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Uswayford Farm to Kirk Yetholm ! (20 km)

The last day!

First I had the slightly daunting task of climbing back onto the Pennine Way. I choose to walk a little bit down the access road from the farm and join Clennell Street where they met. A short stiff climb of 300m got me back on the ridge. I turned right to follow the Pennine Way once again, marked by a wire fence which is a bit inappropriate for an international border but reflects the lack of stone. The view into Scotland is though appropriately wild with peatland, moss and heather dominating. The English side is slightly more civilized with spruce plantations breaking up the landscape. Along here I noticed signs of impending improvements for the path - there were several piles of flagstones. There may be a nice stone causey path there now.

Cheviots Type Phone
Uswayford Farm B&B 01669 650237

There is a small drop and then a gradual rise to the OS pillar at Kings Seat. Here the ridge narrows a bit and I climbed further and easily up the slopes of Cairn Hill. The Hanging Stone lies on the these slopes off to the right and marked the boundaries between the Middle March and the East March. It was also used for warden meetings (like Russell's Cairn) with similar bloody results. A little higher, I met the worst part of the Cheviot crossing. Just after Crookedsike Head the track climbs through some peat hags and then through some more peat hags and then directly up a slope of crumbling peat. The path virtually disappears into the muck. I found myself at one point taking flying leaps to get over some of the channels baring progress. This gives you a taste of what the Pennine Way must have been in past times when the only way to get through some boggy sections was to run at top speed and hope for the best. The biggest surprise awaits you at the top of the peat slope where a boardwalk suddenly appears.

Here I caught up with the couple from the farm who were preparing to slog over the Cheviot and down the other side to Wooler (part of their own Coast-to-Coast walk). I wished them good luck and continued on the Pennine Way. No one I know of recommends the climb of The Cheviot - it is extremely boggy and has no views or features to be worth the effort. However there has been a causey (flagstone) path laid improving the access tremendously. The boardwalk goes almost all the way to Auchope Cairn. The gleam of water underneath the boards certainly emphasises the need for the boardwalk. On a windy day Auchope Cairn would be a cold and forlorn place with only a tiny stone shelter. Luckily for me there was little wind despite the gray skies.

The Schil from Red Cribs
The Schil from Red Cribs

I took the steep descent from the cairn in my stride since I could see the refuge hut (another creosoted wooden box) at the foot of the slope. From there I could see down into College Valley and up into the hanging valley of Hen Hole (formed when glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago). College Valley is reputedly named after a coven of witches. There is a logbook in the hut. The hut is needed because this is an unpredictable and dangerous area. There are at least 2 lost aircraft on the slopes of the Cheviot and 2 walkers were killed in a snow avalanche on the Bizzie Crag beyond West Hill in 1988.

Before me was the short and sharp climb up into The Schil and its cornet of rocky crags and tors. After the Schil there is an equally sharp drop down to a ladder-stile in a wall where the path crosses into Scotland leaving England behind for the rest of the Pennine Way. After skirting around the end of the Black Hag ridge the Pennine Way forks - to the left is the low road dropping down to Burnhead Farm and a lane to Kirk Yetholm, to the right is the high road squeezing the last of the height from the hills. I followed the more dramatic high road, firstly onto the good viewpoint of Steerrig Knowe and then following the rigg (Steer Rigg) to a last steep climb to White Law.

From White Law it is mostly downhill. A ladder-stile lead me northwards alongside a wall until I reached a track that went left, past the Stob Stones (almost hidden in the grass), and down to meet a minor road at the junction of Halter and Sheilknowe Burns. Above the junction to the east is the grassy hill Green Humbleton topped by one of the many Iron Age forts in the area. Halter Burn has to be forded but it is shallow except after extremely heavy rain. The lane leads between hawthorns and stone walls surrounding bright green fields. A little climb over a small rise and Kirk Yetholm was before me!

Kirk Yetholm Type Phone
Bluntys Mill B&B 01573 420288
Kirk Yetholm YH 00870 241 2314
The Romany House B&B 01573 420752
Valleydene B&B 01573 420286

The last thing to do was to truly finish the journey by crossing the threshold of the Border Hotel and claiming my 'Wainwright half' - a half pint offered by the publican to anyone who has done the Pennine Way in one go and has a copy of Wainwrights book. Kirk Yetholm also boasts a youth hostel (part of the Scottish Youth Hostel Association).

The End

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