THE MADGANG CLIMB THE CHEVIOT

At the very north of England (further north than the very south of Scotland) lies the land of Bernicia (latterly part of Northumbria), an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom that predates England, Wales and Scotland by hundreds of years (in fact it predates the arrival of any Scots in Scotland by hundreds of years). It is true borderland and stretches from the River Tees to the Firth of Forth. Today its gentrified, northern inhabitants pretend they were never part of it and in the south it is sparsely populated. However, in its heyday it was a land of warriors and farmers, kings and missionaries. Saint Ninian walked its tracks, baptising and healing the sick two hundred years before Saint Augustine arrived in  Kent. At Holystone he baptised hundreds into the Christian faith in what is now known as the Ladys' Well. It has been a lawless land. It has been a land that belonged to no land. It is north of Hadrian's Wall and south of Hadrian's Wall. It is a place that has seen much passing through. The ethnicity of its inhabitants was so pluralistic from the start that even now no one talks of blood ties. This is very much a geographical location where belonging demands only a love of place. At its centre lie the Cheviot Hills, possibly the most remote area of England. A national park not much visited where you can walk all day and meet no one else, an extremely rare experience in overcrowded in England.

A couple of weeks ago, the MadGang, along with their friends, Joan and Max the Dog, climbed the Cheviot itself, to its peat hagged plateau and lonely, cloud covered trig point. This extinct volcano is not one of the UK's highest summits as it is only 2674 feet above sea level but it is a difficult climb as it emerges from the zero altitude of the coastal plain and has not been paved with stone and steps to make it easier for trainer wearing daytrippers to amble up. There is also, just as you approach its top, one of the steepest, walkable ascents of any British hill. Fortunately we all had canine friends to pull us up the most difficult bits.

Looking up the Harthope Valley above Langleeford

Looking down the valley path towards Langleeford

Looking across the valley towards Hedgehope Hill

Looking down the valley with Langlee Crags on top of the southern slopes

Looking at The Cheviot from Scald Hill

Looking north into Scotland

Hedgehope Hill from Scald Hill

Muddy dogs on a muddy path

A lone trainer, its partner no doubt sucked beneath the Cheviot peat

(clockwise from top left) Mrs MP, Joan, Max, Delphi and Quiz at the summit

Fields of gold on the descent

Langleeford Farm with Langlee Crags on the skyline

Mrs MP and Joan descending (they walk much faster than me)

Bamburgh beach and castle, a good place for muddy dogs to become clean dogs

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