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.




Dispatches from the Cheviot hills


Below we republish extracts from a blog by a recent guest at Homildon Cottage inspired by the Cheviots and North Northumberland in Spring.

Low, red-roofed Homildon Cottage forms the gatepost to Northumberland National Park and St Cuthbert’s Way all the way to Lindisfarne. It nestles below historic Humbleton Hill (the cottage keeps the older name) and its garden gives way to bilberry, heather and the unfurling fiddleheads of bracken. There are lapwings nesting beyond the back gate and curlew calling from the hill. All the luxurious lie-ins we’ve promised ourselves are irrelevant in an instant.

We are out first thing on the high, domed Cheviots, mountain biking, walking, birding. The dry stone walls are limed and whitened with lichen, punched through with oak and sycamore roots, haunted by wrens and redstart and threaded through with hunting stoats. The hills are alive with meadow pipits, skylarks, bright-billed oystercatchers, wheatear, whin and stonechat. And an evocative soundtrack to die for.

Red grouse display and call ‘like a duck falling downstairs’ according to my son, and follow with their famous, ventriloquistic ‘go back, go back’. But we won’t, not yet. Snipe ‘sing’ with the sound of someone sawing through wet wood and when one goes up drumming above me, my heart catches at the sound: atmospheric and all but lost at home.

We are here at such an exciting time. The migratory spring birds are coming in off the East Coast, the numbers of willow warblers doubling daily, their song a lilting laugh. Harthope valley is full of golden gorse and its scent of coconut ice cream. We walk alongside the beautiful Carey Burn as it tumbles round rocks marked by otters. I scan warm shale slopes for ring ouzels and get left behind as I try to take it all in.

But of course: Northumberland was wilder, more remote, more rugged. The house was bigger, nicer and there was a brilliant chef (in the form of my lovely Father-in-law). And the dark night skies were infinitely darker.

[On the Farne Islands,] puffins ran down turf burrows and razorbills with white ribbon bridles jostled with chocolate-brown guillemots. We spotted cormorant and shag nests and the blue enamel pears of guillemot eggs. On the boat home, soaked to our underwear, a pod of six dolphins broke the surface, rolling like the smooth submerged cogs of something working below the surface we couldn’t fathom.

On our last evening, we climbed Humbleton hill again, huddling in strong winds in the 17thC summit cairn and looked out to Scotland, the oxbow of the ottery River Till and Wooler Water below us, with views towards Yeavering Bell and its ancient herd of wild goats. Squared plantations and garrisoned woods darkened into ranks, bristling with pike-pines as we thought of the 800 Scots who died here fighting Hotspur in 1402.

The dark night sky darkened. There are stars in our hair and on the shoulder of the hill. The lights from a distant car sideswipe the hill like a searchlight, we shy away from it instinctively, fugitives from the light and the rest of the world. The last bird I hear is a grey partridge calling me home and the ‘go back, go back’ cries of red grouse. We take an emotional leaving …


Thanks to Nicola Chester for permission to reproduce extracts of her writing. She stayed as a guest at Homildon Cottage in Spring 2017. These  extracts are from her Nature Writing blog and can be read in full in the articles Eastwards: the Cheviots in Spring. and Hill forts, islands & leavings. She also runs Wild Writing Workshops and contributed to the Seasons anthologies, among The Guardian’s & The Telegraph’s 2016 Books of the Year.

 

Picture: Nicola Chester

 

 




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.




Bamburgh Castle: Landmark of the Year


It will be no surprise to those who love Northumberland that Bamburgh Castle has been voted Landmark of the Year in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2015/2016.

The castle stands majestically on an outcrop, overlooking the coastline famous for its windswept beauty.

There has been a fort standing in this spot since 547AD – at that time it was known as Din Guarie. Following its invasion by the Anglo-Saxons, it gained the first recognisable version of its name –Bebbanburgh – from Bebba, wife of Æðelfriþ.

The fortification was destroyed by the Vikings in 993. The Normans built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the current building. The new castle was occupied by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria, during a revolt he led against William II. After his capture, his wife eventually gave up the castle to the reigning monarch of England.

Over the years, the castle was raided by the Scots and defended in key battles, though became the first castle to be defeated by artillery, during the War of the Roses at the end of a nine month siege.

For 400 years, the Forster family of Northumberland governed the castle until ownership was granted to Sir John Forster. The castle stayed in the Forster family until it was sold to pay the debts of bankrupt Sir William Forster.

The castle changed hands over the years and began to deteriorate. During the 18th and 19th centuries its various owners began restoration work which was eventually finished by the Victorian Industrialist William Armstrong, who also built Cragside (not far away, near Rothbury), the first house to be powered by hydroelectricity.

Bamburgh Castle makes a fantastic day out. For history lovers, a walk through its halls and grounds is a must-see. For those who prefer the outdoors, take in a dramatic view of the castle from the expansive sweep of Bamburgh beach while you are strolling, rock-pooling or paddling. We love to visit Bamburgh from Homildon – it’s only half an hour’s drive to the beach, and you can even make a day trip and visit Lindisfarne too – tides permitting of course! There are great walks from Bamburgh and your doggy pals will love the wide open beaches.

