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The Chevy Chase

The youth hostel at Wooler is where we meet,
First Saturday in July.
To take on the route, the views and the hills,
Of the annual Chevy Chase.

The start is up Commonburn Road,
To the sound of a noisy gun,
Us walkers go first, then there’s the run
Is this 20-mile chase really going to be fun?

For Hellspath we head then it’s on to the ruin
That is now re-built and ever so smart.
Dib our wrists in the timer, grab a drink as we pass,
By now we’re o’er three miles from the start.

On the horizon you see two very big hills,
Cheviot and Hedgehope too.
Away to the south there’s the crags we shall meet,
All this in a very wide view.

From here we climb up to the watershed,
Of the Hawsen and Lambden burns.
A land of grouse butts and cotton grass
Where the curlew and wheatears turn.

Cheviot Knee – a strange turn of phrase,
Is checkpoint number two.
I muse to myself as I climb the fence
Does it have ankles and shoulders too?

Turning the fence at the corner,
And there it lies ahead.
Uphill is a stage of zones and stones
As Cheviot rears its head.

Eight zones in all take me to the top
Each measured by a mark on the ground.
There’s grass, then boulders, peat hags and stones,
My racing breath being the only sound.

From the summit to Hedgehope is one long slog,
down Cadlaw Hole to the tree.
Across the Harthope then up again
‘til the map of Australia I see.

 

The top of Hedgehope is half way round
Ten miles gone and what a pound!
To Kelpie Strand and on to the crags,
Jelly babies and no more hags.

 

On to Brands Corner, really quite fast,
Some nice flat tracks with plenty of grass.
Then a deep little cleugh pulls your breath,
My knees just say ‘there’s nothing left’.

Past checkpoint six and on to the valley
What heaven to go downhill.
Shortbread biscuits and smiling faces
Make Skirlie Bridge such a thrill.

Then it’s on to that track up the Careyburn,
That twists and turns through the gorse.
It’s narrow, it’s rough and hard on the feet
With ups and downs, no straight course.

Hellspath and home, here we come,
those sayings and signs to jolly us on.
I wonder who wrote them, who knows how we feel,
Here I just remember my brother’s sore heel.

Back to the hostel, down the road,
Hugging the grass, feet set to implode.
Folks on the benches give us a smile,
Such a help on that very last mile.

Across the time line to more smiling faces,
T-shirts and food and many embraces.
Tea by the mugfulls as we sit on the lawn,
Relaxed, exhausted, maybe a yawn.

Never again….until next year
Why is it so compelling?
What is it about the Chevy Chase
That just gets the spirit welling?

July 1st 2010.
Sarah Wilson


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