Jan 052013

The low-rolling Northumbrian hills enclose Elsdon in a loose embrace. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The plain and dignified stone houses of the ancient community stand scattered round their big diamond-shaped village green, which lies complete with a circular pound for stray animals (Elsdon was a famous stop-over for cattle drovers on the long road south) and the broad and handsome Church of St Cuthbert (the monks who were carrying the saint’s body away from Holy Island and its Viking marauders rested here over a thousand years ago).

As we set out across the sheep pastures on a brisk morning, yet more bloody and stirring Border history looked down on us from the stark stone battlements of Elsdon Tower, a grim pele or stronghold built when Scots and English raided each other and their own compatriots in a wild and lawless medieval era. Times have changed, however. We found a couple of contented coppers sitting outside the Elsdon Tea Rooms in the shadow of the pele, drinking tea and yarning with the owner.

Near Folly Farm a big brown hare leaped up almost under my boots and went away like a miniature racehorse, its long black-tipped ears erect as it sped off. We pulled up for a breather and to admire the blotchy tan-and-cream waves of heather and moor grass along the spine of the distant Simonside Hills. Frisky bullocks were cantering together in the fields at Fairneycleugh, and horses in red winter coats stood companionably nose to nose down at Soppit Farm.

This mid-Northumbrian landscape is all open country, big pasture fields, sedgy moorland and dark conifer blocks sitting together in a pleasing blend. You stride out more vigorously and breathe the clean air more deeply in such surroundings. Whomever the owners of Haining farmhouse may be, they are making a superb job of restoring their stone field walls, and they have planted a wide new woodland of native species – alder, rowan, willow, hazel, cherry and hawthorn.

Above Haining we crossed the ragged little knoll of Gallow Hill, looking down on a memorable view of Elsdon laid out below with the far-off Cheviot Hills standing grandly on the northern skyline. A notice board at Hillhead Cottage, warning of an application to build a clutch of wind turbines six times the height of the Angel of the North on pristine Middle Hill just alongside, was a sharp reminder of the views we can lose through simple lack of vigilance. It was a sobering thought to carry down the hill and back to Elsdon.

Start and finish: Village car park, Elsdon, Northumberland (OS ref NY938933).

Getting there: Elsdon is signposted off A696 (Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Jedburgh) between Kirkwhelpington and Otterburn.

Walk (6 miles, easy, OS Explorer OL42):
From car park, left into Elsdon. Cross ladder stile between Bird In Bush Inn and Elsdon Tea Rooms (936933, ‘The Folly’); ahead over fields (stiles, yellow arrows/YAs). In 3rd field, steer right of reservoir with mast to junction of tarmac lanes at stile (926940). Ahead (fingerpost) up drive past The Folly; in almost ½ mile, left off drive (920944; fingerpost) to Fairneycleugh farm. Go through gate across track (917940). Left down grassy track to Soppit Farm (920934, blue arrows/BAs), then on through trees to cross B6341 (922932, fingerpost) and on to Haining (YAs). Keep right of farmhouse; at yellow arrow post (925927) right for 50 m; left (YA) uphill through plantation on grassy track. Cross stile (926920). Left (BA) to cross road. On (fingerpost, ‘Hillhead Cottage’) over Gallow Hill (931919), keeping wall and fence close on left. 650 m after crossing road, go through gate (933919) and follow wall on right to Hillhead. At waymark post (939919, BA) go right; in 50 m, left through gate; cross cottage drive; through gate ahead (YA) along fence on left and through gate (940918, YA). Aim half right for Lonning House; cross next stile with 2 YAs; follow right-hand one towards Lonning House. Cross road; on down farm drive (943921, YAs). On across stable yard beside house (944921, YAs). In field beyond, aim diagonally left between electricity poles, descending to cross stile into lane at West Todholes (945925). Right to East Todholes. Just before farmhouse, left over ladder stile (946926, YA); in 50 m, at post with 2 YAs, keep ahead, descending beside plantation and through gate (946928, YA). Left along fence, follow YAs to cross Elsdon Burn (943929) and bear left. Aim for the corner of the fence on your left; turn 90o right here (941929, YA), aiming a little away from fence on your right to cross ladder stile in a bend of the stone wall far ahead (940931). Aim ahead for Elsdon Tower to return to car park.

Refreshments in Elsdon: Bird In Bush PH + B&B (01830-520804; Tues-Sat evenings, Sun from noon); Impromptu Tea Rooms (01830-520389); Coach House Tea Rooms (01830-520061)

Middle Hill Wind Turbines: middlehillactiongroup.com

Info: Alnwick TIC (01665-511333); visitnorthumberland.com
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk

 Posted by at 02:40

  3 Responses to “Elsdon and Gallow Hill, Northumberland”

  1. After seeing your Elsdon, Northumberland, walk appear in The Times a
    couple of weeks a ago, I decided to try it with three friends with
    whom I go walking with every fortnight, and I must say, we thoroughly
    enjoyed it. As you know, Northumberland has been very wet, along with
    the rest of the country, but apart from the second last field before
    retururning to the village (which was VERY wet) the going was not too
    bad. Thanks very much the guide, I’ll no doubt use more of your walks
    in the future.

    • Dear David,
      Thanks very much for this nice feedback. Really pleased to hear you enjoyed the walk, in spite of the wet feet.
      With good wishes,

  2. Dear David,
    we attempted this walk at the end of July 2019, but a few things have changed in the intervening years as much of the route has been neglected. At the start the ladder stile is nearly hidden behind vegetation and the field behind it is tricky to cross because of the height of the weeds. Luckily some intrepid soul must have walked that way recently as there was a very narrow path of pushed down vegetation we could follow. Eventually found the stile out of the field! Track to follow from that point has disappeared but keeping the resevoir in sight we did find the next stile. Route was straightforward to Fairneycleugh farm but again the grassy track to Soppit farm was indistinct. At Haining a grassy path has been cut from the bridge over the stream which now takes you directly to the point where you enter the plantation, no need to go 50m right. Crossing the road towards Gallow Hill the fingerpost to “Hillhead Cottage” is no longer there. At the point where you head half right to Lonning House and meet 2 stiles things get difficult especially with a dog, as the stiles are very overgrown and not in the greatest of conditions. Looking over the field to Lonning House no track was visible and the route blocked by bracken, thistles and the usual type of vegetation you don’t really want to get into, particularly when it is up to neck height with some lovely hidden ditches! The Schitzu did not enjoy. Got to the road after an eternity at which point we debated returning to the start via the road. We decided to carry on over the stile into the next field. Big mistake. Accosted by two very curious, LARGE, horses who would not leave us alone to the point of being buffetd on the shoulders and back by their heads. Clearly they wanted some attention and were not going to leave us be. By this time the dog was in my arms and the wife was in tears as although we do not mind horses in the least this was getting a bit too full on physical. Time to exit back to the road and return to Elsdon. On the plus side there were some spectacular views on the route we managed to complete. Oh, as a last point and not something to worry yourself about as it was not part of your description but for anyone reading…..I now know there are no gallows on Gallows Hill despite some photos on the web!! Happy walking!

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