2016-09-02 Cheviots Challenge (Peter Bell/Steve Wood)

Total Distance:-           36.0  Km          (22.4 ml)                                 

Ave Speed:-                3.98 Km/hr      (2.47 mph)       [8.00 am – 17.05 pm] 

Max Elevation             615 m              (1030ft)

Total ascent:-              1201 m            (3939  ft)

Peter/Steve led, 2 groups of 3.  Arriving in Alwinton at 7.15 am, shorts did not seem the right attire as the temperature was certainly well down in single figures.  However, by the time we started at 8.00 am, with the sun shining in an almost totally blue sky, the temperature was already rising.  Off we went, 6 Phoenix members plus Ian and Jim who have walked with us on the Challenge for the past 5 years, climbing up Clennel St.  Not the ideal way to start a walk, this is a long steady climb for most of the first 5 Km. After passing Wholehope, the track levels out and with the sun on our backs and a now pleasant temperature, the walk was becoming very enjoyable.  After passing Nettlehope Hill, I realised how out of date the map is now as large swathes of that part of Kidland Forrest have been cut down in the past couple of years.  After passing the track which leads to Fairhaugh, the Clennel St  track has now all but disappeared, with only a narrow, sometimes awkward footpath remaining.  Heading down the SW flank of Nettlehope Hill, the views were excellent, especially the Mountain Rescue team’s tent across the other side of the Usway Burn, where we knew that hot soup awaited us.  I have to say that this is always one of the best cups of soup I have tasted.  This checkpoint near the “smelly goat hut” is where the long and short walks separate.  I had put down for the “short” 17 mile walk because of hamstring and knee problems but as both were feeling reasonably OK  I stayed with the rest of the group heading up the steep climb at the side of Hazely Law.  As we climbed towards the Border Ridge, I commented that I had never seen Cheviot so clear from a distance.  Not only was there no cloud, but neither was there any haze which always reduces clarity.  Along the ridge to Windy Gyle and then continuing westwards, we dropped down to the source of the Rowhope Burn before making the short climb to The Street.  This was to be our lunch stop next to checkpoint 4.  Steve, Ray & Paul were already there, having tended to push ahead and then wait for the older group, Angela, Hossein & I, at various gates and checkpoints.  It was then agreed that the three young lads would push on with Steve leading, while we three plus Ian & Jim would walk at a slightly slower pace.  Down The Street and along the road, we arrived at Barrowburn.  After a couple of drinks at the checkpoint, we headed up the track towards Fairhaugh.  This is a fairly steep climb and as Hossein and I crawled up, seeing Angie disappearing into the distance, our pain was made worse by the sight of a young slim girl with ~6 ft legs racing past us.  Eventually we made it, and dropped down the other side to Fairhaugh.  There followed a long but level pleasant walk alongside the attractive Usway Burn.  Reaching Shillmoor, we had another drink at the checkpoint before proceeding towards the worst part of the walk, Pass Peth.  This is a fairly short but very steep climb after 33 Km.  Fortunately, the great views up the Coquet valley and the need to photograph them a couple of times, provides an opportunity for a breather – it takes at least a couple of minutes of heavy breathing before I can hold the camera steady!!  Over the top and another stop for group photos and then we were on our way to cover the last 2 Km downhill back to Alwinton.  Near Alwinton, we were met as usual by Ian’s family and we all headed back to the Rose & Thistle for a well earned certificate & mug and most importantly, drink and sarnie.  We met up again with the 3 young fast lads and all agreed probably the best ever Challenge, certainly for weather, and Angie now has 20 Challenges under her belt.

Peter Bell

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