Since I sold my car I have to plan my walks quite carefully to fit around depleted rural bus and train services. Many villages have as little as one bus a week, so meticulous planning with a clutch of books, maps, timetables and weather forecasts has replaced spontaneously jumping in the car without always knowing where I am headed.
Wooler is a small Northumbrian town which became prominent because of it’s busy livestock market. However it is two buses away from Newcastle and there are no buses on Sundays, so weekends need planning. On this trip in late October I had planned to stay at the youth hostel as the nights were becoming a bit nippy for my summer sleeping bag.
I had 3 walks planned; a short 3 mile circular for the Saturday afternoon after I arrived, and two 10 mile walks for Sunday and Monday respectively.
Wooler to Pin Well (3m circular)
Wooler to Gleadsclough (10m circular)
Wooler to Broadstruther (10m circular)
Wooler to Pin Well (3m)
This short walk was planned for after my bus journey from Newcastle via Alnwick but turned out to be something of a mystery. It appears in an Edward Baker book (which is not be in print now) called “Walks in the Secret Kingdom”. The Pin Well is described as a small spring well surrounded by stones which is the home of a fairy. According to Baker, the legend goes that anyone making a wish and dropping a bent pin into the well on Mayday will be granted their wish.
I love a bit of pagan tradition so I strode southwards out of Wooler along the Earle Mill road which forks right towards Earle. I then followed a path on the right signposted for the Pin Well & Waud House. However this was where the directions in the Baker book seemed to part company with the way, unless I misinterpreted them. There was no sign of the wall which he refers to, and sadly I couldn’t find any trace of the Pin Well in the bracken, so I eventually carried on on my way.
When I got back to Wooler I asked some local people whether they had heard of the Pin Well, which is only 1.5 miles away and nobody had, so the moral of the story may be to check with some local people before rather than after your walk. It is a pleasant enough walk but lacking a focal point if you are unable to find the well.
I had a pub meal that evening nearby and a toasty bunk-room to myself for the night at the hostel.
Wooler to Gleadsclough circular (10m)
I chose this walk for the Sunday which was slightly shorter than the third walk. I walked via the shops where I stopped to get a few things for lunch. I strode out through the woods to join the St Cuthbert’s way. After a short distance, the walk forks right towards Humbleton and then left on a path signposted for Gleadsclough Farm. There was an autumnal mist still hanging over the valleys as I followed the track past Humbleton, but this eventually evaporated towards Gleadsclough.
There are good views to the north across the valley and the confluence of the River Glen and the River Till. Eventually the track dips down to ford a small stream as you arrive at Gleadsclough Farm.
At Gleadsclough there is a junction of several interconnecting paths where I followed the broad track south west towards Tom Tallon’s crag. I sat down for lunch in the shelter of a small plantation. This area is sparsely populated apart from a few derelict buildings which suggest that it was once a busier area.
After lunch I turned left along the St Cuthbert’s way which heads eastwards back into Wooler. I walked for the whole day without seeing another soul until I got back to the outskirts of Wooler.
Wooler to Broadstruther (10m)
I was looking forward to my final walk which I hadn’t done for about 10 years. I had heard that Broadstruthers, a ruined building where walkers used to stop for lunch, had been restored for use by shooting parties. Back to the shops for my packed lunch and I set off. I felt marginally more at home with my route recording which was still quite novel after several years of paper maps. I headed out along the St Cuthbert’s way out of Wooler again, this time southwest towards Wooler Common.
The easy track forks slightly after a mile or two through the heather towards Carey Burn where a little bridge takes you over the stream and west towards Broadstruther. There was a short shower as I crossed the burn so my rainproof poncho came out. Just as I was looking my least glamorous in my crumpled poncho and muddy gaiters, I passed a young man who warned me that there was some shooting going on a few miles away. Luckily he was either too polite or too accustomed to the weather to make any comments on my appearance.
It had brightened up by the time I reached the small wooden bridge across to the winding path up to Broadstruther. The building is looking quite smart now in it’s remote spot surrounded by a few trees although it didn’t look as if there was anybody at home.
I retraced my steps a short way to turn northwest across the moorland towards Commonburn farm where I sat down to watch the sheep being moved by a farmer on his quad bike with a couple of dogs. This is another remote spot with it’s own wind turbine and water supply which looks as if it would easily get cut off during wintertime.
From here there is a roughly surfaced road eastwards back to Wooler where I passed one or two other walkers enjoying the solitude. This is a lovely walk which is full of the relics of older farms and farmsteads. I arrived back into Wooler just in time for my last bus back to Alnwick where I was able to relax for the slow meandering journey home.
For these walks I used the Harvey Maps Cheviot Hills Superwalker map.