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A winter walk on Hedgehope Hill

A winter walk on Hedgehope Hill

Postby nigheandonn » Wed Jan 21, 2015 6:03 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Hedgehope Hill

Date walked: 03/01/2015

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I am wary of winter these days - it seems to come with so many rules that you must do this and must never go out without that, even if you're going to see less snow than you might walking down the street. But my experience from the days before I knew all this was that most places are generally much like spring or autumn only colder if you get wet, so eventually I decided to try an experiment in common sense and go to Wooler for my new year break, leaving the choice of big hills, little hills, valleys or going to Berwick on the bus to depend on conditions when I got there.

With a decent forecast but little idea of how much snow was lying on the hills I settled on the Harthope valley for my objective, with options of Hedgehope Hill on the one side or Cold Law on the other once I got there. I was even less well equipped than I'd intended, having manage to bring my warm trousers but leaving behind the waterproof ones and the peculiar grippy things for your feet, so it was just going to depend.

I took the road uphill past the youth hostel, and turned uphill again through Earle and/or Yearle (which pay tribute to the OS's fidelity in recording placenames, but not necessarily to their common sense), and over the very steep hill by Skirl Naked.

Earle signpost

By the bridge over the Carey Burn I got my first view of a hill looming over the woods ahead, with only small patches of snow on it, which seemed likely to be Hedgehope Hill, as The Cheviot had to be too far round the corner.

First sight of Hedgehope Hill

The road wiggled its way along the grassy floor of the valley, more less following the line of the river, and occasionally a car passed me. Cold Law was definitely snow free on the right, but both sides of the valley were still looking pretty clear.

Harthope Burn

There were quite a few cars parked around the road end, but I think most of the occupants had headed for the other side of the valley. I turned off to the left, over the burn and onto the pull up to Housey Crags, which stuck out quite dramatically. It was fairly hard work as a start, but I worked out that about a third of the height was in that first half mile - although most of the rest was in the last half mile, so that I wouldn't hit halfway up for quite a while.

Scald Hill and the Cheviot

Housey Crags

From the crags there was a drier, grassier path along the top of Long Crag, and then plain mud over the dip before Hedgehope Hill began to rise again. The broad mud path quite suddenly turned to a narrow grass one as the slope steeped, which I took be my halfway height - and about three quarters of the distance from the road.

The grassy path begins

From there it really was just straight uphill, and another steep pull. There started to be odd tiny bits of snow lying - remains rather than the first flakes, sometimes in the shape of footprints where they had been trodden down to ice and melted more slowly.

As the ground got more frozen the path got more slippery, so that I was more often walking in the rougher ground to the side, and with the climb apparently continuing endlessly I did start to wonder if it was a good idea - but at that point a crowd of kids came bounding down past me, racing across the hillside to get to the biggest patches of snow, so I decided I probably wasn't going to freeze to death and just got on with it.

According to the map I should have met a fence halfway up, but the first I saw of a fence was when one running uphill suddenly appeared beside me, which I took to be a sign that I was nearly at the top, where all things would converge. It's not often that I find myself nearer the top than I thought I was, but the slope began to ease just after that.

Meeting the fence

Further down I hadn't been sure if the horizon through the haze was the sea or the last line of small hills - looking back now I could see not only the sea but also Lindisfarne Castle.

To the sea

It had turned into a beautiful day, but with everything else clear there were still clouds clinging to the Cheviot.

The trig point was inside a many-armed shelter, and the most slippery place I'd been yet. I also had the new experience of discovering that the bottoms of my trousers were frozen, after walking through wet bog and frozen moss.

Cheviot clouds

Hedgehope Hill summit

With a cold wind blowing and no shelter in the shelter since it was full of snow there wasn't much inducement to hang around, and I followed the fenceline towards Comb Fell, trying to decide whether my feet felt less cold because I was now walking over short frozen grass instead of through deep frozen moss, or whether they were going numb.

Towards Comb Fell

Sadly this didn't last very long, and the next part of the journey was over half-frozen bog which cracked and crumbled and squelched - if hell ever does freeze over this is presumably what it'll do, as it's hard to imagine a more diabolical terrain.