The Guardian recently listed Bamburgh as one of the UK’s top five beaches. They summed it up far better than we ever could:

“Northumberland has several gorgeous expanses of sand backed by wonderful play areas, also known as dunes, but Bamburgh is the pick of the lot. Brooding over it is one of England’s finest castles, an impressive ring of towers and crenellations around a Norman keep. It’s a handy back-up for days when the weather turns nasty. Nearby are the Farne Islands, accessible via boat trips from Seahouses, a three-mile walk south, mostly along the sands. Surfers love the place, as do dog walkers, horse riders, anglers and kite fliers. There is so much space that one thing you will never find is crowds.”

There truly is something for everyone at Bamburgh and this gem is well-deserving of its top spot as Landmark of the Year.

 

Image by Michael Hanselmann @ http://www.michaelhanselmann.de/bilder.htm (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons




Ancient Wonders E02: Old Bewick and Duddo


The second part of this excellent series continues exploring the sequestered wonders of Northumberland

 

This episode begins by the cascading waters of Hareshaw Linn, once the centre of iron smelting industry yet now the sound of the falls is all that dominates while being home to many rare ferns and lichen as well as red squirrels.

Moving further north brings McVay to Old Bewick, some 20 minutes from Homildon, with a backdrop of the majestic Cheviots. The village is notable for the nearby double hill fort. His wanderings through the Bronze Age ruins set in such beautiful hills offer a glimpse of the very special, some would say entrancing, atmosphere of this part of north Northumberland: “You get the strangest feeling of being alone in these hills”.

The walk up to the ruined farm at Blawearie is recommended. Over 100 years ago, excavations of the Bronze Age Blawearie Cairn discovered the stone lined graves mentioned in the film along with jewellery and pottery.

Duddo Five Stones have been dubbed Northumberland’s answer to Stonehenge. This Neolithic monument sits atop a small mound with views of the Cheviots and the Eildon Hills in nearby Scotland. The five standing stones are striking to see and archaeologist Roger Miket has described the stone circle as “Undoubtedly the most complete and dramatically situated in Northumberland”.

Hareshaw Linn

An easy walk of 1.5 miles from Bellingham – Hareshaw Linn walk [PDF]

Old Bewick directions

If driving, turn off the A697 at the Eglingham turning, taking the left signed for Chillingham at the end [map]. Blawearie is a 6.5km (4 mile) walk from Old Bewick, returning via the hill forts via the Alnwick Wildlife Group website – A Favourite Walk – Old Bewick to Blawearie and back via Bewick Hill

Duddo Stones

Visiting is free. Approaching Duddo from the south, turn left and follow the road until you see a sign beside a field gate on the right-hand side of the road. Park here to walk about 1km along a permissive path.

 

Don’t miss: episode one of this excellent series visited the hidden St. Cuthbert’s cave and Edlingham.

Next: in episode three, McVay explores some of Northumberland’s Medieval castles and dissolved abbeys.

Pic: John Haddington [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons




Ancient Wonders of Northumberland


Ancient Wonders of Northumberland

Browsing around YouTube one day, we stumbled on the Ancient Wonders of Northumberland and were hooked. This excellent series by Michael McVay visits some of the county’s remote treasures with suitably reflective commentary. This combined with sweeping video conveys a degree of the profound quiet, secluded splendour and sense of history intrinsic to these locations.

St._Cuthbert's_Cave_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1320390

In this first episode, McVay visits St. Cuthbert’s cave near Holburn, between Belford and Lowick. The monks of Lindisfarne are reputed to have wandered for seven years following Viking raids on their monastery, before bringing St. Cuthbert’s body to rest under this overhanging outcrop of sandstone in 875 AD.

He also goes to Edlingham, a small village to the west of Alnwick. It played a noted role in the local establishment of Christianity being one of four villages granted to Cuthbert in 737 by Northumbrian King Coelwulf. St. John the Baptist’s church dates from the 11th Century and the nearby castle is only slightly less old. Across from the castle is a disused viaduct of the Alnwick-Cornhill branch line. The Devil’s Causeway also passes close to the village.

Edlingham directions

Take the Alnwick turning off the A697 by the Bridge of Aln Hotel, about 3 miles south of Powburn. After just over a mile, take the right signed Edlingham. Park (considerately) near the church. Entry to Edlingham Castle free. An 8km (5 mile) circular walk starting from Edlingham includes these and other local scenic highlights: Walks in north Northumberland – Edlingham [PDF]

St. Cuthbert’s cave directions

If coming by car, turn off the Holburn to Chatton Road about one mile south of Holborn where signed. Drive down the lane to Holburn Grange farm and park just beyond.

The cave is some 1.75km (1 mile) walk from here: follow the signs up the hill. Alternatively there is a circular walk of about 7km (4.5 miles) including the cave and Raven’s Crag from this point – Walks in north Northumberland – St. Cuthbert’s Cave [PDF]

 

Next: in episode two, McVay reveals the ruins of Old Bewick and Blawearie as well as the Duddo stone circle.

Pic: Pam Fray [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons




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)