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.




Great reasons to Visit Northumberland


The benefits of visiting Northumberland are much in the news recently.

 

Earlier this month, the Northumberland National Park was voted the UK’s National Park of the Year while Bamburgh Castle scooped Landmark of the year.

Visit Northumberland

Tonight’s edition of London’s local paper, the Evening Standard, carries a full page on Northumberland, urging the capital’s residents to come and stay. It points out that “England’s northernmost county is less than four hours from London by train, but a world away in terms of sights and scenery”.

Suggesting that booking a break in a rural cottage might allow Londoners “space to gather your thoughts”, it also helpfully points out that many “stand within easy walking distance of cosy country pubs”.

Among the highlights listed are the 684 miles of paths amongst the stunning scenery of Northumberland National Park. Walk along St Cuthbert’s Way, join the climax of the Pennine Way – or simply strike off on your own for mile after mile of empty hill and open countryside.

The nearby coast has many beautiful spots and beaches, studded with castles. The best known of these, Bamburgh Castle, has been the site of a citadel for millennia with a history of occupation dating back to the 1st century BC.

Both the new press campaign and the BBC Countryfile award stressed the joy of stargazing in Northumberland with our Dark Skies, promising the marvel of the starlit heavens and a glimpse of the Milky Way. The Northumberland International Dark Sky Park covers no less than 572 square miles and holds “gold tier” status.

As if all this wasn’t enough to convince weary city dwellers to head to the hills, Virgin Trains are offering a 30% reduction on Off Peak fares booked this month.

With so much going for it, maybe visiting Northumberland is not a hard sell – but well done Northumberland Tourism for their “Love the North” round up of attractions and getting the word out across the country!




Dark Sky Park: a window to the stars


Come and marvel at the stars and planets revealed by a truly dark night sky

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is officially the best place in England to gaze in marvel at the stars. The International Dark Sky Association has awarded the park its top “gold tier” designation. The park is Europe’s largest area of protected night sky, some 572 square miles, and the third largest Gold Tier Dark Sky Park in the world.

 

nlandstars - the land thats just as good with the lights off - banner

 

Darkest skies in England

Northumberland National Park’s status as the darkest in England was confirmed in recent work by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The CPRE analysed satellite imagery from September 2015 to produce a map of England’s light pollution and dark skies. The map was produced from data gathered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration via satellite visible and infrared imagery to determine the levels of light spilling up into British skies. This revealed 96% of the Northumberland National Park to have pristine night skies and very little light pollution elsewhere.

Stay and Gaze

Dark Sky Stay and Gaze logo

Homildon is a “Dark Sky Stay and Gaze” cottage

Homildon Cottage holds “Stay and Gaze” status, in recognition of our facilities for enjoying the night skies. It is lucky enough to sit on the edge of the dark sky park, allowing the spectacle to be enjoyed from the comfort of our back garden. The cottage is fully equipped for the budding stargazer from guides to our very own telescope!

Alternatively the cottage makes a great starting point to hike up a hill for wilderness stargazing – Humbleton Hill just next door to the house makes for a phenomenal view of the skies. For those who prefer to be guided, you can join a Northumberland Stargazing Event or extend a NEWT wildlife safari into the hours of darkness.

What can you see in the dark sky?

Perhaps four fifths of the UK population has never experienced a truly dark sky or the sense of wonder that it inspires. The glory of the Milky Way is revealed along with hundreds of stars visible to the naked eye. Shooting stars are another highlight especially during peaks of activity such as the Perseids.

The autumn and winter months, when the nights draw in, are an excellent time for stargazing. It also helps if the moon is not too full. These factors combine to allow for a properly dark night sky. However the wonder of the brightest stars and our fellow planets in the solar system can be experienced on a clear night throughout the year.

See the Northern Lights?

If you are very lucky, you may see the aurora borealis (or Northern Lights), a spectacular natural phenomenon rarely seen in the night sky over Britain. These light up the night sky with a green glow as solar wind hits the upper atmosphere. For the latest scientific data and alerts on possible northern lights events, see AuroraWatch UK.