I had a complicated timetable in my head, where the most optimistic version should get me back into Wooler with the last of the light, while more cautious versions would get me to the road end, which was fine, or at worst to the track end at Langleeford Hope. I was definitely onto the middle one after all the slow squelching, but coming down the slope to the col (is there an English word for the that?) with the path improving a bit, I started wondering whether it was possible - or really I meant sensible - to cut down to the valley from there - it wasn't that I couldn't walk the road out in the dark, I just couldn't be bothered when I could be back in Wooler having a cup of tea instead!

At the dip I'd turned downhill before I was consciously aware of having made the decision. The fence that the map showed once again didn't exist, but the tracks of the two burns running down the hillside showed up clearly and I headed down to the right of them.

The way down

For a while it didn't seem sensible at all - a rough mess of high bumpy bits and low boggy bits, but before too long the grassy channels between had become more walkable, and then I was out on rough grass following the vague traces of something that might have been a people path or a sheep path or a floodwater path. or maybe all three in different places.

Once I'd lost that - it wandered off with some sheep - I found a (mostly) slightly more distinct path leading down beside the burn's little valley to where it joined the bigger burn at the bottom.

The stream's valley

I'd thought the worst was over when I reached the bottom, but the Harthope Burn turned out to be a bigger obstacle than I'd realised - running fast and deep, and never quite stony enough to get across. I scouted downstream a bit and found nothing, and was heading back upstream when a man on the other side told me - as far as I could hear him - that it went all fast and whooshed round a corner there, and I couldn't cross up there either.

So I decided that deliberately going barefoot was a better bet than risking slipping from some not quite close together enough wet rocks - but god was it cold. There was no doubt this time that my feet were numb - and one of my shoes tried to become a boat and sail away, and capsized and filled with water when I caught it!

The cold Harthope Burn (not quite where I crossed it)

The only way to get warm was to hurry, and I did my best, down past a place where the burn disappeared down into a gorge with some trees, and past Langleeford Hope, which looked liveable in - neat and freshly painted - but not necessarily lived in, and along past the bends in the burn, warmer now but having a few disagreements with the path about the best way to go.

Langleeford Hope

There were a lot fewer cars parked at the road end this time, and I saw some of the last stragglers coming down from the Cheviot - a few more drove past me on the way out.

The moon was just rising over the hills as I made my way down the valley, and I wasted quite a lot of time taking pictures of it.

The moon

I was expecting a glowing sunset over the hills, but although the eastern sky turned pink for a while, the west just got whiter and whiter behind me as the rest of the sky turned darker blue.

It was somewhere down the steep hill to Middleton Hall that I realised I was walking in the dark and had been for a while - daylight had faded into moonlight so gradually that I hadn't really noticed until someone added bright headlights to the equation.

The coffee shops had closed by the time I got to Wooler after all, but since I was staying in a real hotel room I had a cup and kettle and teabags laid on - it just needed a trip to the co-op to buy real milk.

Hedgehope.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Last edited by nigheandonn on Wed Jan 28, 2015 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A winter walk on Hedgehope Hill

Postby Guinessman » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:08 am

Great report, its a toss up for me if Hedgehope or Windy Gyle are my favourite Cheviot hills. Hedgehope has such an open feel about it and with the short heather and grass and occasional boulder field it could almost be a Perthshire hill. If you don't mind here,s a couple of pics on the approach from the Ingram valley.


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Re: A winter walk on Hedgehope Hill

Postby nigheandonn » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:24 am

I'll look forward to Windy Gyle, then :)

Nice pictures - I did do a short walk from Ingram earlier in the year when I was with a friend with a car, and it was a lovely area - we've mostly been round the northern edge before.
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Re: A winter walk on Hedgehope Hill

Postby Broggy1 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:24 pm

Enjoyed this report very much. :clap:

Great stuff from an area I have yet to set foot in (perhaps a work trip to Newcastle this year will put that right)
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Re: A winter walk on Hedgehope Hill

Postby ExpatEddie » Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:33 pm

A nice report for an area so close but so far. Nearest I've done is Windy Gyle but I do have The Cheviot in my sights.

Could I mention that it is your turn on "Can I have a P Please" :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: A winter walk on Hedgehope Hill

Postby nigheandonn » Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:41 pm

I always regret answering that, because I have no imagination!

I need to do more walking this side of the border - I do have a plan for a trip from Moffat to Peebles.
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