Walking in the Cheviots

Back from a weekend walking in the Cheviots - a long drive there and back but worth it for a lovely Easter weekend in the snow ... and wind ... and hail. The sort of biting hail that feels like you're walking through needles and makes you realise that you need to upgrade your walking gear and that actually ski goggles wouldnt' be a bad idea.

We were staying in Mounthooly Bunkhouse in the College valley, very remote and a three mile drive into the valley down a very narrow road. No chance of driving out again if it snowed heavily unless you had a four-wheel drive. The bunkhouse was comfortable but cold. It was just as well that there were only eight of us as although it sleeps twenty, if it had been full, there would have been nowhere to sit and eat, never mind cook.

On day one we all set out to climb the Cheviot - not a mountain by mountaineers standards, in fact no more than a mere foothill, if that but it is the highest peak in the Cheviots Hills, after which they were obviously named. As we walked out of the bunk house and straight up the valley (nothing like having walks right on the doorstep) it got colder and windier the higher we got and there was low cloud over the tops of where we were headed but it was a case of see how far we get and if the weather changed, one way or the other. The weather got progressively worse the higher we got, so after sheltering out of the wind in a gully, we abandoned the walk and headed back downhill and spent the rest of the afternoon stoking up the wood burning stove, drinking tea and reading. In fact there were comments at various times over the weekend about 'the library' that developed each evening. Well, with no TV, no laptop and no mobile phone, it was an ideal opportunity to catch up on some reading.

The following day, the hills were still covered in snow and low cloud so Plan B was to head down to the coast for a walk with a short stop in the local town for supplies as we'd run out of milk already - all that porridge for breakfast and endless cups of tea from the biggest teapot ever.

Bamburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast is only a short drive from where we were staying and although the snow came down in pretty thick flurries, we made it along the B roads with only one car sliding to a gentle stop on the wrong side of the road as it took a corner a bit too fast. Wrapped up against the elements we took a short walk up along the beach. The Farne Islands are only just off shore, much closer than I'd expected and Lindisfarne is just up the coast, which was our second stop after a quick lunch in the pub to warm up. By the time we left the pub the snow had pretty much gone and although it was still cold and windy, the sun was out. Another short walk up around the shoreline across from Lindisfarne, spotting a few pairs of eider ducks in their natural habitat before heading back for more tea and cake.

On the final day, after overnight snow, there was some blue sky around, so we made a second attempt of the Cheviot and managed a good circular walk up onto the hills, through the snow and across the peat bog back down into valley. Only stopping briefly at the summit for a quick bite to eat and a warming drink as it was too cold and windy to hang around for long. It did warm up and the snow showers stopped as we walked back down into the valley. We had a great roast to look forward to that evening - roast chicken with all the trimmings and plenty of it. Food over the weekend was certainly plentiful with three 'chefs' nominated to cook each evening and everyone else chipping in to help out. Despite the walking and burning up calories to keep warm, with plenty to eat over the weekend and two course meals - the scales had gone up rather than down when I got home!

Read more detail of the trip in Sussex Nature Notes.
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