Stargazing equipment

Stargazing equipment at Homildon Cottage
Some of the best stargazing is simply wondering at the majesty of a truly dark sky with the naked eye. However as a designated Stay & Gaze holiday cottage, we provide some equipment to ensure you can enjoy our dark skies to the utmost. We supply:

  • Red torches (to preserve your night vision)
  • Binoculars
  • Small, basic telescope (a Visionary FirstView)
  • Planisphere
  • Beginners’ astronomy guidebook
  • Outdoor blankets
  • Our outdoor decking provides a viewing area on-site away from outside lighting while being accessible from the house. There is seating and a table.
  • Picnic rug (for lying on the grass)
  • Large thermos for soup or hot drinks

What to bring to enjoy the night skies
We provide the stargazing essentials but some nights it’s worth wrapping up warm!

  • Warm clothes
  • Hat, gloves
  • iPad or smart phone if you want to use a stargazing app

 

Which stargazing app?

There are now lots of great stargazing apps to instal on your smart phone or iPad. Most of these work by allowing you to point your device at the sky and get information on exactly what you are looking at. This is our pick of some of the best:

Star Chart
£0
A free app, point your phone at the sky and it will tell you what you are looking at. It has a night mode as well as “Time Shift” to travel back or forward 10,000 years.

iOS | Android

Star Walk 2
£1.98-2.29
Top notch app. Lots of information accessible by tapping objects on screen. It shows the orbital path of a planet or moon so you’ll know when it will be visible.

iOS | Android

Sky Guide
£0.99
Our personal favourite: lots of information with a clean interface. This 2014 Apple design award winner allows you to search for a star, and the app will guide you to it by following a pop up arrow.

iOS only

 

dark sky light map
Fascinating Google Map mashup of light pollution across Europe – the Northumberland Dark Sky Park can be seen as the patch of black!

Pic: andy [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Find out more about the cottage and why our location makes a perfect base for some stargazing.




Northumberland National Park: Cottage's Phenomenal "Backyard"


At Homildon Cottage, we are fortunate enough to have the Northumberland National Park right on our doorstep: our garden fence is the boundary of the Park! In our opinion, this is one of England’s greatest landscape treasures with a breathtaking majesty.

 

  • Size: 1048 square kilometres (404 square miles)
  • Highest point: The Cheviot – 815 metres (2,674 ft) above sea level
  • Population: 2,200
  • Population density: 2.1 people per square kilometre

 

Northumberland National Park is one of the 15 National Parks across the UK, protected countryside set aside for anyone to visit, but where people also live, work and shape the landscape. It has existed since 1956 and covers over 1000 square kilometres. The least populated national park in the UK, it is also one of the least visited. It is a haven of peace, quiet and open countryside where it is possible to walk for hours without encountering another person – truly one of England’s last remaining great wildernesses.

The park occupies almost a quarter of the entire county, which The Telegraph describes as “England’s border country, where the reivers – cattle rustlers – once held sway, still feels untamed and under-explored. It boasts the least light-polluted spot in England (Kielder Water), a string of castles, the high heathered roof of the Cheviot Hills, and the Priory at Lindisfarne, Britain’s most distinctive coastal feature.”

Northumberland National Park: the overview

At the northern end of the National Park are the Cheviot Hills running to and across the Scottish border. These were formed by extensive volcanic activity some 400 million years ago. The northern Cheviots contain several well known summits including Hedgehope Hill, Windy Gyle and The Schil. This area is pierced by five main valleys: Heatherhope, Bowmont, Breamish, Harthope and College Valleys.

The Cheviot itself is the highest of the surrounding hills, being 815m and a Marilyn. It features as a short out-and-back detour on the last leg of Pennine Way. The summit lies 10.25 km (6.37 mi) from Homildon Cottage as the crow flies, and it is possible to tackle it in a day-walk from the house. Some may prefer to drive as far as Langleeford which is about 5km from the summit. The Cheviot can be boggy and, as with any mountain, should only be tackled if sure of good weather and with the correct equipment and clothing.

Further south, the hills give way to areas of rolling moorland and the Kielder Forest (England’s largest being 250 square miles) before ultimately reaching the historic Hadrian’s Wall. Built in the second century, this defensive wall at the then northern extreme of the Roman Empire ran over 100km sea to sea from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth.

