The discovery of new places plays a huge part in the attraction of countryside exploration, especially when there are mini-adventures to immerse your wild kids in along the way. Walking is a great way to get the family outdoors.
After Caroline’s year of cancer treatment we have a lot outdoor time to make up. She is raring to go so we don’t need the excuse of Christmas over-indulgence to get outside!
In early December Caroline had her (hopefully) final operation under general anaesthetic, to remove the central Hickman line which was inserted in her jugular in March. Her energy and walking capacity is fast returning. And we’ve found an absolute gem of a wild adventure playground on a stunning Northumberland moor.
If your kids struggle to stay motivated when walking, take a look at the ideas in my post on how to make walking with kids wonderful. And if you need inspiration yourself, why not read up on how to become the best outdoor parent in the world!
Old Bewick Moor
We met neighbours for a Boxing Day walk in the tiny hamlet of Old Bewick, Northumberland, parking on the road outside a farm to take the public footpath onto the moor.
Snow on the Cheviots caused great excitement, the stunning snow-caps making up for a mere sprinkling on the moor (though there was enough for me to end up with ice down my back during snowball fights in the heather..)
The footpath follows a gently rising farm track to the side of Bewick Hill, through two or three gates onto the high moor which is mainly open access land. Peppermint-cool air, sunshine and cloudless skies made for a near-perfect experience.
My usual joy at being anywhere in the great wide open is doubled at the moment by the wonder of seeing Caroline alive, energetic and grasping life at every opportunity. I only have to look at her to break into a heart-bursting grin.
Breaching the moorland plateau is akin to touching the edge of another dimension without quite being aware of it. The landscape flattens to treeless, dessicated heather interspersed with a dusting of crushed-ice-like snow. The track was sometimes muddy, sometimes cat-ice which Caroline (and the dogs) delighted in cracking.
A circular cairn comes into view to the left of the path and ahead stands the ruin of an old shepherd’s dwelling. Built on a craggy outcrop within a splinter of trees it stands misplaced in the surrounding flatness.
I should say here that you could wander this area for hours and miles so I haven’t included a specific route. Use OS Explorer Map (332) Alnwick and Amble in conjunction with Alnwick Nature Group’s simple map and instructions to find the sites. Park considerately at OS Grid Ref NU 067215 lat/long 55° 29′ 15″N, 001° 53′ 45″W.
Blawearie Shepherd’s House
The name Blawearie, evocative in itself, may mean ‘Tired of the Wind.’ This captivating description (though wholly inappropriate in the mid-winter stillness of our visit) requires only a minor twist of imagination to conjure what must have been the soul-sapping reality of life at the exposed ruin in high wind or deep winter.
As it is now, I could stay for days on end to immerse in the mysterious atmosphere and it’s hidden treasures, natural, spiritual (and otherworldly?!)
Blawearie is a ruined homestead requisitioned during WWII after which the family chose not to return and the house fell into disrepair. It is an enchanted spot, a natural children’s playground with walls, trees and crags to climb, hiding places galore and even rope swings in a tree.
We met the lovely family who had installed these and learnt from them the story of a farmer who ‘stole’ the hearth stone from the ruins, resulting in so much bad luck that he returned it to Blawearie quick smart! Enchanted indeed.
Bronze Age Cairn, Blawearie
The 3,000 year old cairn with 5 burial cists inside the circular rock wall lies a few yards off-roading from the main track. Tony Henderson’s fascinating article in The Journal has more information.
Ancient Rock Art, Bewick Hill
A steep, and I mean steep, scramble up Bewick Hill leads to the nerve-wracking Hanging Crag. It looks like it could roll off the cliff at any point but given the name I assume it has been like this for some time.
More cairns and the outline of a homestead can be seen at the summit with the impressive earthworks of two ancient hill forts – full of deep, mossy heather perfect for picnicing – and an incongruous WWII pill-box, great for climbing on.
Beyond the summit, a little awkward to find so use the directions above, are the huge chunks of rock smothered in carvings and cup holes. As enigmatic as all rock art, one can only imagine the purpose and significance of these ancient messages. You couldn’t really ask for more on an outdoor day with the kids. You can check out more Northumberland rock art in my chasing waterfalls post.
Tired of the wind on Old Bewick Moor? I don’t think so!
We plan to explore Cataran Cave, a waterfall and gorge in the area soon.
If you prefer the security and expert knowledge of guided walks, contact Reiver Guiding who offer excellent hikes all over Northumberland.
More Things to Do Outdoors
For more on Caroline’s cancer journey read Caroline’s Rainbow