One of the things I wanted to do as part of my #50in50 challenge was to climb The Cheviot – the highest hill in the Cheviot Hills, which straddle the English-Scottish border. We must have driven past this range of hills hundreds of times on our way driving north or south, but I’d never walked in them. Despite this being a fantastic summer so far, it wasn’t the warmest day – in fact it was blowing a gale (I am wearing at least 6 layers here I think). Although the Pennine Way, one of Britains’ best known National Trails, runs close by, we saw no-one. The only noises, apart from the wind, were the calls of buzzards and peregrines, the song of the skylark and of course some sheep and cows. You may be wondering how to pronounce ‘Cheviot’ – and I would tell you, except we are not sure – local people seem to use both ‘Cheeeviot’ and ‘Chehviot’……
The weather did improve on our way back down through the peaceful College Valley, and we were rewarded by some lovely views
We spent a couple of days walking in these hills, in which there are several prehistoric hill forts, including the massive Yeavering Bell hill fort, where a stone wall in part 3 metres wide encloses an area of around 12 acres. This is a view across to the hill fort – you can see the line of the wall running round the top of the hill.
A number of ’roundhouses’ have been found within the fort, which may or may not have been houses. There are also the remains of stone huts elsewhere on the surrounding hills and high valleys, along with barrows (burial mounds). Although there are great views from the fort (see below), I’m sure it would have been a pretty tough place to live.
There are herds of wild goats living in the area – and as we had been warned, you can smell them before you see them…. These feral Goats are not native to Britain and are originally from the Middle East. They were brought to the UK in Neolithic times as domestic stock, and were probably allowed to go feral when sheep replaced goats as the favoured stock of upland farmers during the Middle Ages.
While in Northumberland we visited a lovely cafe in the village of Warkworth – Bertram’s, highly recommended for lunch/cake/coffee….. They had some gorgeous-looking Victoria sponge cakes on display, so I was keen to make my own. I can never get my Victoria sponges to rise very well (I don’t know if this is a lack of sugar or my ineptitude), but this one, adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson (in her book ‘How to be a domestic goddess’) still tastes delicious, even if it isn’t quite as ‘tall’ as I would like….
Lemon and Mascarpone Sandwich Cake (pdf: Lemon and Mascarpone Sandwich Cake)
225g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour (if you don’t have this then just use 225g SR flour in total instead)
1-2 tablespoons milk
2 x 21cm sandwich tins, buttered
2-4 tablespoons jam (I used our home-made plum jam)
100g mascarpone cheese, softened
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees/160 fan/gas 4
- Cream butter and sugar
- Add eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour with each egg. Mix well
- Add the rest of the flour and the cornflour and fold in.
- Mix in lemon zest and juice and finally mix in the milk
- Pour into the tins and bake for ~25 minutes until the cakes are beginning to come away at the edges and a skewer comes out clean
- Leave to cool in the tins for 10 mins before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack
- When you are ready to eat, spread the jam over the top of one of the cakes, followed by the mascarpone. Then put the second layer of cake on top and serve!