It was early March and, meteorologically speaking, spring had officially arrived. The days were beginning to lengthen and there was plenty of colourful new growth popping up in gardens all along the coast. However, I had heard on the grapevine that the recent overnight local rain had fallen as snow on the high ground of the Cheviot Hills. Winter, it seemed, still had a few words to say on the subject of changing seasons.
I was keen to take full advantage of a promising weather forecast and a trip to Upper Coquetdale seemed like the perfect way to discover whether or not there was still a smidgeon of snow on the lonely border hills. I packed my micro-spikes just in case and, after a bright Monkseaton start, I was disappointed to be met by thick low level cloud as I pulled onto the riverside verge beneath the slopes of Barrow Law.
I had mapped out a slightly off-the-wall route to a very familiar place and was eager to be on my way. So, with a gentle breeze on my back, off I went up the well-trodden route of the cross-border track ‘The Street’ to the encouraging song of an unseen skylark. Ahead, the distinctive conical-shaped Swineside Law marked the point where I would leave this popular route behind and make my own way to the border ridge. It was an unusual approach and one that had tickled my taste buds for a number of years.
I descended to the Carlcroft Burn and followed a contouring and narrow sheep track across the lower slopes of Black Braes to the point where the Easthope and Westhope Burns converge. Ahead, lay the pathless steep-sided southern spur of distant Mozie Law and the start of my climb to higher ground. I began the steady slog first over a carpet of tufted grass and then through knee-high heather. Finally, muscles well and truly tested, I reached the gloriously rounded top of the first part of this interesting southern spur. Standing at a height of 465 metres and surrounded on all sides by extremely steep slopes this is, for all intents and purposes, a separate hill with its own distinctive identity. As such, it deserves to be named.
By now the sun had broken free and the views into the adjoining secluded valleys were simply awesome. To my right, near-vertical slopes rose majestically to the border-hugging Plea Knowe whilst, to my left, cleugh-indented walls of dark brown heather climbed sharply to Beefstand Hill, 562 metres above sea level and the highest point between where I was standing and the border crossing at Carter Bar some 15.5 kilometres away. I was spell-bound, truly contented with my first visit to this delightfully isolated spot.
But there was little time to rest on my laurels as I still had the second part of the spur to climb before I reached Mozie Law. So down I went to a narrow col and then sharply uphill locating as I climbed a faint energy-saving quad track. In time the gradient eased and the panorama opened out like a fan. I was surrounded by crystal clear distant views, a plethora of shapely winter hills on both sides of the thin border fence with snow-speckled Cheviot dominating the far horizon. In the mid-distance I could see Windy Gyle, my ultimate destination. I was now on familiar ground and with many more miles still to walk, I headed west.
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 40 years, also operates the award-winning website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. His poems have appeared in a number of publications.