The first time I headed up Mid Hill, an outlier of the mighty Cheviot, foul weather had forced a quick change of route when I was a mere 600 metres short of the summit. A necessary step in the interests of personal safety but one that had left me somewhat frustrated. Fast-forward two hill-packed years and I was up and away on a crystal clear September morning intent on completing what I had set out to do all those many months before.
There is no simple way to reach the start of the climb up Mid Hill and I chose to approach from the Harthope Valley, a walk of just under four undulating miles. These were easy miles spent wandering through swathes of honey-scented, bee-busy heather, brushing past dew-damp, waist-high bracken with an immaculate blue sky overhead. Time hurried by all too quickly and soon I was standing at the point where the Bizzle and Bellyside Burns collide before they tumble, bodies entwined, into the Lambden Burn, a delightful watercourse I had followed for the last two lazy miles.
I now began my journey upwards, first along a faint track through grassland dusted with yarrow, white turning pale pink, and then, more steeply, on an indistinct path through heather speckled with patches of wavy-hair grass, delicate flower heads hanging motionless in the still morning air. Ahead, just visible above the brow of the next rise, the cold grey rock of Bizzle Crags rose vertically towards the cloudless sky.
I stopped to gather my breath, a break to enjoy the view behind me over Dunsdale, a holiday cottage, white-walled and pretty in a patchwork of greens. In the distance, the College Valley squeezed into the scene, rounded hillsides littered with plantations, conifers in regimented blocks, a hint of Cuddystone Hall beyond the working farm of Southernknowe. Upwards again, steady going through eye-catching bog asphodel, saffron-coloured and screaming out “damp ground”. Then a variety of grasses, wild bilberry in abundance and a conical-shaped walker’s cairn, remembered from my previous visit, with spectacular views into the vast ice-carved bowl of The Bizzle.
I adjusted direction, turning south easterly and began picking my way across random patches of loose grey rock, stepping stones to flatter ground. Ahead, as the gradient gradually eased, a large rambling shelter cairn came into view cast adrift in a small sea of moss-encrusted stone, a rough refuge in a wild and exposed place. I had finally reached the top of Mid Hill. I paused awhile and, as I stood looking out across the vast Northumberland landscape of rolling hills and distant fields, miniscule from that elevated place, the only sound I could hear was the call of an unseen bird.
I wallowed in the silence and for a brief moment in the hugeness of time and space I felt absolutely alone, a rarity in our frenetic technology-driven world. But all things must pass, and with a list of interesting places still to visit on my 12 mile circular walk, I needed to press on. As I did, I spotted a peacock butterfly on a nearby rock and alongside a solitary crowberry hanging from a cluster of bright green leaves. It was, I thought, time for lunch.
by Geoff Holland © 2015
Geoff Holland has contributed to a number of magazines and is 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.