The news reports said there was a drought and a hosepipe ban was about to be imposed. No, not here in the North East, where Kielder Water was fit to burst, but down in the sunny south where the water table was in need of substantial replenishment. Then it came, the rain and more rain, shower after shower and still they talked about the drought. Then the deluge arrived, of almost biblical proportions, and rivers burst their banks causing devastation in their wake. Even the residents of Monkseaton were not immune to the weather carnage, with many unfortunate people forced to evacuate their flooded homes. Unsurprisingly the news went quiet on the subject of the drought.
It was already July and any hope of the country basking in glorious wall-to-wall sunshine appeared to be diminishing with every day that slipped by. The seemingly endless pitter-patter of rain was rapidly becoming tedious. Then a glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon in the form of a promising weather forecast and I was not about to look that particular gift horse in the mouth.
I parked my car close to where the Usway Burn converges with the River Coquet and, with the sun already feeling surprisingly warm, I sauntered past Shillmoor towards the new footbridge across the Wholehope Burn. It felt good to be out and about on a day which had started as bright as a newly minted two pence piece and I was looking forward to enjoying the panoramic view at the top of my first climb of the day. Filled to the brim with optimism I headed upwards like a mountain goat, eager to photograph what must rank as the finest perspective of Upper Coquetdale.
Then, half way up and little more than twenty minutes into my walk, I spotted the first tell-tale signs of a weather change of heart. First, the ragged edge of a small cloud drifted lazily over the brow of the hill followed a few minutes later by a second. Soon clouds began to merge, thicken and, before I had time to reach the top of the hill, the sun had totally disappeared along with the hoped-for spectacular view. The Cheviot Hills were draped in low cloud and visibility was shrinking with every step I took.
Undeterred, I pressed on following the faint outline of an old quad track as far as Lord’s Seat, cairn-crowned and shrouded in thick mist. With no path or any other visual landmark to help me on my way, navigation to the Hosedon Burn looked potentially tricky. However, keen to test my directional instinct and local knowledge, I resisted the temptation to use my map and compass and, eventually without too much aimless wandering I scored a navigational bull’s eye. Experience is a wonderful thing.
The rough terrain on either side of the burn was utterly saturated and by the time I had reached drier ground I was pretty well soaked from the thighs downwards. No matter, it was relatively mild and, whilst visibility increased slightly as I headed up Clennell Street, I had to wait until the final hour of my walk for the weather to really improve. Eventually as I sauntered back to my car, sun on my back, I remembered that the 19th century writer and critic John Ruskin had once said that, ”There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather”. How right he was.
by Geoff Holland © 2013
Geoff Holland is the author of four books of self-guided walks, ‘The Cheviot Hills’, ‘Walks from Wooler’, ‘The Hills of Upper Coquetdale’ and ‘Walks on the Wild Side The Cheviot Hills’ , is a regular contributor to ‘TGO (The Great Outdoors)’, ‘Country Walking’ and ‘The Northumbrian’ magazines and is the operator of the highly acclaimed website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. His books are available online from www.trailguides.co.uk or from all good bookshops and he can be heard reading a selection of his poems on www.listenupnorth.com. He has lived in Monkseaton for almost 40 years.