Walking in the Northumberland National Park

National Park Cottage Boundary

Northumberland National Park borders Homildon Cottage: our front door is by the gate to the Park!

The best (and often only) way to see the most impressive scenery is on foot. More than 900 kilometres (600 miles) of way-marked footpaths and bridleways offer a choice ranging from leisurely strolls and picturesque village rambles through to more challenging hill and moorland treks. You can plan your route online at OS Maps. If you prefer a paper map, the best choice for the Cheviots and other walks near Homildon Cottage is the The Cheviot Hills, Jedburgh & Wooler (OS Explorer OL16). Two wheels can also carry you to the isolation of the hills and moors: no fewer than seven routes radiate out from the cycle hub of near-by Wooler.

Wildlife

The hills and moors of the northern Northumberland National Park host fauna some of which have become less common in other parts of the country, such as roe deer, hares, otters, mountain bumble bees, butterflies and heather moth. Close to Yeavering Bell a herd of Neolithic goats must be one of the UK’s oldest, most elusive – and reportedly smelly – wild herds. Further south in the Park, red squirrels can still be seen.

Birds abound including red grouse, peregrine falcon, grey wagtails, ravens, tits, nuthatches. The emblem for Northumberland National Park is the curlew. High in the hills is surely best place to see them in the summer – and hear their distinctive trill followed by “keerloo”. The upland pastures, heather moorland and deep, wet peat mires of Northumberland National Park are an ideal habitat for the curlew, and here they have been nurtured even while declining in other moorland parts of the UK. In 1912, the natural historian George Bolam summed it up by quoting an acquaintance: “A moor without a curlew is like a night without a moon, and he who has not eyes for the one and an ear for the other is a mere body without a soul”.

History

The Park and surrounding area abounds with hill forts and settlements across a 10,000 year history. These range from prehistoric monuments and Roman remains to Pele towers, constructed as a defence against Border Reivers. The Iron Age Hill Fort of Yeavering Bell is one of the best preserved in the country. Many walks feature at least one en route, and some make a feature of it such as the Hillforts Trail.

Humbleton Hill neighbouring Homildon Cottage was also the site of a fort, believed built around 300BC with ramparts of distinctive local pink stone. It was also the site of the Battle of Homildon Hill, a historic defeat of the Scots by the English.

Star gazing: the Dark Sky Park

This is one of the best places to stargaze in Europe. The Northumberland National Park forms part of the Northumberland Dark Sky Park, granted gold status by the International Dark Skies Association. This means it is a great spot to reveal the majesty of the planets or stare in awe at the Milky Way. If you are lucky, you might catch a meteor shower of “shooting stars” or even see the Northern Lights. The solitude of the night sky is shared only with the many local nocturnal animals such as barn owls, bats, badgers and hedgehogs.

Nothing can beat seeing it in person but in the meantime see the splendour of dark skies revealed in this Northumberland National Park video.

Majesty of the hills

The final word though must go to the hills: some of the beautiful scenery in the northern part of the Northumberland National Park around the Cheviot, Hen Hole, Dunmoor Hill, Hedgehope Hill, College Valley and more…




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)




Welcome to Homildon Cottage


We fell in love with northern Northumberland several years ago. It’s diffcult to pin down what attacted us the most: the hills, the people, the golden rolling light, the food, the attitude towards life, the glorious night skies … the list goes on and on. Suffice to say, it’s a very special place – quite unique in terms of what it has to offer. All of this was obvious from the first time we were lucky enough to visit but it came home to me one blustery lunchtime sitting by Eccles Cairn (pictured). Taking in the panorama, it struck me where else would be this special, where else would the cares of the world slip away, where else would I so appreciate a Scotch pie (it was November and blustery). From that moment was born our project to make a corner of this “Magical Kingdom” our own and, just as importantly, to share it with others. We hope visitors will come and share our cottage, walk the expanses of the National Park, share absolute peace looking over Humbleton Hill from the garden, enjoy the locally sourced food, meet the locals in the pub in Wooler … and fall in love as we did.