Nowadays I rarely have a definite route in mind when heading for the Coquet Valley, it tends to manifest itself during the drive up. This time I fancied something familiar but slightly different, so a clockwise circuit of Windy Gyle from Trows Rd End fitted the bill. Hopefully I’d be finishing with a late blast up Shillhope Law so the plan was amended to make a first ever start from Wedder Leap car park. Reckoned I’d appreciate the car being closer for the descent. First surprise was how busy Wedder Leap was and the second was finding convenient benches for boot changing. Now this was handy so I’m petitioning the National Park to install benches at all my usual parking slots – even the ones in the far north Highlands, sounds reasonable to me. It was a late start as I’d been videoing my Tits, as you do (erm better include a link).
- Distance = 13 miles (21 km)
- Duration = 5 hrs 35 mins, (start 12.55pm, finish 6.30pm)
- Total Ascent = 2,922ft (891m), max height Windy Gyle 2,031ft, 619m
- Start/Finish = Wedder Leap Car Park, Barrowburn
- Date = Sunday 1st June, hazy sun, nice breeze,
- Total people seen = 6 (only 3 couples)
- Click on the interactive Route Map below to zoom in/out
At last a decent mild forecast meant I could walk light for the first time this year in shorts, T shirt and with my favourite 18 ltr Camelback sack. Walking in shorts and light boots gives me that Braveheart ‘FREEDOM’ feel.
The National Park Wedder Leap Car Park just before the Barrowburn Tea Room. This is a 15 min drive west of Alwinton along a scenic single track road, but mind the sheep and beware hidden potholes. It has a special feel up here in the Coquet Valley.
Route Summary (over 5 stages)
- Wedder Leap up the ancient bridleway of The Street to Mozie Law (1hr 40mins)
- Mozie Law along the Pennine Way to Windy Gyle (40 mins)
- Windy Gyle via the Border Gate down Clennel St to The Middle (1hr 10mins)
- The Middle via Fairhaugh & Kyloe Shin up to Shillhope Law (1hr 10 mins)
- Shillhope Law back down to the car at Wedder Leap (30 mins)
Route Detail & Pics from Sunday 1st June 2014
Stage 1 – Wedder Leap Car park to Mozie Law (1,811 ft, 552 m) – 1hr 40mins; First time in this pleasant car park with an interesting info board explaining this was the site of a thriving community years ago. Not sure how old that bench was but it came in handy and once booted up I turned left for a nice & easy 15 min road walk along the river Coquet past Barrowburn Tea Room. This was a new angle on familiar hills so inadvertently I ended up walking backwards for a few seconds whilst looking at a possible descent from Shillhope. Suddenly my phone & poles went flying and I hit the deck with a thump – now who the hell put that bloomin cattle grid there!!! Luckily only a slight bruise so I gingerly carried onwards arriving 5 mins later at Trows Rd End (my usual start point) having kept a watchful eye for stray cattle grids. I’m sure that last one crept up on me.
This is Trows Rd End which used to house the Slymefoot pub and also marks the start of an ancient bridleway The Street, (wonder which came first the pub or bridleway). The Street is one of my favourite descent routes from Windy Gyle with good views and a gentle gradient for tired knees. Last time I tried it in ascent it seemed less fun but this time it turned out very pleasant indeed. Much better weather this time mind, it was blowing a gale before. The route curves up by Bought Law & Swineside Law to meet the Pennine Way then north east up across to Windy Gyle but I decided to add a 1/2 mile diversion off west to Mozie Law before retracing steps. Why, because it’s there, actually I just fancied adding a top even though it’s uninspiring and I’d done it before. Sometimes I’m just a top tart; (should rephrase that).
Mozie Law is a quirky name for a grassy lump, if it wasn’t for the unexciting summit feature of a wooden post you’d never know you were on a top:-) Anyway here I arrived for a 5 min food stop before retracing steps along the paved Pennine Way to head directly up for Windy Gyle. Note of caution, some of the slabs are covered in water but beware putting your boot off the pavement for any reason unless sure of your footing. You’ll never be seen again, poles come in handy for probing 🙂
Stage 2 – Mozie Law to Windy Gyle via Pennine Way (2,031ft, 619m) – 40mins; A short section from Mozie Law turning back down the Pennine Way paving slabs to rejoin The Street. The view is somewhat more pleasing in this direction with the bulk of Windy Gyle dominating the horizon. The route keeps roughly to the high ground and across what I call the ‘Windy Gap’ of Windy Gyle then a short pull up to the impressive summit cairn and shelter. The fence also marks the Scottish border so hop over quickly as you might need a passport soon 🙂
Windy Gyle is my favourite spot in the Cheviots (so far) a fitting highlight to any Cheviot’s walk with wonderful views particularly northwards. Some of my other posts mention the interesting history – bronze age burial mound, murders, whisky smugglers, aliens, (made the last one up). You’re exposed to the weather up here so it’s good to find that summit shelter lives up to it’s name and I’ve enjoyed many flasks of tea sat in here. Today though was mild, breezy and a bit too hazy for decent pics. Annoyingly some of the stones have been scratched on recently, looks like foreign names, very pointless and irritating. Apart from that I love it up here and find it difficult to leave it out of any route.
