Date: 17th August 2011
Distance: 5.3 miles
Ascent: 1125 feet
Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NT903303
A rather awkward walk to the summit of Housedon Hill, the most northerly Marilyn in England.
Route Summary: Westnewton - Reedsford - Canno Mill - Crookhouse - Housedon Hill - Crookhouse - Cannon Mill - Westnewton
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: The single aim of this walk was to visit the modest summit of Housedon Hill, the northern most Marilyn in England. What should have been a simple there and back walk from Westnewton turned out to be anything but.
My planned route was immediately thrown out the window when I crossed over the road from Westnewton to find a sign saying that the footpath ahead was closed due to the loss of a footbridge over Bowmont Water. As the sign said the Canno Mill footbridge a mile or so upstream was open I decided to head for that or for the Reedsford bridge a bit further up.
After a mile or so along the road I came to the public footpath leading to the Reedsford bridge only to find a sign saying that the footpath ahead was closed as well due to the loss of the footbridge. Just to be certain I went for a look and indeed the bridge was laid out on the south bank of Bowmont Water but a horrible suspicion began to form in my mind that this was the bridge the earlier sign had been warning me about as well. Retracing my steps I followed a path downstream to Canno Mill and a footbridge which thankfully was intact so that I could finally cross over Bowmont Water.
After overcoming the first hurdle I then had to wade through a very overgrown section which featured lots of nettles, always an unpleasant experience when wearing shorts. If that wasn't bad enough when I at last got on a decent path, and within a few minutes of the section of access land that would enable me to climb Housedon Hill with a clean conscience, I was confronted with cows.
It has to be said that I really don't like having to pass cows especially when, as there was on this occasion, there are also calves. After the hassle I'd had getting this far I didn't want to be defeated by my bovinephobia so I very bravely, for me, walked past a few of them before I lost my bottle and made a beeline for a nearby fence bordering a plantation. My reasoning for this being that if any cows came too close I could leap over the fence to safety.
To my mind this proved to be a fortuitous move because a moment later a male calf decided to follow me and every few paces would turn its head and 'moo' to the rest of the herd in a most disquieting manner. Thankfully the other cows didn't seem as interested and after being followed for about 100 yards my pursuer finally gave up. As I couldn't face the cows again there was nothing for it but to make the direct climb up to the top.
It was a surprisingly steep climb which made the hill feel much higher than its 266m of height. As I reached the top the sun began to break through the clouds and I had a fantastic prospect south along the College Valley to the northern Cheviot hills. There was also a good view west into Scotland and the distant Eildon Hills.
To avoid the cows on my return I descended steeply to cross a small burn before picking up the bridleway on the western flank of Coldside Hill which I followed to Crookhouse and then back to Canno Mill. Thankfully the return proved to be much quicker and easier though once again my legs got badly stung by nettles.
Before returning to the car I decided to go and re-read the original sign warning of the footpath closure. As I had begun to suspect, and rather bizarrely, the footpath closed sign was warning of the loss of Reedsford Bridge and not the footbridge just 100 yards from the sign. In other words I could have crossed over Bowmont Water a few minutes into the walk and not 45 minutes later.
I can't really say this was an enjoyable experience as a walk, nettles and cows are not a good mix, never mind the problems with crossing over the river. On the other hand the views from Housedon Hill were excellent and undoubtedly made the whole thing worthwhile.