In the Spring we will be heading off to one of Britain’s great National Parks in Northumberland to practice the 7 habits in a stunning setting
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We will be incorporating – and physically doing v’s chatting and reading about it – the 7 habits you can see across the wondrlust.com
and some of what we might be seeing; Mythical dwarfs, curlews and rare wild goats are just a few of the highlights of Northumberland, says ecologist Gill Thompson
The Cheviot Hills in the Northumberland National Park Photo: Simon Fraser
The far north-east of England, also comprising parts of Hadrian’s Wall.
Northumberland is renowned for its wide open moorland which covers about 70 per cent of the National Park – black moor of heather and white moor of grassland.
When was it formed?
April 6, 1956
Northumberland National Park is the least populated area of the country with less than 2000 people in 400 square miles.
I love the view of the Coquet Valley from Dove Crag on the Simonside Ridge, with fascinating sandstone formations in the foreground, giving way to impressive views of the Cheviots across the valley.
Simonside Dove Crag Picture: Simon Fraser
The Park varies so much, but again I love the Coquet Valley because it has it all.
A walk along its Simonside Ridge is a walk through history and myth, as well as providing fantastic views to the Cheviots in the west and to the sea in the east.
The fell sandstone is the remains of a 350 million-year-old sandy delta. Pre-historic rock art, Bronze Age cairns, an Iron Age Hill fort, and the sites of the legendary Duergar (mythical dwarves who dwell in the rocks and hills – see here for more information) can be seen among the heather moorland, which the product of hundreds of years of grazing and burning.
Download a guide to Simonside Ridge walk here
Rothbury, the gateway to Simonside
There’s not enough native woodland – we hope to plant more. There’s also limited public transport, broadband and mobile phone coverage – but if you’re on holiday, being off-grid is a bonus.
There are so many – I have listed a few below:
1. Heather for the curlews
The curlew is our emblem bird, and still thrives in the heather of Northumberland although it is declining elsewhere. There are also black and red grouse, ring ouzel, the day-flying emperor moth and the mountain bumblebee, which thrive here on the heather and bilberry.
2. Life in the bogs
I love bogs and we have lots of blanket bog and deep mires with peat over 10 metres in depth in places and 10,000 years in the growing. It is home to many types of sphagnum moss, bog asphodel, bog rosemary and sundew, cloudberry and crowberry. The large heath butterfly lays its eggs on the cotton grass.
3. Ancient woodlands
There are tiny, conserved fragments of truly ancient woodland survive in sheltered cleughs (a cleft or gorge) in the moors of the National Park and efforts are being made to extend and link them. There are aspen, juniper, sessile oak, herb paris, Jacob’s Ladder, pipistrelle bats and many birds find shelter in them. Above all, the red squirrel finds a haven in both these and the vast conifer plantations of the Borders including the Kielder Forest.
4. Pristine waters
There are freshwater pearl mussels, white clawed crayfish, water crowfoot and teeming salmon and sea trout, which attest to the purity of Northumberland National Park’s mountain-sourced rivers. Along Hadrian’s Wall are freshwater loughs – a vital pit stop for winter migrating birds. They also contain interesting water plants.
5. Traditional haymeadows
Upland hay meadows are internationally rare and Northumberland National Park has some of the best in Europe. Ancient haymeadows contain wood cranesbill, yellow rattle and the melancholy thistle. Bumblebees and skylarks find secure nesting and food sources here.
6. Wild goats
Special to the Cheviot Hills are the Cheviot wild goats, a very hardy breed that survive the harshest winters. A new walk in the College Valley takes you to see them in their hairy herds.
The Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site at Steel Rigg, which is also accessible to wheelchairs and has spectacular views of Crag Lough and the dramatic Whin Sill ridge.
Early summer is great for the flowers, late summer for the purple heather blaze but if I really had to choose, early October for some of those crisp, blue sky days and spectacular colours on the hills.
The uplands of Northumberland National Park are the location of the most pristine water courses in the country.
A walk up to the waterfall at Hareshaw Linn through the wood is great when the spring flowers are out and the migrant birds have returned.
See here for many more free, downloadable Rangers Favourite Walksto suit all abilities.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path and the Pennine Way National Trails criss-cross the National Park, but also try the St Cuthbert’s and St Oswald’s ways for different approaches.
Haltwhistle and Rothbury Walking Festivals give you a good taster of available walks. I have walked part of the Pennine Way through the Park and love the feeling of being on top of the world along the Border ridge.
The central most scenic section of Hadrian’s Wall – there are so many things to do and see that will please everyone – great forts, museums and eating places. The Hadrian’s Wall Farmer’s Market at Greenhead takes place on second Sunday of every month, and the recreation area and cafe of Walltown, a former quarry now returned to nature with its wildlife lakes, willow maze, geological trail and lofty crags.
I love cycling and Northumberland National Park’s traffic-free roads (and challenging slopes) make it a natural place for getting out on the bike. Wooler Wheel and the Bellingham Blast are two increasingly popular community-run cycling challenges during the year and the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge is well established.
Kielder Water and Forest Park has some awesome mountain bike trails. A range of leisure rides can be downloaded from the cycling hub website here.
Can you stay there?
Yes. Choose from bunk barns, camping pods, luxury tepees, yurts, campsites, b & b’s and guest houses. The Visit Northumberland website lists them all.
Some parts – especially the high hills – are very remote and the weather can be changeable. Please take food and water with you on long walks, make sure you can read your map (don’t rely on GPS and mobiles as coverage is patchy) and wear clothing for the terrain and eventualities – there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Most of the park is farmed and livestock hill farms work on small margins. Residents like to welcome visitors but please be considerate by shutting gates, not leaving litter and keeping dogs on a lead.