Stage 3 – Windy Gyle, Border Gate, Clennel St to The Middle (1hr 10 mins);- Never easy leaving Windy Gyle, unless your hands are numb with cold after taking too many photos:-) From the cairn the Pennine Way is rejoined by walking a few yards south to meet the fence and cross over the stile. Jump the mud to follow the pavement east down to the Border Gate past another couple of cairns.
First time I’ve hopped over to this cairn from the path and then noticed the familiar star topped metal post was missing. You can just see it in the photo below. Doubt it’s got any significance but managed to wedge it back up at a slight angle before continuing down.
That log in the photo above makes a good seat if ascending this way. From here turn south along Clennell St another ancient bridleway used by farmers to take their livestock to English markets. Also used by whisky smugglers and today a scary old guy in shorts & knee supports. The next section starts on flattish open moorland with limited views but is a means to an end.
The landscape soon changes as Clennell St drops down to meet the Usway Burn which is followed for the next hour & a half. Another crosspaths below where Clennell St heads to the forest above the hut. After a short bait stop our route goes right up and over a small fun hill called The Middle. For some reason I like it here, nice situation looking up the Usway valley.
Stage 4 – The Middle via Fairhaugh & Kyloe Shin to Shillhope Law (1,644ft) 1hr 10mins); Now for another change of landscape as the route passes through a short section of forest. Rather than go straight south over Middle Hill it’s always preferable to divert down to the remote cottage of Fairhaugh. This means turning down a dark ghostly unnerving path known as the Forest of Death – so called due to the ancient legend;-“Deep in Fairhaugh forest lies darkness, death and prickly pine cones” Nope I made it all up, but it can be very dark and very quiet, love it. Just a hint of dark coniferous forest is enough.
Assuming you make it through in one piece the path follows the west side of the Usway Burn south west past Fairhaugh which was boarded up but can be hired out and must make a cracking base for a walking holiday here.
After a short ascent through less dark trees open ground is reached at a stile and gate. The usual option would be to descend straight down to Barrowburn on an excellent track following the Hepden Burn. However to make the day more fun I headed left up over Kyloe Shin and followed high ground for the ascent up to Shillhope Law.
The area is dominated by greeness with no rocks in sight, except for one famous legendary ancient rock I often sit on, locals call this the Marts Arse Stone, honest they do.
Lack of hill fitness was catching up and I’d not been as quick as usual, it had been tempting to carry straight down to Barrowburn and the car but I was determined to take advantage of a day in the hills and get the best from it. Even if it killed me 🙂 I like Shillhope it’s somehow more than a grassy bump and provides excellent views up the Coquet Valley. I’ve had the shite scared out of me by huge artillery barrages from the nearby Otterburn ranges, I’ve seen the Lakeland Fells & today I was here at the end of the day instead of the start. Sitting against the trig point gives you a view of most of the route.
Stage 5 – Shillhope Law back down to Wedder Leap (30 mins); Now one great thing about finishing high on Shillhope is the comforting feeling that the car is close AND it’s downhill all the way! The descent is down the ascent path veering off north west towards Barrowburn. I fancied checking out a rock feature I’d spotted just before reversing into the cattle grid earlier. Sometimes if you’re lucky you might catch a fleeting glimpse of a couple of horses in this area. They are very shy and always keep their distance so you must be very quiet shhhhh – oh hold on they’re behind me. Ok they aren’t exactly shy.
I found the rocks which gave a view down to Wedder Leap and more great views over Barrowburn and up the Coquet valley. It was almost worth encountering the cattle grid.
From the rocks I descended north west down towards Barrowburn but turning sharp left at the deerhut to pick up a path to Wedder Leap (bottom left in pic above. This follows a wall to a gate where you follow a line of trees to the small footbridge over the Coquet. Remember to look down as it’s deep, very deep, see the story on the info board at the start. (I discovered 2 weeks later you can also reach the gate directly west from the rocks).
Another rewarding day in the Cheviots and apart from 3 couples my only company was the birdies with innumerable Skylarks and Wheatears.
Must revise my preference for anti clockwise routes to Windy Gyle, this was good fun and as always there’s alternatives depending on fitness and available time etc. Lucky having this area just over an hours drive away, it’s not the Lakes but there’s a lovely green peaceful quality to the place.
Some alternate routes round here;-
- Same route anti clockwise from Trows Rd End (missing our Mozie Law)
- Alternative 13 miler inc Bloodbush edge & Davidsons Linn
- Slightly shorter route missing out The Sreet (10 miles)
- Longer route from Trows Rd End inc Lamb Hill 15 miles
PS. Times are what it took me on the day, sometimes I’m quick, sometimes slow, these will vary for others depending on fitness, conditions, rest/photo stops etc. I did this walk 2 weeks later thinking I was faster – and I was 20mins slower 🙂