Date: 6th April 2014
Distance: 10.7 miles
Ascent: 2194 feet
Time: 5 hours 50 minutes
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NT893280
A super but very windy walk over the multi-topped Newton Tors high above the College Valley in the northern Cheviots.
Route Summary: Hethpool - Hethpool Linn - Torleehouse - Easter Tor - Newton Tors - Wester Tor - Hare Law - Coldburn Hill - Southernknowe - Sutherland Bridge - College Valley - Hethpool
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: On my two previous visits to the College Valley, in the far north of the Cheviot hills, I'd explored many of the hills on the western side of the valley straddling the Border Ridge. This walk allowed me to explore some of the features on the slopes above the eastern side of the valley whilst also allowing me to bag the summit of Newton Tors, one of the many Deweys to be found in the Cheviots.
Starting from the large car park just south of Hethpool I walked back past the lovely row of cottages before heading down a path that follows the College Burn downstream to just below Hethpool Linn. Views of the waterfall were largely blocked by gorse but a bit further down across the footbridge a fine Strid-like scene, where the burn is squeezed by a small gorge, could be seen quite well.
From just above the footbridge I followed the route of the St Cuthbert's Way past Torleehouse and then steeply up the hillside opposite Yeavering Bell. Here I took a stile in the wall to access a path, marked as a permissive path on my map but which now seems to be classed as a public footpath, that climbed up until I came to the option to detour out on to Easter Tor which I duly opted for.
It was on Easter Tor that I first felt the full strength of the wind that was tearing down the valley. It was with some difficulty that I managed to stand up on the largest of several rocky outcrops and rather than hanging about enjoying the views it was easier to continue on back to the main path making use of a waymarked loop that is not marked on my edition of the OL???
The main path does not visit the very top of Newton Tors but circles around it to reach Wester Tor. Therefore, before it started circling round I left the path to climb up through the heather to reach the trig point marking the summit. At this point, and quite unexpectedly, the cloud began to break and the sun came out. I got so excited that when I set up my tripod to get a photo of me next to the trig I didn't make it secure enough and the wind blew it over lens down straight into a small pool of water. Thankfully I got away with it and no damage was done.
The summit was very exposed to the wind and so once again I moved on fairly quickly to the prominent outcrop to the north of the trig point called Wester Tor. Positioned dramatically above the College Valley Wester Tor is one of those outcrops I'd normally love to stand and pose on for the camera but even I wasn't daft enough to attempt it in the prevailing wind. Instead I took shelter on the leeward side of the rocks to take a moment of respite from the wind and enjoy the sight of a rainbow in the valley to the north.
The skies darkened again as I made my way on to Hare Law but as I sat in the shelter of the large cairn marking the top the sun broke through again quite beautifully. The forecast for the day had been one of cloud so this was a rare example of the weather being better than forecast and this coupled with the quite fantastic views across the valley towards The Schil, Black Hag and the hillfort on Great Hetha put me in particularly high spirits.
Rather than following the path down from Hare Law all the way back into the valley I'd decided I wanted to push on and visit the top of Coldburn Hill. To reach the latter I had to cross a rough area of heather and tussocky grass. To add to the difficulties underfoot the heavens suddenly opened and I found myself walking face first into a gale blown shower. It was all I could do to slowly put one foot in front of the other and gradually move forward. It seemed to take an age but eventually I got there and as I did the sun came back out.
It was still very windy though and when I shot a short video clip of me reaching one of two cairns on the top of Coldburn Hill the strength of the wind almost stopped me from being able to reach out and touch the cairn. Having detoured out to this point I then had to make my way back towards the path, this proved to be much easier with the wind now slightly behind me. Along the way, I startled a roe deer which leapt out of where it was hidden in some nearby reeds just a few feet away from me and dashed away across the hillside. It was so quick that by the time I'd got my camera out it was already well out of range.
Once back on the path it was then a nice descent to the house at Southernknowe and then, after crossing the College Burn at Sutherland Bridge, an easy walk back to Hethpool along the quiet road. The views and scenery on this walk were first rate and while the wind was a problem at times the breaks of sunshine were a bonus. On a nice late August day with the heather in bloom it would be even better. The walk over Newton Tors is strongly recommended, the detour out to Coldburn Hill less so unless, like me, you feel the need to stand on top of just about every hill you can see.