Hedgehope, a very fine hill in Northumberland National Park
Hedgehope has the best views in the Northumberland National Park
Hedgehope, the second highest hill in the National Park is often overlooked as a destination. Walkers are drawn to its higher neighbour, The Cheviot, which is great hill to walk up, but the plateau on the summit, means the views are somewhat restricted by the nature of the landscape. The Cheviot has some great views on the way up to the top, from whichever direction you approach, but as I say not a lot to shout about from the Trig Point once you get there. Hedgehope on the other hand offers something different altogether.
Five years ago, my sister and I walked up to the summit of Hedgehope from Langleeford and that is a serious bit of uphill walking. Coming down it yesterday, I really couldn’t believe we’d taken on that slope, it’s ridiculously steep. We had gone on from there to the summit of The Cheviot, quite a walk, the two highest hills knocked off in a single day.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve avoided Hedgehope ever since, but the summit beckoned and the approach from Hartside in the Ingram Valley looked less steep so off I went. The walk takes you to the end of the road at Linhope Farm. I couldn’t resist a quick peek at Linhope Spout, always dramatic and I’ve enjoyed a wild swim there a few times this year. It’s looking cold now though, but in 2017 I’ll be going back for a swim or two in its chilly, turbulent pool.
Hedgehope is a steep hill and I was soon on a well-marked path and the upward slope was leading me towards the summit. It was a clear day and very quickly the views opened up, away to the south, I could see the distinctive Simonside Ridge, while to the west, the hills along the Salters Road were highlighted against the sky. This is red grouse country, their chuckling calls and sudden leaps into the air took them flying at speed across the heather moors; they’re a super bird and I was to see loads of them over the course of the day.
I paused for a break just below the summit, the wind was picking up and an extra layer was needed to ward off the chill factor. I could see showers sweeping in from the west, rain combined with the wind chill could have meant a cold soaking and I didn’t really want to end up in that situation. There was time to grab a sandwich and a biscuit, before turning uphill once again towards the top. I knew it was going to be worth the effort, the views were expansive where I was standing, but the impact of having a 360 panorama to relish was the reason why I was doing this.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed, it was amazingly clear and the views went on for miles and miles. To the east the Northumberland Coast with a blue sea and sky was glistening, a foreground of green woods and fields completed the picture. Lindisfarne sitting in a curve of golden sand was stunning; Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh Castles could also be seen, hunkered down on the coast. Below, the Harthope Valley with its wooded slopes was a familiar sight as I often walk that way. The Cheviot, just a few hundred yards away was wearing its cloudy crown as it often is, but it was lit up by the sun anyway and a rainbow was emerging from the depths of the Harthope Valley, just to complete the picture. Completing the scene, Yeavering Bell on the very edge of the Cheviot range to the north was visible; it looked small, which wasn’t the case when I had been walking up its slopes just a few days before. I could go on, but I think you get the picture; Hedgehope has the best views in the Northumberland National Park.
Over the years, a stone shelter has been built up around the Trig Point on the summit. It’s a little untidy, but it gave me shelter from the strong wind and I was thankful for that as I contemplated the descent from the summit of Hedgehope. You have to descend carefully; it is as I have said a very steep hill. But it was soon done and I was heading for the rocky outcrops of Long, Housey and Langlee Crags, which are impressive rocky features, jutting out of the landscape, all toothy and tough looking.
From there, the path continued across the moor, past grouse butts, quiet now as the grouse shooting season draws to a close. The birds themselves would leap noisily from the heather every now and again, making me jump on occasion. At Steel Crag on the edge of Threestoneburn Wood, I paused for refreshment, checked my bearings and began the last bit of the walk back to Hartside. A juggernaut timber lorry emerged suddenly from the edge of the forest, a touch surreal as it floated across the moorland road in front of me.
The last section followed a path through a wet and boggy field; grazed by sheep and cattle it was I thought a good place to see snipe, a winter visitor to these parts. Sure enough, four of these long beaked birds took to the air as I completed the stretch back to the car and journey’s end.
I’ll be back to do this journey again and it would be great to take people with me on a Footsteps guided walk to the summit of the hill with the best views in Northumberland, Hedgehope.
If you want to join us this or any of our other walks and for more about our guided walks in Northumberland, please visit www.footstepsnorthumberland.co.uk We look forward to walking with you in England’s best walking County.