Upper Breamish Valley Blog
Wed 24th September 2014
Sunday 21st September 2014
The Lower Breamish Valley is well known to many, a veritable tourist hotspot for lots of urban adventurers at weekends and in the school holidays. It seems to have become even more popular since the former Northumberland National Park Information Centre adjacent to the church re-opened as the Muddy Feet cafe. Approximately fifteen years ago I remember doing a National Park patrol in the valley on a hot summer’s afternoon in the holidays and counting several hundred vehicles between Hartside and Brandon. By contrast the Upper Breamish Valley is very quiet once beyond the honeypot attraction of Linhope Spout and even that requires a short walk from Hartside where the nearest public parking is located.
Ian and I did the recce of the whole route in thick fog the week before just to be on the safe side, we saw absolutely nothing of consequence all day, visibility was never more than a hundred metres but we had a thoroughly enjoyable day out nevertheless. In particular we confirmed that our navigational skills were still as good as they never were. The day of the actual walk couldn’t have been more different not least because we could see everything, the sun came out, the breeze got up and we stayed dry. The route was essentially a circular one circumnavigating Shill Moor. Ten of us and a dog set off from Hartside to Linhope having watched the farmer from Low Bleakhope put some rubbish in his bin at the Hartside road end, “only” approximately six kilometres (by road) from his farm! He still had the whole length of the lower valley to go to get to Powburn to fetch his Sunday papers.
A 9.30 start meant that we didn’t see any other walkers on the road down to Linhope or on the trudge up towards Ritto Hill to begin the moorland crossing. It became “busy” on the inbye land near the Spout as the shepherd on his quad bike, and his dogs, arrived at the office but they were soon left behind. After that we didn’t see anyone else on our route all day. Elevenses were taken exactly on time below the top of Carswell Clough in the lee of the valley side, the wind was cool and we appreciated the shelter. We were using a quad bike track to make progress easier, the long grass was very wet and the flowering heather looked stunning in the shafts of sunlight but would have made for difficult, and slow, progress. Literally the high point of the walk was reached at Rig Cairn at 462m/1515ft with good views across the valley towards Shill Moor (528m/1732ft) towards the edge of the Kidland Forest and the related tops of Cushat Law, Hogdon Law and Whether Cairn. To the north both Hedgehope and Cheviot were clearly visible. The steep convex nature of the Cheviot Hills was obvious as were the overdeepened valleys cut by meltwater streams at the close of the most recent ice age only thirteen thousand years ago. Just about here one of our number, albeit from deepest Norfolk, said he’d never been so far in the “mountains” before. I suppose that as the highest point in Norfolk is Beacon Hill at 103m/338ft then exposed moorland four times higher would appear mountainous. There was plenty of opportunity to discuss moorland management, hill sheep farming, the importance of game shooting, plantation woodland and farm diversification as we went. The steep descent from the high moor into the Breamish Valley began at High Cantle towards High Bleakhope. Now out of the cool breeze and in the sunshine we decided to have lunch whilst watching two walkers 60 metres below us on the Salter’s Road track towards Davidson’s Linn.
We finished lunch, descended to the ancient Salter’s Road via High and Low Bleakhope. The house at High Bleakhope was empty but the farm buildings were in use. Onwards along the track and over the col towards the left turn at Little Dodd. This final leg of the route was over lower level moorland, we were into the bracken zone, no heather here and more gentle relief except for the occasional old river terrace to climb where we rewarded ourselves with afternoon tea as we could see Alnhammoor Farm
in the distance which was only a kilometre or so from the cars.
It was lovely to see some old friends and meet some new ones, literally in Ian’s case in the guise of one of the Alwinton contingent and refreshing to get a different take to our landscape in the form of the Norfolk contingent. We hope everyone had a safe journey home.
Richard and Ian