The Cheviot Hills ---- Greenhead to Kirk Yetholm ---- 67 miles ---- 5 days

After Greenhead came the Hadrian's Wall day. As our book suggested, we had planned a short day, just eight miles, in order to have time to appreciate the Wall. We spent a couple of hours in the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran, partly because we liked it, but also because it was pouring rain outside and we had an early lunch in their little cafe. Hadrian's Wall, at least on these ten miles on this day and the next, goes constantly steeply uphill and down. It follows the crest of the craggy Whin Sill, a ridge of dolorite that extends across England. The wall was originally about 16 feet high, and now varies from about six feet down to nothing. Sometimes it's buried, and sometimes the stones have been taken. After the Romans left, in the fourth century, local people used the stones for their buildings. Our hosts that evening said that their house definitely had stones from the Wall in its walls.  
 

 

Once every Roman mile (1620 yards) they had built a Milecastle. These held about fifty men as patrols for sentry duty. The one shown here, with traces of interior walls, is Milecastle 39.

The loughs, or lakes, in this area are in depressions created during the ice age by slowly moving ice sheets. They are all shallow, and are slowly filling in with reeds. They will all become bogs in the fairly near future. Though there were four loughs visible from here, it's Crag Lough in both these photos, first as we were walking toward it, and then as we looked back at it. The path had gone across the top of Highshields Crags above the lough, then down through a pretty woods, before the climb (in this photo) up to Hotbank Crags. The Whin Sill crags over which we had come yesterday can be seen extending toward the west.

Soon after this we had to say goodbye to the wall and turn north again.

 
 

Wark Forest came next, after a couple of miles. The Border Forests are the largest commercial plantations (logging forests) in Britain. The Pennine Way goes through three segments of Wark Forest, and a day later through Kielder Forest. The route was easy to follow, and the dark spruces were a diversion from the usual treeless landscape. (In this photo, Judy and Rob had just passed us.)

There was a moorland crossing (with a surprising 20-foot waterfall suddenly appearing), followed by farmland, after we crossed Warks Burn.

 

After several miles of farms and pastures, we climbed a field up to Shitlington Crag (in the distance in this photo). We climbed the crag, admired the view, and then crossed a heather moorland before dropping down to Bellingham for the night.

That had been Monday, the Bank Holiday Monday of the Queen's Jubilee celebration. We had been seeing some signs of the celebration in villages and farms, mostly lots of flags.There had been a fair that day in Bellingham, and our hosts for the evening had just arrived home from it. They greeted us wearing their "king and queen" crowns, made for them by their grandchildren. They went out to a dance for the evening, giving us their house key to get in after our dinner at the pub.That was the evening of incredible fireworks at Buckingham Palace, and we watched on their TV as the Queen lit a fuse to start them off. She seemed to like them, too! Then there was the fly-by, low over the Mall, of the Concorde and six fighter jets spewing red, white, and blue trails. It really was breath-taking!  

Soon after Bellingham we were again crossing hillside pastures, followed by another heather moor.A few hours later, we had lunch while sitting comfortably on the heather beside the good path up Padon Hill.

   

 

  But a mile or so later came a somewhat unpleasant mile of difficult marshland, called Brownrigg Head. It's slow going, hopping from one somewhat solid tuft of grass to another. That was followed by several miles of gravel road through Redesdale Forest before coming to the farm of Blakehopeburnhaugh. (Hope=sheltered valley, burn=hill stream, haugh=flat land beside a river.) Here we joined a little river, the Rede, for the last few miles into Byness. Byrness is a small community, most of its houses built for forestry workers. But as one arrives one passes a pretty little village church.

After a night in Byrness, we started on the final segment of the Pennine Way. We divided this 27 mile section in two, but since there's no place to stay on the route, many people do it in one day. We climbed steeply up through trees on Byrness Hill, to arrive at the open views on the top. It was now a walk up and down hills, with wide majestic views of the Cheviot hills stretching out in the distance. The weather forecast had been dire -- heavy rain and winds -- but for the morning it held off and we appreciated every minute of thhe scenic walking.

After a few miles we had our first meeting with the border fence. This is the border between England and Scotland, and we were to follow it, or near it, for much of this day and the next. When we first encountered it we crossed it into Scotland for a short time, returning a mile later into England at Chew Green Roman Camp. At this point the camp is all grass covered, and one has to imagine the buildings.

 
  By lunch time the cloud had come down, hiding everything -- path as well as view -- and we stopped to eat in a well-situated wooden hut. There's one on each of the last two days, for use in bad weather. We joined Judy and Rob, and Pauline and Peter, on the benches around the side walls. By the time we started out again it was raining, and it continued for the rest of the day. We stopped for a photo in the cloud, at Russell's Cairn on Windy Gyle (with Judy, taken by Rob).

Not much later we had arrived at the Border Gate, the point where an ancient track crossed the ridge. Here we left the Pennine Way and turned southeast for the mile and a half drop down to Uswayford Farm. This is the only possible overnight stay near the Pennine Way on that last 27-mile section. This was the first booking that we had made; if they hadn't had room, we'd have chosen a time when they did and rearranged our schedule! When we arrived at the farm, I was just about to knock on the door when a man drove up on his tractor. The moment that I started my question, "Is this Uswayford Farm?" it flashed into my head what his answer would be. Someone on a web page had written that he had asked exactly that question, and had been told "No, it's two miles away, across that next mountain!" So I was prepared, and not devastated as I would have been otherwise, when he gave that very same answer!

The six of us who had had lunch together were all staying at the farm, in her three guest bedrooms, and we all very much enjoyed being there. Nancy Buglass made us a good dinner and we all sat and talked for a long time. The pictures show Uswayford, with the house and barn joined together for the severe winters, and Thann putting on his boots the next morning, in glorious sunshine that lasted for a while, at least -

and then walking down their farm road as we left:

After climbing back up the mile and a half to the border fence, we rejoined the path beside it. Clouds were swirling around, but the weather was good for most of the day.

The flagstones were again welcome, as this stretch used to be notoriously boggy. In the areas where they had not yet been laid, we had to make our way around the wet parts, making us all the more appreciative.

This is a view looking back toward Hen Hole, a "hanging valley", with a waterfall deep in its recesses. We had come down from Auchope Cairn, the hill on the right:

The next hill was called the Schil. Views from the top were unfortunately non-existent, because we were again in a cloud. It was a bit eerie, because jet planes from some military base were zooming by overhead with deafening noise but invisible. After the Schil we were on the final stretch. We crossed the border fence into Scotland, with just four miles left. Our friends Judy and Rob, who had taken a slightly different route after the border fence crossing, waited for us where the paths met, to walk the final mile together. And then there it was, the Border Hotel!

 

 

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