My activities during the summer months usually revolve around Shemaron and driving to and from Tarbert in Argyll. During the winter months I spend longer times at home in Newcastle where Chris (my husband) and I love to go walking in Northumberland very often in the Cheviot Hills.
Northumberland is at its best on the back of the rain with mist hanging low in the valleys. The the Cheviot foothills are a beautiful place for walking but on a winter evening things can sometimes feel quite strange. The following is an account of a strange winter walk in the Cheviot hills.
We often return to Fairhaugh, it is just one of those places in the heart of Northumberland that keeps calling us back. It sits in the swell of the river and time seems to move around it in an uncommon manner. There is a stile on the track at the edge of the woods which reminds me of the stories of Hansel & Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, fairytales that warn of danger.
It was late in the afternoon when we started our walk. The light strained under layers of cloud. As we neared the top of the track from Barrowburn, just before the style, the clouds started to break allowing a rare chance for the winter sun to settle on the hills. The sunset caught the higher points and set a warming glow through the valley. We continued down the track passed Fairhaugh and stopped to sit by the river for a few minutes. The river passes through a small ravine at this point and I enjoy watching the water as it forces its way between the rocks.
A Strange Winter Walk in the Cheviot Hills
By the time we started back the late afternoon was tipping towards evening and it was getting dark. My arms brushed against low branches where they had grown over the track. It all felt slightly on the wrong side of comfortable. We reached the top of the track and I took a quick look back at the Coquet. Then I climbed over the stile and walked away from the wood.
Back on the open hillside the warm gloaming light had disappeared. Night was crawling over the ground. I had begun to walk down the hill when I thought I heard a sound. It was unclear at first, I couldn’t quite make it out over the rustling noise of my clothes. I heard it again and stood still to listen. A sound like a horn issued from the darkening valleys, a soulless note clear above the ringing river. I heard it half a dozen times or more. It was really quite unexpected and so bizarre that I wondered if some enchantment flowed from the woods. Maybe I was hearing the fairy music of the Henhole. On the third or fourth note, as if on a cue two ravens flew towards it, an easy conversation gronking from their throats.
Seeing nothing amiss and hearing no cries for help I continued on my walk and once round the turn in the river I heard no more noises – apart from the bleating sheep. My attention had been so focused on the horn that I didn’t realise how dark it had become. I had to concentrate hard on where to put my feet. The last little way back to the car I heard only the sound of the stream that ran beside me reflecting the final vestiges of light from it’s darkening face.
J S Fletcher. The Enchanting North 1908
talking of the Cheviot ..
“on its western side there is a cavity called Henhole, into which, pretty much as the Pied Piper of Hamelin led away the children, a party of huntsmen was led away by incredibly sweet music, and with the same result.”