Coast to Coast on the Ravenber Way
A guidebook, entitled Coast to Coast on the Ravenber Way, by Ron Scholes, is published by Sigma Press and can be obtained from bookshops, or from Berwick Tourist Information Centre, for £9.99. It is about the long distance walk from Ravenglass in Cumbria to Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. Here, Ron writes about Alwinton to Westnewton Bridge in Northumberland for thisisnorthumberland.com.
By Ron Scholes
Alwinton (whose name derives from a British river name, Alwenton, is pronounced Allenton) is a small village sheltered by the green foothills of the Cheviots, and is situated where the Coquet Valley broadens out. After the walk from Rothbury or Thropton, accommodation may be found at the Rose and Thistle in the village, at Clennell Hall, or for a warm welcoming Bed and Breakfast at Mrs Grace Graham`s, Newton Farm, Parsonside, Alwinton.
From the village green, cross the footbridge over the stream, and start on the bridleway signposted Clennell Street to Border Ridge, seven and three quarter miles. It is a further 6 miles from the Border Ridge to Mounthooly YHA. From the youth hostel to Hethpool House towards the end of the College Burn valley, it is another 4 miles. As beds for the night are not too thick on the ground throughout the wide acres of these sprawling hills, where miles are long, it is prudent to plan ahead and book well in advance.
There is another accommodation possibility to consider. From Border Gate, walk the same route to the Mountain Refuge Hut, and then continue via The Schil to Kirk Yetholm. From Alwinton, that is a distance of 17 and a half miles. There is a footpath route from Kirk Yetholm to Hethpool, where the Ravenber route can be rejoined.
From Alwinton, the Clennell Street continues to climb gradually, with the slopes on the eastern side falling steeply down to the valley of the Alwin. The track is an ancient way used by shepherds when taking their flocks up to the summer pastures. You pass the remains of the former Wholehope Youth Hostel, where hostellers who insisted on washing, had to trek downhill to a stream. Sadly, this youth hostel was found to be too far off the beaten track to be properly managed. Nevertheless, this simple accommodation would be a boon for walkers today.
The track passes into a forested area, and then out again with the serried ranks of conifers marching along on the right and grassland on the left. The way continues through more conifer plantations to reach a gate and stile. The main Cheviot ridge now comes into view, the aspect opens out, and there is a splendid panorama of valleys, rounded hills and extensive forests rolling away into the distance.
Descend the grassy hillside slopes to reach the Usway Burn. Cross the footbridge, pass in front of a sheepfold to a step stile, and climb the hillside with a view up the valley towards Uswayford.
The Cheviot range is a paradise for hill walkers and for those who enjoy exploring wild countryside; it is a land coloured with a broad canvas of silky greens and various shades of russet and brown. In the Cheviot valleys springtime is heralded with the acid yellow of gorse, which stands out vividly against the duller greens of hill slope and conifer forest. Late August sees the moorland transformed into a purple splendour of flowering heather. But it is in autumn time that you are recommended to visit the border valleys; here, the lower slopes are burnished gold with dying bracken; birch trees glisten in the sharp light, and rowan are ablaze with fiery red and orange berries. In winter, snow lingers in the higher hillside hollows, and sharp frosts dust all surfaces with a coating of bejewelled patterns.
Whatever the season of the year, walking in these lonely valleys, and on the high hills is the most satisfying way of becoming absorbed into the landscape.
Continue ahead, climbing the slopes of Hazely Law, as the forest edge now recedes. Bear left and ascend gently amongst surroundings of grass and heather to reach the Border fence, and the point where the Ravenber meets the Pennine Way. Turn right and follow the Border fence with a long gradual climb to reach Auchope Cairn. Descend the slope to reach the col between Auchope Cairn and The Schil. My son and I spent the night in the old refuge; a former railway goods wagon, and the present structure is a smaller affair.
From the shelter proceed to the head of Red Cribs and descend into the valley of the College Burn. This valley is particularly attractive, wild and remote. A handful of dwellings lie scattered about on the valley floor, and some that are whitewashed stand out clearly against the background of dark conifers. As the path and track becomes a little road, one approaches a low whitewashed building which is Mounthooly Youth Hostel.
The little strip of asphalt continues down the valley to reach the hamlet of Hethpool . As the road bends, turn right along the wooded drive to Hethpool House, where a warm welcome awaits the walker after a memorable journey across the Cheviot Hills on the Ravenber Way.