It is a striking feature of the dark north face of the mighty Cheviot, yet it is not named on the current Ordnance Survey map of the area. In his fine 1926 book ‘Walks from Wooler’, W. Ford Robertson said it was both “beautiful” and “worth exploring”, a recommendation worthy of serious consideration by any self-respecting walker. However, access is far from straightforward and consequently this Cheviot gem appears to be rarely-visited. For the uninitiated, this is the steep and narrow ravine of the Goldscleugh Burn, a watercourse which rises a stone’s throw from the boggy summit of Northumberland’s highest hill and then finally, after a downhill journey of three kilometres, flows into the larger Lambden Burn.
Despite viewing this exceedingly tempting ravine from numerous distant vantage points over the years, I had never ventured through its tight V-shaped corridor. It was high time for a visit, but with short winter days rapidly approaching I needed to restrict the length of my walk. I therefore opted to concentrate on investigating the various possibilities for a future full length exploration at a time of year when the lack of daylight hours would be less of a concern.
And so it was that I set out from a sleepy Harthope Valley on an unbelievably calm autumn day, first to nearby Blackseat Hill and then down into the quiet and isolated Lambden Valley. Now nearly six kilometres into my journey, and about to head upwards to a point where I could gaze into the shadowed depths of this secretive valley, I had no idea what to expect. I took a quick sip of my drink, turned to my left and, with the mid-morning sun directly in front of me, began the steady uphill climb.
Once through an old harvested plantation I left the track behind and started to pick my way through knee-deep heather. Then came the bracken, golden brown and head-high, a dense forest of fronds making forward movement increasingly difficult. Still I plodded on, keeping close to a thin fence as I gradually eased my way across the steep slope of the hill. Next a sharp downhill turn in the fence and I stopped to consider my options. To my left, the deep cleft of the Goldscleugh Burn caught between the near-vertical sides of Bellyside Hill and the northern spur of The Cheviot and, to my right, a seemingly impregnable valley heading towards the lonely farmstead of Goldscleugh.
I was standing a couple of hundred metres above the part-hidden burn and whilst the route downwards was fraught with obstacles, I was keen to see if I could locate a waterfall I knew was marked on the Ordnance Survey map. Painstakingly I edged downwards, conscious that a misplaced boot-step could land me in difficulties. In the end discretion got the better of me and I reluctantly decided to go no further. I was now hovering just above the burn, on a slope of some seventy odd degrees and close enough to see that there was no waterfall in the immediate vicinity. It was a beautifully remote spot and I stood awhile listening to the sound of running water. Then it was time to begin my laborious retreat to higher ground. The day had not yet run its course.
by Geoff Holland © 2015
Geoff Holland is a regular contributor to a number of magazines and the author of four books of self-guided walks, ‘The Hills of Upper Coquetdale’, ‘The Cheviot Hills’, ‘Walks from Wooler’ and ‘Walks on the Wild Side: The Cheviot Hills’. All books can be purchased online from www.trailguides.co.uk. Geoff, who has lived in Monkseaton for over 40 years, also operates the award-winning website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. His poems have appeared in a number of publications.