Watson's Pike / Lilswood Moor

Harwood Side & Watson’s Pike

Walk Summary

An extended walk from the hamlet of Spartylea in East Allendale utilising two moorland routes, Long Drag and Broad Way, to visit a trio of trig points including Watson’s Pike.

Distance: 11.5 miles
Total ascent: 1475ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Spartylea
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

The north-east corner of the North Pennines is probably the one that I know the least. Prior to this walk I’d barely even set foot on the large tract of moors separating East Allendale from the valley of Devil’s Water to the east. I’ve long had my eye on a visit to the Watson’s Pike and Harwood Side trig points from Devil’s Water. In the end though a longer walk from East Allendale looked a bit more practical. It also meant that I could add a third trig point, Green Hill, on to the route.

For several days the forecast had been fairly promising – light showers and sunshine. By the morning of the walk this had deteriorated to rain most of the morning and early afternoon before thundery showers from about 2pm. By the time I’d driven up to Scotch Corner where I usually meet Paul it was absolutely lashing it down. After I’d swapped over to Paul’s car the downpour continued for a while. I confess I did think about suggesting we turned back.

“We timed our arrival at Watson’s Pike perfectly. Against all expectations blue sky began to appear and the sun came out.”

However, once we got into Weardale the rain stopped and while it was still cloudy overhead, the cloud level was above the tops. Eventually we arrived at the starting point for the walk, a small parking area in the hamlet of Spartylea. Here I discovered I’d left my walking boots in the back of my car. We couldn’t go back to Scotch Corner to get them so I decided I’d just have to wear my trainers. Fortunately, as we were planning a bit of heather bashing, Paul had a spare pair of gaiters that he could lend me.

Crossing over the road we passed between houses on an overgrown track. Passing through a gate we found ourselves on a wide track. This is Long Drag, a track that leads from Spartylea all the way across the moors to Whitley Chapel. This was to be our route for much of the outward route of the walk.

After a short while the track curved round up on to access land, it then led us across Sipton Cleugh. The crossing point was an impressively engineered bridge for such a small stream. Ahead of us now we could make out Sinderhope Carrs and Harwood Side. At a junction we turned left until we passed the remains of a small quarry. Here we left the track to begin our first detour, to the trig point on Harwood Side.

I was very conscious that I was wearing my trainers rather than walking boots. Therefore I didn’t take the most direct route but instead tried to stick to fire breaks in the heather, or at the very least patches of burnt or young heather. Somewhat surprisingly I managed to reach the trig point with dry feet. Despite the threatening forecast and downpour on the drive up it had done no more than spot with rain. The skies were still overcast and it was sticky and humid but the view was quite good with Lilswood Moor, the furthest point of the route now in view to the east.

From the trig point we walked in a NNW direction to an area of modest crags, one of which was topped by a well built currick. A bit further north we rejoined Long Drag. Whilst it was too early for most of the heather to have turned purple the track was lined with patches of very colourful bell heather. The track soon dropped down into a small cleugh. The handful of trees shown on the map were a testament to how precise the surveyors had been.

After passing an old hut with what looked like a generator we walked past a locked shooting hut. After crossing a bridge with some pipes below it we finally left Long Drag to continue on a track heading for Hangman Hill. At a crossroads with a thinner path we turned left. We would be returning to this point but for the meantime we climbed steadily up the side of Lilswood Moor on this new path, Broad Way. After climbing up to the 420m contour line we left this path to make our way to Watson’s Pike, the highest point of Lilswood Moor.

We were beaten to the trig point by a small group with what seemed to be shooting dogs. They moved away when we arrived but then preceded to try and train one of the dogs with the use of a whistle. Judging by the amount of time they were using the whistle their efforts weren’t very successful.

We timed our arrival at Watson’s Pike perfectly. Against all expectations blue sky began to appear and the sun came out. The panorama was superb with views overlooking Devil’s Water and extending out across the Tyne valley. Far away to the north the outline of The Cheviot and the Simonside Hills could also be made out.

After eating our lunch we walked south across the short heather to join the top of a track. Descending south west this returned us to the crossroads on Hangman Hill. Turning left on to another section of Broad Way we descended to a dip before climbing up above the bracken of Rowantree Cleugh. The path continued to pass through a gate in a fence.

Initially quite thin and sketchy in places, Broad Way was to be our route for the next few miles. After passing below Harwood Carrs the path gradually began to improve as it climbed up to a fence. On the other side of the fence there was a huge tractor with eight wheels. Now on a proper track we continued on to pass twin shooting huts. These were made out of corrugated iron painted black, much the same as the one we’d passed earlier on Long Drag. We also passed a several rusty tripods alongside the track. Most had toppled over but all had a section of turf next to them. Their purpose was something of a mystery, my guess is that they are old grouse feeding stations.

After another two-thirds of a mile we made our final detour of the day, this time to the trig point on Green Hill, the highest point of the walk. This is one that I had visited before, way back in 2005 on my first visit to the North Pennines. Dark ominous cloud across the valley added drama to the view of Killhope Law.

Returning to the track we continued descending until we reached a grassy bridleway. This zig-zagged down to the row of houses at Fell View. All the way down we enjoyed some super views of East Allendale. At Fell View we took a small road slanting down to a ford. Crossing over we turned upstream to follow a path leading to St Peter’s Church. Here we took a track up past the old mill to reach another road. This has been heavily fortified to prevent subsidence. The road soon dropped down to Spartylea Bridge from where it was a short walk back up to the car.

Considering the forecast, we got away with only two very short showers. Not only that but we also enjoyed some fine sunny spells. The walk itself also surpassed my expectations with Watson’s Pike in particular a spot I’d like to return to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *