An adventure in Northumberland, the home of Montane…
So there is a back story here. The short version is that, after purchasing some of their products, I won a competition earlier in the year with Montane. We kept in touch and I promised a run sometime. This has led to some involvement with Montane in an Ambassador capacity, which is great because I’ve loved all of the kit I’ve used (I was pretty much kitted head to toe in it for the CCC!) and they produce some really great items! The idea for a weekend adventure was that we’d combine a ‘Run With Dai’ with a chance to test out some of the new winter range from Montane’s trail running series ‘Via’.
The weekend started with the long journey north on Friday evening to Berwick-upon-Tweed (and a subsequent bus south from the station). The local bus from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Bamburgh is amazing. It has a built in tour guide so you are educated on the history of sites like Haggerston Castle, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Belford, Budle Bay and Bamburgh Castle along the way! Fantastic. All buses should do this!
Wim met me at Bamburgh Castle and we headed straight off for a pint to make acquaintances. Over the last 8 months or so we’d only ever talked over email. It was surreal and amazing to, after so many months, finally meet someone who I’d solely communicated with digitally. He didn’t quite have the Scottish twang I expected but in no time at all we were finding out more about each other beyond our common interest in running. The whole weekend Wim and his wife (Rosie) made me feel so welcome and spoiled me rotten with home cooking and delights!
The vague plan for the weekend was to run into the Cheviot hills. We’d start by driving to Ingram where we’d meet Ross, a fellow ambassador (and local farmer!) who knew the land inside out. He’d pretty much be the guide for the day, physically running with us for 3 hours and guiding us in absence with the directions he’d pointed out of where we needed to go after he would leave us.
We packed our bags and, along with Margot (Mags, the energetic four-legged companion), headed off to Ingram, the gateway to the Cheviots. Wim had sourced us some tops to test on the run – The via Dragon and the Fireball Verso.
Spoiler alert, the gist of my reviews are:
- The Dragon is a great mid-layer. It has a Zipped front for fit and breathability but also unique double cuffs which provide emergency mitts when the weather turns. . These were super handy when running in the wind.
- The Verso. Same as the old one but some tweaked designs – New colour variants, Different (improved) cuffs and an upgraded insulation material. Again great when running in windy conditions. I loved both these items and was reluctant to return them afterwards!
Anyway, off running we went. First we headed up the field paths towards Dunmoor Hill. It quickly became apparent that the ‘trails’ would be few and far between. The land was mostly subtle in its path and direction and not as mainstream as many other trails and national parks you will find. Our first challenge was to navigate a livestock field full of cows and a warning from Ross – The livestock here was a little volatile and he’d recently been chased out of the field! We tentatively rounded the ‘crazy’ cows and continued up. From Dunmoor Hill we had views of what lay ahead. The next peak and the second highest in the area (I think that’s right) – Hedgehope Hill. The run down was brisk and boggy and our feet were soon soaked through.
Up Hedgehope Hill we went. A slow bimble as we climbed. The Dragon top was great here as my fingers felt the wind and I was able to quickly warm them without stopping to unpack my gloves. It was so easy to fold the cuffs over into the mitts! As we reached the top we surveyed the land. It was what I’d describe as lumpy. Rolling hills as far as you could see. Very little ‘flats’ between the hills. I love this. We layered up as the wind increased. I put on the Fireball Verso. The bright red outer Featherlite windshield making me standout in the gloomy grey summit. I was instantly warm.
From here we had some options as to how we’d get to The Cheviot, the highest point clearly visible and standing 815m up ahead. Running the ridge line from Hedgehope we soon veered right and off the beaten track. We opted for the shorter but arguably harder “straight down and up approach”.
We were soon bounding and leaping through the waists high ferns and lavender, but not leaping as high as Mags who was like a rabbit vanishing into the soft underground between each leap. I don’t know how many times I laughed at the sight of her leaping through the foliage or thinking she could catch the birds she disturbed!
As we crossed the stream we looked up at the Cheviot in front of us. All 815m of it in its glory. Up we would go. Sometime later, after several rests and many wine gums we made the top. Crossing a field we made our way into the slab path (leading to the Pennine Way) and ran left (towards the English/Scottish border). We soon came across the summit’s Trig stone and chatted to the holiday hikers already there taking a rest.
We continued back the way we’d came. Along the top of the Cheviot before heading down to Langleeford. The run down was great. Mostly soft ground and not too rocky along with great views of Hedgehope, Dunmoor and beyond. This was one of the main tourist paths walkers would take to summit The Cheviot. Several large bogs needed jumping, one leaving me with fear and pain as I landed awkwardly. But before we knew it we were at the Langleeford car park and crossing the stream at Hearthope burn. This was so idyllic.
It was time to climb again as we decided on our route back toward Dunmoor and Ingram. We’d go via Housey Crags / Langlee Crags and once again were soon winging it cross country. The terrain here was blind and again often at waist height so a walk was in order. In the distance the burning at a farm could be seen and acted partly as a guide as we navigated towards the tree line of Threestoneburn Wood.
By now the sun was out. We’d hoped for some ‘proper grotty’ winter weather to really put the gear to the test but had instead treated with glorious sunshine as the afternoon came. More of this and we might have ended up with a sun tan from the day!
There was a huge area of deforestation and commercial timber harvesting which we crossed at Threestoneburn Woods. A completely different type of terrain and views. The burnt crops were hard, pointy and sharp so we carried little Mags across. We were soon on the tractor paths for the machinery to access the forests and ran onward for a while, passing some walkers we’d seen earlier in the day.
Again the path soon changed as we walked through the remains of a harvested woodland. The wood once again dead and uneven. Reaching the other side we were back on the incline we’d started out on when we climbed to Dunmoor Hill. This meant it was time to head black down and pass the crazy cows once more. As we neared, they separated. 3 stood guard on the perimeter of the herd and eyeballed us intently as we passed. From here it was a gentle stroll back to the car. 20 miles of adventures covered. This turned out to be the furthest run Ross had covered. Amazing.
Throughout the day Wim and Ross talked about some of the local races in the hills. They sound like they would be pretty brutal, that and the excellent calibre of local runners who live and breathe these hills would make for an interesting challenge!
As we arrived back to base with achy feet and moans a plenty, Rosie greeted us with an incredible home cooked cheese and leek lasagna. This was exactly what we needed (along with the warm bath!) to replenish after the hard graft of the day.
Despite all the running, Mags wasn’t done. She is fascinated by balls and wanted more running as she kept fetching her ball and demanding it was thrown for her to chase. I couldn’t keep up with the demands!!
The next morning we forced our tired legs out of bed for another little run. We drove into Bamburgh and off to the beach for an ‘easy’, flat 5km down the coast. It was brisk and cold as the wind blew. Another great chance to put the Verso to the test!
The beach views were stunning as, on one side you had the sand dunes and vast land of Bamburgh Castle and, on the other the cost and the Farne islands (apparently a great place for diving and seal spotting!). As we were looking out across the cost we caught a glimpse of a porpoise bobbing close to the shore line doing its morning ‘thing’.
Mags loved the run and it was the first time I heard her make a sound all weekend as she barked and played with the other dogs out on the beach. I loved the run so much less when we finished and waded into the ice cold sea. I got waist high before I couldn’t handle it any longer and ran out back to the beach. Probably the quickest I moved all weekend!
Soon it was time to go and start my long journey back to London and the reality that is Monday to Friday, until the next adventure that is!
So it turns out that I’ve been nominated for the personal blog category with the Running Awards. I’d love your support and votes. If you like what you read and you’d like to vote for me you can click this link and find “RunWithDai” in the nominees. Thanks!