DATE                                   08.07.06

DISTANCE                        4 .95 MILES

WEATHER                        DULL BUT WARM

START / FINISH               OFF ROAD PARKING NEAR MOUNTHOOLY BUNKHOUSE 

The Hen Hole

Once again I had spent a fair amount of time using the all knowing Google to find something / anything about the Northumberland National Park that looked interesting anything from old farm ruins, hidden gems, waterfalls etc. etc. and sure enough Google spat out a few things that caught my interests after reading what little bit of info I could about lots of stuff one thing stood out ………..The Hen Hole on the side of the Cheviot so that was it, our next walk would be heading out/ up  that way to see it . I Knew that my ability wouldn’t be up to hiking right up the waterway into the crags and up to the Cheviot itself but after looking at a few routes and maps I figured that we could have a day in the area, follow the burn up to a few of the waterfalls at the entrance of the Hen hole but more importantly it would give me first hand knowledge of the area so when I got a bit fitter and more agile on my arty leg  I could return to that area and know what I would be facing .

On explaining my plans to my long suffering better half Yvonne , she once again agreed to join me for the day so that was that sorted or almost sorted , one thing that we had to do was get a car permit , there is only 6 cars allowed along the Collage Valley past the free car park at Hethpool so we had to apply for one from  Smiths Gore, Glendale Road, Wooler ( for any one who want to take there car up there now 2015 it will cost you  £10 a car)  that didn’t pose a problem and all we had to do was call in and pick it up on our way past .

 Link for info: -    http://www.college-valley.co.uk/car_permits.htm

On the day , gear was sorted and thrown into the car and off we went , a small detour into wooler for the permit (we where early and they left it outside under the mat for us) and then it was off to Hethpool , we had been up here before but this was the first time that we had driven along the road past the car park , I use the term road very loosely ,as  it is a single track but driving along it towards the YHA at Mounthooly Bunkhouse the views certainly open up and the drive itself (3 miles) is a pleasure . Using the permit you can within Reason Park anywhere along here but we drove all the way down to the YHA parking was just a case of pulling off the road and parking up.

Gear was sorted and off we went , our route was as normal not set in stone , but one thing that did stay in my mind was how big the surrounding hills where and how beautiful this area is .

On one side of us we had the Schill (601 meters) the other side west hill (717 meter) and of course the Cheviot towering above that at 815 meters, we of course where just walking along the valley floor following the Collage burn which was a trickle to what it is miles further down the valley , our track came to an end and then it was a case of following the grassy path , I have to be honest and say I didn’t know at the time if  this was a footpath or just a sheep trail , either way it did matter it was heading in our direction and things where great .

The valley opened up in front of us , the shear size of everything made me realise how much work I have got to do if I ever wanted to get to these hills yet alone climb to the summits , but for today just walking along the valley  floor was more than enough , as we walked along the valley we had the entrance to the Hen Hole on our left and  Red Cribs on our right , our path was heading towards Red Cribs  and so we made the slow climb up to the top , I knew once we where at the top we would link up with the Pennine way and from there we would go to the mountain refuse shelter , where we would stop for lunch and have a well deserved rest , I have to say sitting  by the hut looking towards the Hen hole made a very dramatic back drop , we of course signed the visitors book that was in the hut and had a chat with a few other walkers that where walking past .

After dinner we stayed on the Pennine way then cut down to the entrance of the Hen Hole and slowly made our way up, there is a very small path heading up and so we followed it, I will be honest and say that I found it very tricky going in places but I was determine to get to the waterfalls or should I say the waterfall known as the three sisters , getting there involved me using my hands in quite a few places we past a couple of other waterfalls and I was just on the point of turning round when I caught the “three sisters” just over the next ridge and five minute scrabble to get there and that was it ……..MADE IT ! It might not be that grand in the scheme of things but I was chuffed with myself for just getting there, a few photos where taken and once again I took a good look around, this place is huge….. the whole area is huge and you know something I was feeling very pleased with myself, yes I just got to the waterfall but that didn’t matter because I just knew that I would be back and I would explore this area , it wouldn’t happen today or next week or even this year but I just knew that I would be back in this area and I would get to the summits , not as a nearly broken person who would struggle to get to the top but as someone who would not only get to the top but get there with a huge smile on his face  and enjoy every second of the journey …yes I have lost my leg but I haven’t lost myself ! and you know something I felt like the hills not only could read my mind but answered as well .they welcomed me and they where not some huge big monsters that where out of my reach they where there waiting for me ..Warm and welcoming ……

( footnote from 2015 I have returned to this area several times and I still get that warm feeling of welcome from the hills it’s a place where I come to heal both physically and mentally )

All good things have to come to an end and so it was with this walk, we slowly made our way down and out of the Hen Hole, the views still tremendous and followed the burn down along the valley floor back to Mounthooly I was bussing , we picked up a well used sheep trail and had a very slow easy walk back , wildlife was all around us and at one point we stumbled upon an old foot bridge across the burn so I can only assume that we had met up with a foot path .

We only walked about 4.95 miles with 1464ft of the ups and down but something touched me today in this valley I don’t know whether it was the sheer size of the place, the remoteness, the beauty or just the day in general but I can honestly say that this area must be one of Northumberland’s best kept secrets, unspoilt in any way.

A few photos, sadly they just don’t capture the size or even the atmosphere of this valley

Where we parked the car just before the YHA Mounthooly, looking back down the valley

 

Heading towards the Hen Hole again looking back

 

Following the burn, Red Crib can just about be seen

 

Looking back towards the “Torr’s “on the right

 

Looking across towards the entrance of the Hen Hole

 

Part way up Red Cribs looking down the valley

 

On top of Red Cribs looking down

 

Me leading the way towards the refuse Hut

 

Looking towards a distant Hen Hole

 

Same photo just taken on max zoom

 

My better half

 

Look she has a smile on her face

 

Looking up the hen hole

 

After lunch we make our way down to the entrance

 

One of the water falls

Close up

 

I heading up the gully (note the walking pole)

 

Mountain girl!!!

 

Looking back down

 

Ok we will have a pose!

 

At this stage I am struggling a bit

 

Getting closer

 

Just one more ridge to get over

 

Made it yeah!!!!

 

The three sister’s waterfall (eh I can only count 2)

 

Up close

 

Looking up and left

 

Looking up and right

 

This is as far as I can go today

 

Time to start back down

 

Last look

 

Quick look above the falls

 

I slowly making my way back down

 

Following the burn back down

 

At the entrance looking across towards Red Crib

 

We decide to follow the burn back down the valley and any sheep trail we find

 

Looking back

 

Young rabbit (wasn’t bothered by us at all)

 

Yvonne on an old bridge (footpath?) the next time I was up this way the bridge was gone (washed away in a flash flood)

 

Another Rabbit

 

Heading out towards Mounthooly

 

Deer

 

On the drive out we stop off point to pay our respect at the memorial

 

Cuddy Hall

 

Day after thoughts,

We both had a really good day, the photos don’t capture the sheer size of the place, and I think that this must be the best valley in Northumberland.

Walking wise I did find it difficult in places and it goes to show how much I need to improve before I start to tackle the really bigger hills, but I’m up for the challenge and really looking forward to it.

As far as Arty leg went I didn’t really have any problems other than my lack of experience.

But if any one reads this and has never been here you really should take the time and come visit …………….you wont be disappointed.

 ABOUT ME      NORTHUMBERLAND       WALKS 2006