Thursday, 6 September 2018

Walking the Simonside Hills - Harwood Forest, Northumberland

I have been desperate to explore Simonside in Northumberland for the longest time. Mesmerised by the most beautiful photographs of the vibrant purple hills, it's one of the few parts of the county that we are yet to discover. Unfortunately this year we have left it a bit too late to enjoy the moors in full bloom so instead decided to enjoy a spot of walking in Harwood Forest with a great opportunity to enjoy some of the Simonside scenery without having to climb up any steeps hills.

Walking in the Simonside Forest, Northumberland
Following the Northumberland National Park's Simonside Family Walk route (you'll find the PDF of the route here), we started our adventure getting completely lost trying to find the Forest Commission Simonside carpark. The moment when we were struggling to find a passing place on a single track road, completely lost I thought we'd have to head home having not even managed to start the walk! Luckily we worked it out in the end, but if you are wanting to try this walk I'd recommend that you rely on good old fashioned map reading rather than your satnav.

With its location perfect for a fair few popular walks in the hills the Forest Commission carpark gets pretty full so I'd say head out early. We managed to get ourselves the last space when we visited at around lunchtime and were incredibly lucky to get parked.  The spot is also rather remote with the nearest facilities being in the village of Rothbury so make sure you have everything you need with you and have emptied your bladder before you begin.

Walking Simonside Forest, Northumberland

There are two walking routes marked out from the Forest Commission carpark, an easy mile long  route through the forest and a tougher route that takes in the ridge and some pretty impressive views. Unfortunately our route didn't come with any helpful signposts to follow so it was time to test out our less than perfect map reading skills.

Walking Simonside, NorthumberlandOur chosen walk promised a 3.5 mile easy trail with plenty to see and do along the way. Following the main track through the woodland we began our slight climb up hill appreciating the lovely cool shelter of the tall pine trees.

Immediately spotting that these are the kind of trees that our friends the red squirrels love to hide in it wasn't too long before one had appeared although Simon somehow managed to miss it! Darting across the path just ahead of us it vanished pretty quickly, its bushy red tail a bit of a blur against the woodland floor. We crept into the trees hoping to get a better look but unfortunately he was gone. If you're going to take a walk through the forest make sure you keep your eyes open because it's a great place to spot some of Northumberland's best wildlife.



Simonside is famed for its beautiful purple moorlands, best seen in August we were slightly too late to see the full display of colour but there were still a few patches of heather to be found nestled between the trees and I think in the height of Summer this walk would be really beautiful - a great alternative way to enjoy a taste of the moorlands without having to do any climbing.

Simonside, Northumberland


It wasn't long before we'd found our way to the edge of the forest and the most beautiful views over the Coquet Valley to the Cheviot Hills. Wandering slightly off the path we made our way through the gate for a better look.

Simonside, Northumberland Hills


I could quite happily sit in this spot for hours and just enjoy the fantastic views. Sometimes taking the easier route and not climbing the hills truly pays off as you get to enjoy scenery like this.

... and here's where our lovely adventure comes to an abrupt end!

Maybe it was veering slightly off the path, maybe it's because we were too busy looking up in the trees for squirrels but it was this point in the walk that we accidentally walked in the completely wrong direction and then couldn't get ourselves back on the right path no matter how hard we tried. We re-read the instructions over and over, turned the map round and round but we just couldn't put ourselves right and in the end had to give up.

Simonside, Northumberland Cheviot Hills
So we never discovered Little Church Rock (which I'd been looking forward to attempting to clamber for great views) and had to return to the carpark defeated. Booo!

I guess walks don't always go to plan which is why I decided to still share our adventure, and I'm fully expecting you all to tell me how easy this walk is and how you've all managed to complete it!

Simonside, Northumberland Cheviot


Anyone else got a walking disaster to share? I'd love to hear your stories and make sure you let me know your favourite walks in the Northumberland hills.
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4 comments

  1. What beautiful photos, you look so happy out in the countryside - it definitely suits you! Inspires me to be less lazy and do more walks when I get back.

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    1. Ahhh how kind, thank you! I love being out and about in the countryside, unfortunately my husband is quite the opposite and much prefers sitting indoors in front of his games console, so there's a lot of compromise behind the scenes!

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  2. It's so beautiful! I'm always useless at map reading - I need a route with proper signs or there is no hope! x

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    1. I have to admit, as much as I do love the idea of being a proper walk, I do really appreciate a good signpost, that's why we quite often just do walks round National Trust because it's impossible to get lost!

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