I had for a wee while harboured a wish to create a website which showcased the beautiful Cheviot Hills and made available a selection of my own favourite walking routes to the world at large. I had no particular plan, just a vague idea of how I might develop something which would be a catalyst for fellow walkers to get out and about into the wide open spaces of Northumberland’s border country.
In 2005, with injury having forced me to finally give up fell running, I began to sketch out some initial ideas. I very quickly got into my stride as I headed out into the hills as often as I could, walking and photographing a handful of potential routes. I wanted to offer something a little bit out of the ordinary, routes that were not already in the public domain, a fresh perspective on the walking possibilities available in our quiet local hills. Why, I thought, reinvent the wheel when there was a whole new world of walking just waiting to be discovered?
So it was, on New Years Day 2006, that my fledgling website first appeared online with a modest nine unique walking routes available to the, as yet, unsuspecting public. These initial routes were all of the slightly longer variety, ranging from the lung-bursting 23 mile, The Big One, to the more manageable 10.5 mile long, High Above The Coquet. I was after all 10 years younger and on the rebound from 35 years of fairly intensive running with energy still to burn.
I now needed to use every tool available to publicise the existence of my website, a brand new resource for walking in the Cheviot Hills. Establishing a high profile on the available web browsers was a priority and, once this had been done, I set about arranging reciprocal links with other related websites, such as holiday cottage letting agencies, bed and breakfast providers and the Northumberland National Park Authority. Amazingly, ten years ago, the range of these websites was extremely limited but still all very useful in starting to attract an audience to my very young website.
A further seven routes were added in 2006 and by the time the website celebrated its ninth birthday a total of thirty-nine routes, along with a series of articles, poems and other information, were available to an audience which had grown beyond my wildest dreams. It has never ceased to amaze me, as I sit at my computer in a quiet street in Monkseaton, that the vast tentacles of the internet are stretching out to the four corners of the world, making my very modest website available to an unimaginable number of people.
In the final analysis, it has been a labour of love which has afforded me the opportunity to acquire an imitate knowledge of the Cheviot Hills. Yet, there is still more to discover. The rewards have been great, not in any monetary sense but in respect of the feedback I have received from a string of enthusiastic website users. Perhaps this can be best summed up by these few words I received in 2014: “Finding your website all those years ago was a major factor in giving me the enthusiasm to get out and explore. It led me onto a path that eventually took me to Nepal and Everest base camp last December and to competing in the Chevy Chase for the first time”. I shall leave it at that.
by Geoff Holland © 2016
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.