National Trail Guides UK
NATIONAL TRAIL GUIDES UK
Contents :: PENNINE WAY :: Day 1
THE PENNINE WAY IS 276 MILES LONG
NATIONAL TRAIL GUIDES UK Day 1 :: At the Top of the Cheviots :: Kirk Yetholm to Cocklawfoot :: 13 miles
Pennine Way leaving Kirk Yetholm towards The Curr View from just beyond Kirk Yeholm
Looking up at White Law and the upper Pennine Way Footbridge at Burnhead - lower Pennine Way
Looking to the College Burn Valley A section of Pennine Way paving
The Schill was very steep and rose to 601 metres. The path up it was covered in deep mud and as we pushed off with our feet they kept slipping back, our shoes failing to grip in the oozing mud. This slowed and tired us considerably, and we could each feel our calf muscles burning with the effort. At the top there were castellated rocky outcrops. These had taken on an eerie appearance in the mist on the last occasion I was here, but today the mist had lifted and I had a grand view both of the summit and of the valleys below, more particularly the College valley. There was also a magnificent view towards Red Cribs and Hen Hole.
Here I had my first drink. I needed to slake my thirst, and as my isotonic water found its way down my throat I enjoyed the pleasure of its coolness. Carol had already many times dipped into her water supply but I had been trying to conserve mine. I had sweat a lot and was dry inside but wet and sticky outside. I did not feel hungry and did not yet avail myself of one of the two energy bars I was carrying in my back pack.
The Schill from Corbie Cragg Curr Burn valley
We now ran down the slopes of The Schill, at a slightly faster pace than we had run on the way up. It is not easy in this type of terrain to build up much speed. as running downhill can be quite dangerous due to the unevenness of the terrain. As we neared Red Cribs our proximity to the College Burn had increased. The slopes of Red Cribs were steep and barren of vegetation and took on a red earthy appearance.
Hen Hole had become the dominant landscape feature now. On three sides steep mountains rose from it, swathed in a dense blanket of white cloud that ever danced its long fingers up and down. The sometimes thunderous, sometimes tinkling sound of the College Burn was an orchestra to my ears as it plummeted steeply through Hen Hole, sandwiched as it was between Auchope Cairn and The Cheviot
The Cheviot from Auchope Hen Hole from Red Cribs
At Red Cribs there was a footpath following a fence down to Cocklawfoot. Taking it would save about 3 miles from our journey. No one would know. We were very thirsty. Carol was very tired. We were both anxious. It was very tempting. It would also obviate the need to climb the 720 metre slopes of the Auchope Cairn, rising further to 743 metres on the path near to the Cheviot turn off. The loss of 3 miles would be counter-balanced by the additional 2.5 miles added by having to take the escape route ahead of us at Clennell Street. But it felt too much like cheating. We were here to face a challenge, not to avoid it. It was not a difficult decision. We would carry on as planned. We could not cheat ourselves.
On Red Cribs was a red, wooden mountain refuge hut. We checked it out. It was sufficient to preserve life in an emergency. Other visitors had left food in there for anyone who might need it. It is always comforting to know that there are shelters like this around. We knew that if we ran into difficulties we could backtrack to this hut and await help.
It was now time to ascend Auchope Cairn. The ascent was very steep, so much so that it was impossible to run. Not only was the ascent steep but the path extremely muddy. We met a hiker coming down (with the utmost difficulty and with the help of two walking sticks). This was his last day on the Pennine Way, having hiked the entire length. He had come over from Belgium just to do it. This was his twenty-second day and he was traveling alone. I admired his nerve and his determination.
As we attained the summit the vista changed remarkably. The Cheviot remained shrouded in mist all of the time and we were never able to catch sight of its summit, but we now had a clear view down the Cheviot valley and a glorious view in the opposite direction across to the conifer plantations of Scotsman’s Knowe and of Comb Fell.
As we descended Auchope Cairn the path became very boggy and difficult but further down its slopes there was a good length of duck-boarding over the most difficult areas. The terrain in this area was so boggy that I am quite sure it would have been completely impassable without the duck-boarding. The swampy, miry mud looked deep and dangerous and I could almost hear the sound of its oozing and sucking at my feet as I passed safely above it on the boarding.
Red Cribs and the College Valley Auchope Cairn
We soon reached a footpath junction and clearly signed in one direction was the Pennine Way. A separate detour was signed to the summit of the Cheviot. The Cheviot itself is not on the Pennine Way, but because it is the highest peak of this mountain range I had already voiced my wish to climb it, and although Carol did not she had agreed to wait for me in the event that I still wished to climb it when reaching this junction. Now that we were here I had to decide whether to proceed with the climb or not. It was apparent that our run had already taken far longer than we had originally planned due to the unexpected rigour of the terrain and it was clear that we would far exceed our expected time of arrival at Cocklawfoot even if I did not proceed to the summit of the Cheviot. I did not wish to find that the emergency services had been summoned by Ian because I had decided to take a detour. I reluctantly decided against it.
The duck-boarding gave way to yellow stone flags, but these soon expired and we reverted to running once again on the boggy path. We had been able to make good time while running on the duck-boarding and flags but our pace now slowed. This kind of terrain was difficult to run on because of the risk of ankle injury. From time to time the paving reappeared and each time it did our pace increased.
The path along the Border Fence Duck boarding over peat hags
We would not now be far from our escape route to Cocklawfoot. I was looking out for a fence that I expected to find just after a cairn near Crookedsike Head. This was about a mile before Clennell Street, but I did not see the fence. We seemed to be going too far not to see it and I was starting to panic a little, thinking that we may somehow have veered from the Pennine Way, although as we were still following the border fence I could not see how this was possible. At long last I spotted it, and upon our approach I realised, with elation, that it was not the expected fence but in fact our escape route. We had reached Clennell Street, somehow having missed the fence we had been looking for.
We stopped for an energy bar and a long drink. The energy bar, being my first food since breakfast, tasted beautiful. It was packed with cereal and coated with chocolate. The smallness of the meal was well compensated for by the value of its nutrients and small though it was it might just as well have been a Sunday roast! I now did something silly. I left behind my maps and compass, which I had put down while opening my bag to remove my energy bar. I did not miss them until reaching Cocklawfoot. I knew the escape route, having run it before and did not need to check my maps on the descent and so I did not miss them.
On the escape route Lower slopes of escape route to Cocklawfoot
We ran down Clennell Street very quickly. The path is easy to follow and is mostly dry, save for a modestly boggy part of Cock Law. As we neared our rendezvous point I saw a coniferous plantation ahead of us, with a wide gap splitting it. Our path passed through this gap. I remembered it well, knowing that it lay very close to the end of today’s run, and was watching for it. The ever dependable Ian was there waiting, having walked a little way uphill to meet us.
Carol and I stretched and then changed. I had brought my sound recording equipment and I set it up to record the sound of Kelsocleugh Burn while we were stretching. This is one of the tributaries to Bowmont Water. It was after stretching that I realised I had left my maps behind. I was not sure for certain that I had left them at the top of Clennell Street, although I thought this to be the most likely place. It was not feasible to go back up and look for them as I might not have actually left them there and it was a long way back uphill. I would be here again tomorrow to return to the Pennine Way, but I could not afford the risk of not finding them. I decided to purchase another map and compass, which I was able to do from the relatively nearby town of Jedburgh. Following the purchase I had to re-write all of tomorrow’s compass bearings onto the map.
I later went out alone and made a sound recording of Bowmont Water, where it ran through Kirk Yetholm. I was late in returning for dinner and Ian was not amused.