A Walk in the Cheviot hills, near Ingram village
A long and sometimes difficult 4 mile walk over hills and moors, passing several Iron Age hill forts and settlements on the way. There are public toilets at the car park, and there is a cafe in Ingram village.
Postcode for Satnav - NE66 1QT. This is for the Northumberland National Park vistors centre at Bulby's Wood car park.
Head up the A697, which turns off the A1 just north of Morpeth. After about about 23 miles you come to Powburn village, pass through the village then turn left about a mile further up, signposted Breamish valley and Ingram. Follow this road for about 3 miles to Ingram village, then another 1/2 mile or so to the car park at Bulby's Wood.
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Cross the road at the car park, and take the steep path up hill until it joins a green trackway going up alongside a wood. Take this trackway and follow the path past the half way seat and right to the top of the hill to the Brough Law hill fort. Check the fort out, just a tumbled mass of stones now, then go back to the entrance and turn south, away from the roadway below, and follow this path over the moors. You will see the occasional waymark to keep you on the right track. Follow the path along until you reach a fenced off area, and at the end of the fence, cross over a style and go inside the fence until you come to another hill fort, this one semi-circular and set on the side of a steep gully.
By the entrance you will see a signpost directing you down into the gully. Down the gully, up the other side and climb right up the next hill, Cockrane Pike, at the top of which there is another small settlement. From here, follow the path east along the ridge to the hill fort on top of Wether Hill.
Now you have a choice. The official route back leads you through a very boggy valley. If you would prefer an easier walk, head east a small distance and you will find a track that leads down to Ingram village. From here it's a short walk up to your car.
Otherwise, follow the track north, which eventually descends a very steep path down the Middleton Burn, keeping a deep gully to your left. Cross over the burn, then over the valley you will see the eastern slope of Ewe hill, with a trackway crossing it. This trackway is your target, as the pathway is often unclear. I was here on a beautiful sunny day in early February, but the ground was very wet and boggy. I was wearing waterproof walking shoes and managed to make it with dry feet, so it is possible. Hop from tussock to tussock and jump over the small streams, heading from a gate through a fence. Through the gate, cross over more boggy ground and you will see the narrow path heading up the hill, complete with waymarker.
This path eventually joins the trackway that runs round the side of Ewe hill. Turn right onto this track and follow it down to the road, then turn left to your car.
The name 'Ingram' probably comes from an early Old English 'Angr' meaning 'grassland'. However, the area was settled for thousands of years before the Angles arrived. Because of its remote and hilly location, many of the old settlements and burial mounds still survive on the hills, whereas in the valleys and lower lying areas to the east most of the archaeology was destroyed by 19th and 20th century ploughing. The Beamish valley was definitely settled in the Neolithic, or late stone age period of about 6,000 years ago, with fragments of pottery found on the site of Wether Hill hillfort.
In the Bronze Age, about 3,000 years ago, farmers built clusters of unprotected hut circles, like those on the top of Cochran Pike. The Wether hill summit also contains a probable bronze age burial mound.
By the time of the Iron Age, the people were surrounding their settlements with an outer enclosure, usually a stone and earth bank, which may indicate that times were less peaceful. You can see a typical example of a small fort on the top of Brough Law. There is some discussion about whether the Iron Age people actually lived in these forts, or if they were just a way of displaying how wealthy and powerful a family was. On the one hand, imagine how tiring it would be to haul water up Brough Law every day. On the other hand, the fort had a double wall facing the accessable slope that we climb up, and a single wall facing the steep drop down the the Breamish, suggesting defence was important. The fort above the gully by the Middleton burn also has a single wall above the gully, and double walls elsewhere.
It seems that these forts were occupied right through Roman times, and into early Anglo Saxon, as a seventh century Anglo-Saxon knife was found at Brough Law. By the eighth or ninth century is seems that new villages were being occupied in the valleys and plains and many of the hilltop settlements had fallen out of use.
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