When the grasses are high and the countryside is awash with the vibrant colours of mid-summer the long days of June offer the perfect opportunity to take a walk to one of the many idyllic spots in the Cheviot Hills. Last year I had a hankering to re-visit Davidson’s Linn some five crow-flown kilometres from the nearest public road and surrounded by the green cloak of the extensive Uswayford Forest. It is arguably the finest waterfall in Northumberland.
Over the preceding few days there had been a substantial amount of rain and, with the prospect of a waterfall at its bubbling best, I toyed with a number of slightly off-the-wall routes. In the end I settled on a starting point mid-way between Shillmoor and Barrowburn in Upper Coquetdale and, with the weather set fair, I headed off along the old valley road, now a delightful green track, to my initial climb through lonely Shillhope Cleugh.
The air was pleasantly warm as I followed a post and wire fence steadily upwards towards the saddle separating Inner Hill from Shillhope Law. A skylark honed its vertical take off skills as I reached the highest point of the climb and the views opened up. Ahead, the hills on the opposite side of the valley rose sharply towards the dark outline of the Kidland Forest whilst the deep indentation of Mid Hope drew my eye towards a distant Nettlehope Hill. Below and out of sight the thin thread of the Usway Burn beckoned.
So off I wandered downhill keeping the hillside-piercing Lee Cleugh close to my left-hand side. As I made my own tracks over sheep-cropped grass a solitary rowan tree caught my eye clinging to the side of the deep and narrow cleugh. I had to investigate and, after a small amount of scrambling, I discovered a tiny waterfall sneaking beneath the outstretched branches of this pretty mountain ash.
With a fording of the fast-flowing Usway Burn out of the question I made my way downstream, crossed one of three bailey bridges in the valley and pressed on past Batailshiel Haugh to start the long climb to Clennell Street. These days this once green cross-border route is nothing more than a gravel track as it passes along the harvested edge of the Kidland Forest. Although intrinsically uninteresting it does offer an opportunity to make rapid progress and I was soon on a slippery downhill trajectory towards the isolated farmstead of Uswayford. Over to my right the bleak slopes of Bloodybush Edge swept solemnly skywards.
Only the rhythmic chugging of a generator disturbed the silence of the morning as I slipped past Uswayford and on to a fording of the charming Clay Burn. Once into the forest I turned westwards and followed the Salter’s Road, another age-old cross-border route, for a short distance and then emerged into a clearing just above my main objective of the day.
After all the recent rain, Davidson’s Linn was dressed to the nines, a snow-white, froth-filled tumble of water fringed with a tangle of grass, rock and moss and scattered with a pale yellow shower of wild primroses. At its feet, lay a deep skinny dip pool, peat-brown and as fresh as dawn. I could have been tempted but I still had 6 miles to cover and the sharp climb to the highest point of my walk was beginning to occupy my mind.
by Geoff Holland © 2013
Geoff Holland is the author of four books of self-guided walks, ‘The Cheviot Hills’, ‘Walks from Wooler’, ‘The Hills of Upper Coquetdale’ and ‘Walks on the Wild Side The Cheviot Hills’ , is a regular contributor to ‘TGO (The Great Outdoors)’, ‘Country Walking’ and ‘The Northumbrian’ magazines and is the operator of the highly acclaimed website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. His books are available online from www.trailguides.co.uk or from all good bookshops and he can be heard reading a selection of his poems on www.listenupnorth.com. He has lived in Monkseaton for almost 40 years.