelries – there is a pleasant, varied walk taking around 1 hour.

Turn right out of the drive. Heading up the lane from the house, you first ascend gently past farmland before reaching the overturned van. Just beyond this, turn left joining St Cuthbert’s Way. This leads you across grassy fields before entering a wood. Keep following the Way to emerge at Wooler Common. Bear right to walk through the small car park here, turning right on to the single track road at its exit.

Wooler Common St Cuthberts Way

Follow St Cuthbert’s Way

 

There is just a short stretch of tarmac before you follow St Cuthbert’s Way to the left away from the road, first upward and then onto an open expanse. Soon you must make a sharp turn left back toward Wooler. Aim for the corner of the another woods.

The path rises a short way through this wood before emerging with some well defined mounds of a fort to the right. It then descends, turning left to come out onto a track by a house. Follow this to arrive on one of the streets above Wooler, turning right for the centre. A short stroll past well manicured gardens and Ramsay’s Lane deposits you conveniently at Market Place.

OS Maps

OS Maps: Scenic route to Wooler from Homildon

 

To view the route on an interactive map, visit OS Maps:

Search our postcode, NE71 6SU

STEP 1: Search our postcode, NE71 6SU

Select "Routes" at the top, then "Discover routes" on the left

STEP 2: Select “Routes” at the top, then “Discover routes” on the left

If you do not have one already, you will need to set up an account at this stage.

Click the green circle with a number

STEP 3: Click the green circle with a number

Click the green circle with a number over Homildon Cottage's location

STEP 4: Click the green circle with a number over Homildon Cottage’s location

5: In the dialog you can scroll between the routes

STEP 5: In the dialog you can scroll between the routes

If you prefer a paper map, the best choice is the The Cheviot Hills, Jedburgh & Wooler (OS Explorer OL16). Alternatively if you prefer the Landranger maps, the sheet needed is Berwick-upon-Tweed (OS Landranger Map 75)




Walk to Wooler from Homildon Cottage – direct route


The most direct walk to Wooler is mostly along a quiet road – aside from a short but pleasant stretch of footpath cutting a corner across a field.
  • Start: Homildon Cottage
  • Finish: Wooler
  • Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Distance: 1.25 miles

 

Walking at a reasonable pace, this can be done in quarter of an hour – or take your time at a leisurely stroll.

Start by turning left out of Homildon Cottage’s drive, and then right at crossroads in High Humbleton.

Leaving the hamlet behind you, you will come to a bench on the right, with a footpath sign (A). Take this path to cut the corner, walking through two fields. At the bottom of the hill, do not follow the track round into the camp site but exit onto the road, turning right. If you do not wish to cross these fields, you can instead continue on the road from the bench at point (A), turning right when you reach the crossroads.

Cut through to Wooler

Cut across the field to Wooler

Follow the road past the entrance to the Highburn House camp site into Wooler itself.

OS Maps

OS Maps

 

To view the route on an interactive map, visit OS Maps:

Search our postcode, NE71 6SU

STEP 1: Search our postcode, NE71 6SU

Select "Routes" at the top, then "Discover routes" on the left

STEP 2: Select “Routes” at the top, then “Discover routes” on the left

If you do not have one already, you will need to set up an account at this stage.

Click the green circle with a number

STEP 3: Click the green circle with a number

Click the green circle with a number over Homildon Cottage's location

STEP 4: Click the green circle with a number over Homildon Cottage’s location

5: In the dialog you can scroll between the routes

STEP 5: In the dialog you can scroll between the routes

 

If you prefer a paper map, the best choice is the The Cheviot Hills, Jedburgh & Wooler (OS Explorer OL16). Alternatively if you prefer the Landranger maps, the sheet needed is Berwick-upon-Tweed (OS Landranger Map 75).