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Tue 15th June 2021

Pilgrim's Route to Holy Island 2021

Pilgrim's Route to Holy Island 2021

We met at the Barn at Beal on what felt like the warmest day of the year to date to walk one of the most iconic walks in Northumberland, walking the Pilgrims route over to Holy Island and back.

After setting off we had a short walk before taking our shoes off and walking barefoot across the sands, it was lovely to be paddling through warm water as we followed the poles.

As we progressed, we could hear the ‘singing angels’, the seals sunning themselves on the warm summers day and after paddling a little we reach Lindisfarne.

The group went their separate ways for an hour to explore the Island before we all met up again for our return leg across the sands.

The weather was second to none and with such a great group lots of laughs was had by all.
I look forward to you joining me again on another Shepherds Walk.


Wed 26th May 2021

Windy Gyle 2021

Windy Gyle 2021

As the walkers for today gathered at Weders Leap carpark, the starting point for the walk, dark clouds filled the Coquet valley and steady rain descended upon us. Fortunately this, the first of several heavy showers, did not last long and everyone was suitably dressed for whatever the elements had in store.

Mark introduced himself to those walkers new to Shepherds Walks and outlined the day’s route. By the time we reached “The Street”    – the old drovers track and the supposed site of an illicit whisky still in the 1700’s known as Slymefoot Inn - and began the steady climb up to the border,  the rain had stopped and we were able to have brilliant views of the hills and valleys. Just before joining the Pennine Way we had a coffee break and Mark talked about the various Medieval tracks over the Cheviots and also about the wild goats. No sooner had he mentioned these feral animals than we saw a small number (or were they black sheep?)

The wet weather of recent weeks was evident on the paths and it was hard going as we began the ascent of Windy Gyle, and to make things even harder another heavy shower arrived. However, by the time we reached the summit – our lunch spot – the shower had passed and spectacular views into Scotland including the Eildon Hills were enjoyed. It was hard to believe it was the middle of May as we continued on our route towards Clennell Street with pockets of snow visible on The Cheviot. Another heavy shower hit us, this time with flecks of hail and snow and the temperature dropped – again this shower did not last long and the remainder of the walk was in fine and much warmer weather.

Before turning south on Clennell Street, Mark recounted the tale of Lord Francis Russell’s murder here in 1585 and when we arrived at Murder Cleugh told the story of Robert Lumsden’s dastardly assault on Isabella Sugden in 1610.

The track back to our starting point, whilst wet under foot, was well defined and offered a wonderful view of the Coquet Valley. Just before dropping down to the valley floor Mark thanked everyone for their company and wished a safe journey home. Everyone agreed that despite the showers, it had been a brilliant and most enjoyable day.


Mon 24th May 2021

Four Hillforts of the Coquet Valley - 2021

Four Hillforts of the Coquet Valley - 2021

It had been a wet day the day before, but thankfully today looked a lot brighter.

After meeting in Rothbury we headed to the first hillfort, Old Rothbury Hillfort.

Old Rothbury Hillfort is situated west of Rothbury on the northside of the valley and sits close to West Hills camp.

It has a double ring fortification though in places only a single ring is visible and there are traces of hut circles inside the enclosure.

It always seems a bit odd to find a hillfort half-way up a hill. You'd think it would have been too easy for attackers to lob missiles down from above.

But, the inhabitants of Rothbury must have had their reasons I suppose. The fort is on a nicely situated plateau, and there are traces of hut circles. They went to a bit of effort to build the double ditch and rampart system, though in some places there's just a single bank and ditch, as the natural slope is pretty steep.

After visiting this the first hillforts we headed off down Physic Lane and then made a quick detour off the lane to the second hillfort, West Hills Camp.

The site of West Hills Camp covers about 3 acres. This Iron Age hillfort is located on a spur overlooking a valley located to the south. The earthworks are well-preserved in their eastern and northern part where three lines of ramparts can be distinguished. There is a wide berm between two innermost ramparts.

It has never been excavated, although earlier field reports mention remains of hut circles, nowadays difficult to distinguish. East of the hillfort there are bedrock outcrops with Neolithic/Bronze Age rock art.

We then continued down Physic Lane to Thropton, after passing through the village before crossing the River Coquet. After passing across the valley bottom we continued up past Tosson Lime Kilm to Tosson Burgh Hillfort.

Tosson Burgh Hillfort occupies a very dramatic location, it is visible from miles away (even from Rothbury). It occupies a carefully chosen naturally defended site overlooking the Coquet valley to the north, west and east. Though there are no traces of habitation within the ramparts, the fort is unexcavated, and such features may survive below ground level.

The strong situation of Tosson Burgh hillfort suggests that it was intended for use as a fortification, though a public display of power and status may have been equally important.

Though evidence of habitation may yet be found inside the rampart, the fort is not large in area, in common with many other hillforts in Northumberland, and is unlikely to have supported any sizeable population. Smaller hillforts may have served as defended farmsteads established by autonomous small groups, rather than proto-urban centres.

After visiting this hill fort we continued to climb up to and over the Simonside Hills before dropping down to Lordenshaws Iron Age Hillfort.

Lordenshaw Hillfort comprises 3 ramparts separated by ditches and a counterscarp bank with a 2 metres high inner bank. Within the hillfort there are the remains of Iron Age hut circles. There are two entrances to the site, one to the east and one to the west. There are many rock art sites close by the hillfort.

It is a truly striking Iron Age hillfort.

From here we then dropped back down to Rothbury, a great walk with great company.