Northumberland Meet – Barrowburn in the Upper Coquet Valley 23 – 26 August, 2018
Coordinator: Carol Pettifar
Present: John Anderson, Peter Barrans, Andy Dyson, Mark Stock, Karen Stock, Malcolm Hopkins, Carol Pettifar.
Stunningly beautiful in its bleakness, the Upper Coquet valley is one of the most remote parts of Northumberland – Barrowburn nestles beneath the imposing flanks of Shillhope Law, in the Northumberland National Park. The Old School House opened by a gypsy in the late 19th century, closed in the 1970’s and is now run as a Camping Barn. The Deer Hut was the teacher’s house. Sole occupancy was booked for both self-catering units and the use of two kitchens proved very useful.
The meet got off to a fine start with a visit to The Rose and Thistle in Alwinton, 6 miles away. After quite a few pints we returned to pizzas cooked in both kitchens! Karen produced a delicious Quinoa dish as starter. The meal was rounded off with meringues (left over from a previous meet) and berries with Greek yogurt.
A bright and sunny start to Friday galvanised everybody into action and everybody settled for Windy Gyle and the Scottish Border. JA, PB, AD, MH and CP decided on a classic 11mile clockwise circuit of Windy Gyle, starting with a short walk along the tarmac lane to pick up an ancient drovers’ road to the summit. This is ‘The Street’ which connects Upper Coquetdale and the Kale Water Valley. A steady climb, curving up by Bought Law and Swineside Law and onto the Border Ridge and the Pennine Way, we followed the border fence and then crossed over into Scotland north-east to reach the summit of Windy Gyle. MS and KS, who had taken a direct route, arrived at the summit at the same time. The hard work to get here added to the euphoric feeling as we stood at the top with England on the one side and Scotland on the other. Russell’s Cairn at 2,030 feet (619 metres) is believed to be a Bronze Age burial site – the views and the atmosphere were amazing but the cold wind and threatening rain wasn’t conducive to hanging around for too long.
From the cairn MS and KS turned west along the Border Ridge heading mainly downhill towards the descent path of ‘The Street’ and stunning views of the Coquet Valley as they dropped down to Barrowburn. MH took a direct route from the cairn down to Barrowburn via Rowehope Farm where he asked an attractive young lady for directions.
JA, PB, AD and CP continued along the PW heading east-north-east until the path eventually reached another ancient drovers’ way (Clennell Street) and the route down. Here we left the PW and the landscape soon changed as Clennell Street dropped down to meet the Usway Burn, the route then continued over a small hill called The Middle. Finally, following Hepden Burn we dropped down to the camping barn.
Thirsty business lounging around in the sun! So, off to the Rose and Thistle for Pre-dinner drinks… had the cook foregone the pre-dinner drinks, the meal would not have been dished up after 9.30! Not helped by the fact that the camping barn’s oven barely worked and all the cooking had to be transferred to the Deer Hut’s tiny oven, involving much dashing back and forth! The meal consisted of Morrison’s Fragrant Thai Carrot Soup; the Bobotie eventually heated through and was carried from The Deer Hut to the camping barn in a Morrison’s bag (in the rain)… in all the chaos the rice was forgotten! The meal ended very late with mango & passion fruit fool.
Andy’s cousin Jenny joined us on Saturday – the last dry day of the weekend. Mark and Karen were first out and drove west along the valley for about 4 miles and parked at Buckham’s Bridge from where the most obvious choice of line to reach the Border Ridge was to immediately ascend Yearning Law to Lamb Hill and the refuge hut at Yearning Saddle. After a welcome breather they turned west along the Border Ridge and eventually left the PW to join a bridleway over Deel’s Hill and back to the car.
Parking 2 cars at Buckham’s Bridge, JA, PB, AD & J, MH and CP headed west, following Buckham’s Walls Burn as far as an old sheepfold where the stream forked. So far the walk had been lovely with its surroundings of steep valley slopes. Unfortunately, there was also a horrid side to it due to the amount of dead sheep that we walked past. Not just the odd individual sheep but also clusters of them, all rotting. At the sheepfold, the route took a right-hand fork onto Rennies Burn in a more northerly direction. The footpath on the map in reality ceased to exist and the going became increasingly rough. Still feeling the effects of the day before, MH turned back and returned to Barrowburn along the road. Meanwhile the remaining group took a line of least resistance up to the Border Ridge and the refuge hut where we met Karen and Mark heading in the opposite direction towards Deel’s Hill.
From the refuge hut we followed the PW east along the ridge over Lamb Hill. The scenery was beautiful all around, and the rolling hills stretched as far as the eye could see. To the right was the expanse of Northumberland National Park, and to the left, Scotland. Next up on the ridge was Beefstand Hill followed shortly by the summit of Mozie Law after which we left the PW and followed The Street down to the road and back to Barrowburn. After tea and biscuits, Jenny very kindly dropped AD and CP at Buckham’s Bridge to collect their cars.
Another relaxing afternoon followed by a few pints at the Rose and Thistle. The meet ended with Sausage & leek hash and melon desert followed by cheese & biscuits.
The forecast was spot on and all Sunday was good for… was going home!