College Valley

Recommended by Donna 

In the same way not all super heroes wear capes, not all of Northumberland’s hidden gems are waiting to impress tucked away along the magnificent coastline.  Quietly and majestically welcoming visitors to its rugged and bio-diverse terrain, the College Valley really is the place that just keeps giving. After a busy week at work, it’s my go-to spot to unwind, to relax and to ponder.

As I made the transition from a Kent dweller to a trainee Northumbrian, a friend took me to the College Valley ‘to see what you’re missing when you insist on heading east of the A1 on your adventures’.

Situated on the edge of the Cheviot Hills around 8 miles north of Wooler, College Valley expands across 12,000 acres and lies within the Northumberland National Park.  Its appeal is enormous. Keen on wildlife? It’s fun to spot the herd of feral goats and look out for the roe deer, red squirrels, adders, hares, rabbits, voles, stouts and weasels not to mention the spectacular birds of prey swooping over the Valley. 

Interested in forestry? Learn a little on how forestry supports the finances of the Valley and how felling and replanting schemes create environments for red squirrels and goshawks to thrive.

Have a penchant for history? Walk to the Hethpool stone circle. Take some time out to contemplate at the Cheviot Memorial in memory of the airmen who lost their lives on the Hills during the Second World War. Wonder over the courage of the local shepherds (and an incredible dog called Sheila) who put other lives ahead of their own. Children will be interested to see the building that was the small school and which accommodated children of the Valley for learning – but only when the weather allowed!

Have a look at the impossibly cute Cuddystone Hall, a meeting place for shepherds originally and now the venue for music making, weddings and social occasions. I went to the most fabulous wedding there some years back – a unique setting indeed.

I class myself as a walker but I think I’d omit the adjective ‘keen’, being likely to take off when I’m in the mood which mostly is when the sun is shining!  The wonderful and wild scenery of College Valley really should be enjoyed on foot, although you are able to take vehicles as far as the car park at Hethpool.  Beyond there, you will need a permit which is available to purchase on-line on the College Valley website: https://www.college-valley.co.uk

Lace up your boots, pack a flask and a few snacks and head off on your own adventure.  With 28 miles of roads and paths flanked by the most wonderful, unspoiled, natural and, frankly, truly awesome landscapes, you can tailor make the length and terrain of walk to suit you.

Or maybe cycling’s your thing.  The road climbs from Hethpool at 157 metres up to Mounthooly (270m) and Goldscleugh (308m). Make the effort and marvel at the views on your descent!  For the intrepid mountain bikers, the 28 miles of roads, paths and bridleways will keep you challenged and rewarded.

It must be said that the College Valley isn’t just for us visitors to enjoy, it is the home and workplace of the families that live there so please do follow the Country Code meticulously especially around lambing time in April and May.  Always check the weather forecast ahead of your trip.  Go to the College Valley website for guidance.

So when you’re planning your adventures in the county, set aside a day to discover the College Valley.  My visits there are still frequent and much enjoyed.  Oh… and after 15 years, my apprenticeship as a trainee Northumbrian continues and is going well!

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