The Road To Commonburn

liv2write2day [Victoria] has been doing some pieces over the last few months, one is a prompt, the other, some information about something linked into poetry, Wordsmith Wednesday. Due to other commitments and life, she has decided to unite the two and this is the first week of trying that format. I personally like it and think it works well and so this is my effort towards that new challenge.

This piece I wrote a few months ago about our holiday in the hills of Northumberland, my spiritual home.  I used to be a very avid hill walker until life threw me a curveball and put a stop to it all. But this summer past, we decided to go back to the area for a week and stayed in a beautiful cottage in the hamlet of High Humbleton. Its right on the edge of the hills we walked so frequently and I was determined to get up my favourite hill to enjoy the views. To the east, you can see the beautiful coastline of Northumberland. To the west, The Cheviot, the largest of the hills and fells. To the north, into Scotland’s border area. To the south, the southern hills of the pennines. It is a view I never tire of.

The following day, we did a walk that we remembered as being fairly easy going and pretty much on the flat [few hills]. All roads, drovers paths lead to Commonburn. A farmstead isolated in a valley  is the central hub for all these old trails. This is my effort at describing some of it. I was stupid, doing the hill one day, then this walk the next day took a lot out of me, but hell, I enjoyed it so much, it was worth the effort.

At the end of the poem, I have written a few explanations of what certain words mean as I know most readers will be slightly puzzled as to what I am referring to.

The Road To Commonburn

Outward bound, heading up the Lonnen,
A Drovers road, long forgotten,
Dropping down toward Humbleton Burn,
Ne’er the occassion, to take a wrong turn.

Through gorse and bracken, the intrepid walk,
Guffaws of laughter, banter and talk,
The Commonburn Road, uphill and down dale,
All the more famous for a travellers tale.

Passing Bells Valley, tucked away out of sight,
Listening to Curlews whilst Skylarks take flight,
Ewes and their lambs stop eating to stare,
Their bonny black faces, their tails in the air.

Thistles have taken the verge from the heather,
Hardly annuals, survive in all weather,
Blaeberries cluster, like constellations up high,
Foxgloves bells, reach for the sky.

With blanket laid down, in lee of a bluff,
Seated for sustenance by the edge of a cleugh,
Weary limbs rested, its off over the moor,
Proceeding along the foot of Newtons Tor.

Along by the cairn, the Waymarkers say,
Forward to join St Cuthberts Way,
Turning for home, walkers starting to flag,
Walking below, young Tom Tallons crag.

Down passed plantations and over the blog,
Rounding the grouse butts, its becoming a slog,
Climb over Gains Law, onwards we go,
Weary walkers, moving incredibly slow.

On the last leg, not far to go now,
Its been six hours, a marathon and how,
Just the Lonnen to tackle, we’ll be back home again,
Least the day stayed fair, thankfully no rain.

Comparing bunyons and bruises, with talk of sore toes,
Just a few of the hill walkers woes,
The moral of the story, this much is true,
Dont bite off more than you can chew!


There are many words here that many of you will not know, all related to the countryside we were walking upon. Lonnen is a Northumbrian word for street or road. A Drover was a person taking livestock to market, much like a cowboy? Most Drovers roads have been lost due to farming in England. A dale is a valley, or at least another word for one. Bells Valley is a farmstead, hidden in a dale, unless you know where to look. Curlews and skylarks are birds found in the region. Thistles are plants that have a beautiful purple flower, but are very aggressive, often choking smaller plants and of course, the true emblem of Scotland. We were walking close to the border with Scotland. Heather is a decidious shrub, common throughtout the UK and Europe. A bluff is a steep hill. A cleugh is a Northumbrian word for a small, steep ravine. Many places are mentioned, like Newtons Tor, a rocky outcrop and Tom Tallons crag, very similar to a tor. The names are burried in the history of the hills and I am not sure that anyone knows the real reasons they have such names.

St Cuthberts Way is a footpath taken by St Cuthbert in the sixth century. The walk is said to have been made from Holy Island [Lindisfarne] to Melrose, a distance of some 60 odd miles. St Cuthbert spent his early years at Melrose Abbey before setting out to Lindisfarne where he established his own ministry and where he was to later die. The Lindisfarne Gospels are of great historic value and are a true work of art. They were written in honour of God and St Cuthbert sometime in the seventh or eighth century. I have walked the length of St Cuthberts Way,and its a wonderful walk passing through some beautiful countryside in a place I refer to as my spiritual home.

Commonburn is one farm, deep in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and many footpaths pass through Commonburn. A burn is a small stream in these parts and Commonburn Road does indeed have a stream flowing alongside it.

A grouse butt is a hidding screen used by shotgun enthusiasts when shooting grouse [The glorious 12th of August]. Grouse can only be shot during a short season after nesting is finshed, often referred to as The Glorious Twelfth.

Gains Law is an area of high moorland and heath [Law again appears to be Northern term].

It was a long walk, painfully slow at times [due to my disability] but the weather was kind [it often rains on these hills, hence ref made to bogs] and we all had a sense of achievement at its end.

Just one of our sojourns during our break in the hills.

Humbleton Hill, from the South. The path is steep, but on the northern side is a path thats longer, but not as steep.

The Cheviot from the southern end approach.

Newton Tors from St Cuthberts Way.

St Cuthberts Way crossing Weetwood Moor.


4 responses to “The Road To Commonburn

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