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St Cuthbert's Way Challenge Walk 2014

St Cuthbert's Way Challenge Walk 2014

Mon 11th August 2014

Guided group

Iím often asked before and during walks what the terrain ahead is like.  I interpret this question as – ĎAre there many hillls?í. Now life as a guide when asked this question can be tricky. Do you simply tell the truth knowing that this may be demoralising? Or do you come up with an answer that is economical with the truth and get caught out in the lie?

This challenge walk was no different as I was asked the question about what lies ahead shortly after getting off the bus. So immmediately Iím faced with the usual dilema. Except in the case of this walk there really is no dilema. Itís easy to describe the route as 3 climbs with falt bits in between.  What of course is not necessary to add is that the climbs are long and sustained. So I emphasise that the climbs are there and that they are an integral part of the challenge but the rewards of the effort is the endless beauty of the borderlands and the flat bits in between!

Starting at Morebattle walking eastwards from Scotland to England was a pleasure. The weather was good for walking. The air was clear, a breeze blew from behind and we made good progress over the first challenge within the challenge, climbing up and over Wideopen Hill (368m) and then down to Kirk Yetholm through the valley floor.  Climb one and section one successfully negotiated!

From Kirk Yetholm the route climbs again over the ridge from one valley into the next. This climb took us over the border to a high point of about 340m. We descended gently following the Elsdon Burn to Hethpool crossing the College Valley. Climb two and section 2 successfully negotiated!

From Hethpool there is a final climb but it is some way off as the route follows the contours at the base of Wester and Easter Tors. It is when it turns up the valley between Easter Tor and Yeavering Bell that the time for honesty in description is the only option, simply because the route is obvious. It climbs up and up until the watershed at about 340m when it flattens out and the effort all becomes worth it because of the view. And what a view – the sun was shining on the purple heather which was in full bloom provding a startling splash of colour on the flanks of the stunning slopes of the Cheviot Hills. Climb three successfully negotiated! But the challenge is not yet over. The walk from this point is easier than it has been but triedness makes it seem longer than it is – so it is with some relief when Wooler comes into sight and I can say with complete honesty that the route is ALL downhill from this point.

Great day. Well done to all who completed this challenge and a special word of thanks to the folk who I was walking with – we had one of the best days.

For the record the route covered 20.4 miles and we were walking for 9 hours and 10 minutes (which included 1 hour and 20 minutes of breaks) and therefore walked at an average pace of 2.2mph. The highest point was 374m and the total ascent was 1054m. A great challenge walk, with great company and in stunning scenery. What more could you ask for?

Chris Constable


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