Windy Gyle Nordic Walk Blog
Mon 20th June 2016
Keeping a check on the forecast during the week, it seemed like we would be lucky with the weather, insofar as it was forecast to be dry. Everyone met up nice and early ready for the 10am start to hopefully get back to Barrowburn Tea Room, a must if you are up this neck of the woods.
Poles handed out we started on our difficult walk up to Windy Gyle (Windy Gyle lies astride the Border Ridge that divides Scotland and England. It is also crossed by the Pennine Way).
First up was the bridge named Wedder Loup (The story is that a "lifter" one night carried off a nice plump wedder (sheep) from the flock grazing on the slopes of Shillhope Law. The daring sheep-stealer had not proceeded very far when the loss was discovered. Immediately the owner and his men gave chase. The "Hot Trod" proved short but decisive, Handicapped by the wedder tied around his neck, hill fashion, he was run to bay at this particular spot, to leap the chasm was his only chance of escape; therefore all was risked in one desperate bound. His feet touched the opposite bank; he clutched and struggled, but in vain - the wedder around his neck proved a very millstone to the fugitive, dragging him with his ill-gotten booty backwards into the murky depths of the pool below. Since then its name has been 'The Wedder Loup (Leap)').
We crossed the River Coquet, passed Barrowburn Tea Room, and headed up the side of Barrow Law. The group spread out meaning that everyone could walk at their own pace, the faster walkers weren't being held back and the slower walkers weren't being made to run up the hill, making the walk more enjoyable for all. On this part of the walk, Steve felt his calf muscle pop, he tried to carry on with encouragement and massage from me and Carol but it was not to be. A discussion took place when I was going to walk him back but he refused any fuss and headed back on his own. Carol and I headed up to the group.
We then got to Murder Cleugh, (the story goes that Robert Lumsden, who lived nearby and had been linked with several other deaths, was a violent and independent character with a taste for other men’s wives, he got one of those wives pregnant and murdered her). Cue for Carol to share her homemade cinder toffee to lighten her load. At this point John pointed out a rare tree pipit repeatedly performing its characteristic display flight, flying up from its perch then singing whilst descending in a curving flight back to its perch.
Next up was Little Ward Law before we made the final ascent to the border fence, where we crossed the border into Scotland to the summit of Windy Gyle.
Those members of the group who had been at the back found the front walkers tucking into their packed lunches at Russell's Cairn (believed to be a bronze age burial mound) admiring the stunning view. Russell was very excited as the Cairn was named after him and he also found a stone with “Russ 17 15 3 para” scratched into it. Soldiers when they climb Windy Gyle carry stones up with them and scratch their names into them. As has become the norm Marilyn and brought her knife and fork she is very posh! Catherine's passed around her homemade ginger and cinnamon biscuits made to an old Northumbrian recipe.
A light aircraft flew overhead and we all waved at him as he passed he wiggled his wings in acknowledgement.
There was drama when Carol looking for her banana found that Chris had eaten it! I'm not sure Carol will forget this even though Chris gave her her banana to replace the one she had eaten, which was still in her rucksack.
Following the Pennine Way along the border ridge to Cross Dyke we followed The Street back down to the valley bottom to Trows Road End car park where we saw the sign “Tea Room ½ mile”. The pace quickened as we headed to Barrowburn Tea Room, I had warned them that we would “hopefully” be descending on them. Lots of cake, scones, tea and coffee were scoffed. Martyn found a new friend in Bentley the Boxer as he ate his brie sandwich.
Goodbyes were said and everyone headed home.
Further information courtesy of John Marshall of the flowers, grasses and wildlife (even though you may not have known) you may have seen during the day:
As we started off the meadow appeared full of buttercups but also had wood cranesbill and pignut, a reminder that this area was once wooded. Another woodland species, woodrush (Luzula sylvatica) also occurred at Murder Cleugh and in several other places. Next was an area characterised by grass tussocks formed by tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa). In the short turf were small white sprays of the flowers of heath bedstraw (once used in straw mattresses to control fleas) and the four petalled yellow flowers of tormentil. Higher up were swathes of the fluffy white flower heads of bog cotton grass (Eriophorum angustifolium). After Russel’s cairn there were areas of grassland with a purple hue. Oddly enough, these were areas of purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea). On the descent we saw blue bell, another woodland species), ladies smock or cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis). Down at the river were crosswort, marsh marigold and monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus) which is an introduced species. This begs a question: who on earth first carried it up here?
The walk was characterised by the almost constant chorus of skylarks. Lower down were goldfinch and linnets but as we started to climb these gave way to meadow pipits, a smaller version of a skylark and favourite host to the cuckoo. There were occasional glimpses of curlew but no calls or display flights. A pair of mistle thrush flew off at one point but kept so low that few saw them. By the stream on the way to cake and tea were both pied and a grey wagtail, as well as a common sandpiper. We enjoyed the house martins feeding their young in nests under the eaves of the cafe.
I hope you enjoyed this challenging walk in the Cheviots. Thank you to Martin for his immense help as always in keeping up with the front walkers.
Our next Nordic walk is the Pilgrim’s Causeway across to Holy Island. I am also putting the rest of the year’s walks onto the website. Don’t forget to check them out.
Thank you all again for coming along. See you soon.