Tue 25th June 2013
When I arrived at Hartside it was raining gently and Hedghope was in cloud, shades of my previous day on Cheviot! A quick chat with Linda and we agreed that it would be prudent to don overtrousers in addition to the waterproof jacket, it was only just after the summer solstice after all. Then the drizzle turned to rain and we sat in the car awaiting the arrival of the day’s clients who were quick on the uptake and dressed accordingly. It was good to meet-up with old friends from previous walks (Valerie and Darren, Linda and Muriel) and to meet some new faces (Rowland and Maria). As everyone assembled early we set-off exactly on the advertised start time, most unusual.
We managed to cross the moorland and start climbing towards Cunyan Crags before the first heavy shower caught us. They only lasted a few minutes but were quite intense with big drops. Fortunately the wind wasn’t anywhere near as strong as it was on the previous day but the hailstones still stung a bit, flaming June? We followed a quad bike track up onto Cunyan Crags and on to Dunmoor Hill which was surprisingly dry. The peat alongside the summit fence had largely dried out and even developed desiccation cracks. The new fencing, management for sheep and grouse and lines of shooting butts made an impact on everyone as did the extent of Threestoneburn Wood. The conifers of this huge plantation are due to be harvested soon and it will make a big difference to the appearance of the landscape east of Hedgehope.
We descended to the dip between Dunmoor and Hedgehope, “walked the planks” over the boggy bits before beginning the steady two kilometre climb up to the summit. The weather alternated between twenty-mile-an-hour fog (i.e. low cloud) and occasional glimpses of the hill between heavy showers so we were more than ready to crouch in the summit shelter for lunch.
The descent involved much less exertion except that the frequent showers had now liquefied the surface peat and the small stream that originates just below the summit beside the fence was now running; it had been dry on the way up. Slips and slides were the order of the day so we had to be careful on the way down. The fast moving shafts of sunlight picked-out the granite domes of Great and Little Standrop and we were able to see exposures of granite on the path down towards the Linhope Burn. A short detour to see Linhope Spout and take photographs from both the top and the plunge pool below saw us actually beginning to dry-off as we walked through the hamlet of Linhope. It was easy to appreciate the environmental difficulties of hill sheep farming in these hills having experienced such a wet day in summer. Similarly the difficulty of building and drystone walling with the irregularly shaped lavas found locally. All of the building corners, lintels and window frames were constructed of cut and shaped sandstone with the random stone of the lava being held in place by mortar. The contrast in both the materials and building techniques used in the construction of “the big house” and the adjacent farm cottages was noticeable too. Leaving the hamlet the location of Grieve’s Ash, an Iron Age settlement, was pointed out. Everyone had heard of Brough Law, which we could easily see from where our cars were parked. However the plethora of other hillforts in the area were largely unknown so the Northumberland National Park’s Hillforts Trail was mentioned as was the idea of looking at our route on Google Earth when everyone returned home.
Hopefully a good day was had by all and, despite the weather, I hope everyone enjoyed the day and saw and learnt something new, we certainly had a few laughs. The fact that Val and Darren are booked on walks over the next two weeks is encouraging, see you both soon.
Richard Monday, 24 June 2013