A Walk To Blawearie
Blawearie and Bewick Hill
Blawearie. I’d heard of it, but never visited, so when Jonny (my mate and veteran of our walk along Hadrian’s Wall) suggested Blawearie as somewhere to visit, I thought: why not? A ruined farmhouse on the top of a desolate moor? It was too much for the Kate Bush fan in me to resist.
The name, Blawearie itself (like Wuthering Heights) is so evocative; bla-wearie: ‘tired of the wind.’ The irony that we’d picked a fairly blustery day to go there wasn’t lost on me.
We set off from Old Bewick, a collection of farm buildings and cottages at the foot of Bewick Hill, following a farm track that climbs upwards and on to the moors. Jonny had found the route in a mountain biking guide, but with the steep, muddy track pitted and rutted by quad tracks, I couldn’t see how any amount of gears and fancy suspension would keep a rider in the saddle. Walking it was enough of a challenge.
Skirting Hanging Crag the track eventually levelled out to reveal Blawearie ahead of us.
Blawearie House was built some time in the 19th Century by the Rogerson family, but was eventually abandoned in the 1940s. The gables and a few low walls are all that remain of the original buildings. To the east of the building an enormous rocky outcrop provides shelter, to the south, a stand of oaks blocks the wind, a couple of rope swings hang and dawdle from their branches.
We explored for a while, speculating on the stone walls used to divide the massive rocks. A sheep shelter perhaps? The hummocks of rock and heather to the north of the house – the spoils of leadmining? Unlikely, given the lack of running water. There was definitely something eerie about the place.
From Blawearie, we had a rough idea of where we wanted to go next, so we struck out east from the rocks, hoping to pick up a path that would take us across to the Iron Age hill-fort above Corby Crags. One thing I love about walking in Northumberland (especially away from the more popular destinations) is the lack of paths. This isn’t the Lake District with obvious gravel highways criss-crossing the fells. For large tracts of Northumberland the only things that form paths are sheep. So we improvised; picking our way over springy heather and soggy moss until eventually we picked up a droving path that led up to the fort. The ancient earthworks provided some shelter from the wind while we ate our sandwiches.
From the fort, we headed south, following a mix of paths past feeding stations for grouse (like it, or loathe it, hunting and shooting are part of the landscape here) towards the crest of Bewick Hill.
Along the crest there are two prominent rocks both carved with cup and ring marks. These ancient patterns are at least 3000 years old. There are many theories as to what they represent – solar and lunar alignments, way-markers, but what is striking is their simplicity and beauty. They’re also fiendishly difficult to photograph! In flat cloudy light, the lack of contrast means their details are lost. Luckily for us, low winter sun across the surface helped bring out the curves and patterns.
Heading further south, the path (there was an actual path at last…) cut through the earthworks of another hill-fort. This one much larger than that at Corby Crags, with a double perimeter encircling a wide part of the hillside above the cliffs. With views stretching south across the valley and west towards the Cheviots, and on the highest point for some distance, it was easy to see why it was chosen as a site for a fort.
It was also an obvious spot for more recent defenders. A World War Two concrete pillbox also hunkers down on the ridge, its gunports trained across the valley below.
In the early years of the war, military planners were convinced an invasion would take place across the North Sea via occupied Norway. So a network of defences along the coast and in the valleys of Northumberland was built to hamper the advance of any invading force.
From the pillbox, we headed south-west through a stand of pines and down a steep path to rejoin the Blawearie track down to Old Bewick, stopping to look at the old reservoir that would have supplied the farm-buildings before we returned to the car.
Once home, I did a bit of research about Blawearie. The massive rock outcrops weren’t a sheep shelter but the remains of an ancient Bronze Age cairn. The rocky hummocks are a burial ground. So much history in such a small space. I’m sure I’ll head back again soon.
Stan Beckensall is the expert on prehistoric Northumberland. Check out his books Northumberland’s Hidden History and Pre-Historic Rock Art in Northumberland.
Any good bookshop will order them for you. All bookshops are good bookshops.
(Everything else is just a tax-free warehouse with an internet connection.)
I’m assuming you’re a grown-up, with free will and all that, but even though I’m not your mother, here’s a few things to bear in mind…
Weather is always very changeable in the hills, so dress appropriately with sufficient layers for the conditions and pack a waterproof. The ground is rough and muddy; walking boots are essential.
Tell someone where you’re going and leave a rough plan of your route.
Take a map. A proper one, made of paper. It doesn’t rely on GPS or your phone’s dodgy battery to work. We took OS Explorer 332.
(If you’re not sure how to use a map, there are many guides (real ones, not blogs) who can show you how to use one.)
We parked at Old Bewick, northwest of Alnwick. Parking isn’t easy – the road is narrow and as this is a working farm on private land, the places that look like prime parking areas are adorned with hand-written No Parking signs. Be considerate and choose where you park carefully.
Enjoyed this? There’s more!
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about my trip to the Duddo Stones near Berwick.