Great Hetha & White Law
Date: 15th August 2011
Distance: 8.1 miles
Ascent: 1938 feet
Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Start Grid Ref: NT893280
A splendid walk from Hethpool up on to Great Hetha and then on to the border ridge at White Law in the far north of the Cheviots.
Route Summary: Hethpool - Great Hetha - Trowupburn - Wideopen Head - Madam Law - Wideopen Head - White Law - White Law West Top - Eccles Cairn - St Cuthbert's Way - Elsdonburn - Hethpool
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: Although I have only been able to visit them infrequently the northern Cheviots are one of my favourite walking areas in the country. The main aim of this splendid walk was to explore some of the numerous small but shapely hills near the end of the Pennine Way.
Starting from the parking area just past the row of cottages that forms the small hamlet of Hethpool we quickly began our climb up on to Great Hetha, our first summit of the day. Almost immediately we had fabulous views of the College Valley, to my mind one of the most beautiful valleys in England.
The climb up on to Great Hetha was short but sweet. Apart from the cairn the summit was ringed by stones that are what remains of an ancient hill fort, one of a number in an area which also includes Yeavering Bell. Highlights of the view from Great Hetha were across the valley to Newton Tors and further south to the The Cheviot itself.
From Great Hetha we dropped over 100m in height to the isolated farmhouse of Trowupburn from where we picked up a lovely slanting path that climbed up to Wideopen Head from where there was a magnificent view of the upper reaches of Trowup Burn as it bites deep into the side of Black Hag. At Wideopen Head, whilst Lisa had a brief rest, I nipped up to bag the top of Madam Law. According to the map the latter has a tumulus on the summit but it looked just like a fairly average cairn to me. There was a nice view across to Coldsmouth Hill though.
After collecting Lisa back at Wideopen Head we then followed a fence up on to the top of White Law. Just across the fence there were some nice patches of purple heather which seemed to have attracted thousands and thousands of flies, it was quite an incredible sight. At the top of White Law we met another fence, this time the one that marks the Anglo-Scottish border which was crossed at a gate.
For a very brief time we followed the Pennine Way on the Scottish side of the fence before I made another detour to visit the summit of the unnamed but shapely west top of White Law which featured panoramic views across the Scottish Cheviots to the distant Eildon Hills above Melrose.
Our next destination, the small grassy knoll crowned by Eccles Cairn, was back across the border into England. At Eccles Cairn we stopped and had our lunch whilst savouring the views across into Scotland. We were also treated to a close up view of what I believe was a hen harrier trying to take down a pipit on the wing just a few feet above the ground. It probably would have done so it if had not veered away at seeing us only a few metres away.
From Eccles Cairn we basically followed the waymarked St Cuthbert's Way back to Hethpool. This included an interesting section through a very dark plantation in which, had there not been footpath waymarkers every ten metres or so, it would have been very easy to have got turned around in.
Shortly after exiting the plantation we finally got caught by one of the passing showers that we'd seen from afar earlier in the walk. It lasted most of the way back to Hethpool but did not affect our enjoyment of what had been a superb day out and one of my favourite walks of the year so far.