Last October a small article in our local paper (the Berwick Advertiser) about nearby Kyloe Camp caught my eye. An Iron Age promontory fort nearby – hmm – that sounds worth exploring …So explore it we did – we’ve been three times now, and we will go again and again because it is a beautiful and fascinating place.
Our first trip was in November last year. A beautiful crisp day. We weren’t initially sure how to approach this walk – after all Kyloe Woods is quite a large plantation – nor were we at all sure of what we were going to find, apart from – hopefully – Kyloe Camp on the promontory.
We found much much more than we expected – and many paths in and around the woods. But the Kyloe Woods are privately owned by Scottish Woodlands, and not all paths are open to the general public …This is the entrance on the western side of Kyloe Woods and the signage makes ownership and access clear. Scottish Woodlands have large machinery operating here at times and are understandably anxious not to find walkers ambling round in their way …So we settled on approaching from the north-east, following part of the route of St Cuthbert’s way. We parked near Fenwick Wood and headed down the the way-marked route …Walking along the initial approaches to Kyloe woods last November, we noticed the markings on the trees growing out of the old wall …When we walked there earlier in the week, Scottish Woodlands gave us clear warning …… they had been working on those marked trees …Leaving the old stone wall clearly exposed …All credit to Scottish Woodlands who made the muddy route very clear once we entered the woods … And indeed it was very very muddy amid the evidence of heavy machinery working …As I followed Stephen up and on into the forest …But it pretty soon became exciting as we met the Leylandii, massive in their natural habitat …Followed by enormous firs …Entered dense bowers …The path carpeted with beech leaves …Then the trees began to open out …The signage continued to be very good – very clear and very welcoming …Then we caught a first glimpse of Bogle Houses …Bogle Houses sits on the roadway crossing the woods. They are so named after the local bogeyman …But all boarded up now they are really more sad than haunted …Our track continued over the road …Up the hill …Lots of little seedling trees in the undergrowth …And the trees were getting taller and taller …Or else Stephen was shrinking …Suddenly we noticed the monkey puzzle trees …Then they were all around us …And it was terribly exciting – this is so far from what we expected from today’s walk …Turning round, we got our first glimpse of the sea through the monkey puzzles …We were in a bracken clearing …But – we hadn’t reached the top yet. Ahead of us the path stretched on to a little gate (which we explored later) …And above us – through the bracken – was the fort – presumably …It’s very hard to show the fort in photographs from ground level amid bracken, but you perhaps can get some idea here of the ramparts lying under that bracken …
The curious thing about the site of the fort is that it has been divided – part of it lies in Kyloe Woods, and part of it in the farmer’s fields through the little gate. So back to that little gate …Passing through it and looking back at the wall running through the promontory … And – stepping further away …We explored the mound – nothing obvious for us to see …But the views would have been commanding, both out to sea …And over the land up to Scotland …Back inside Kyloe Woods there was still plenty to explore – up the hill we went only to find something else we hadn’t expected at all – the top of the hill stops abruptly with the steepest of steep drops. Way, way down there is the road running through the woods …On our December trip to the woods, we walked along this road ourselves so I can show you the view of the cliffs from the bottom …This rock formation is known as a cuesta – “a hill or ridge with a gentle slope on one side, and a steep slope on the other”. And there are other examples of it around Kyloe Camp. These cliffs are where the great North-eastern Whin Sill is intrusive into the Fell Sandstones of the locality …What we were later to learn through internet research is that certain cliffs in Kyloe Woods are renowned for their bouldering challenge …
But we were still a-top on our walk, enjoying the views right over to Lindisfarne … Picknicking …And the Araucarias! They are more commonly known as Monkey Puzzle Trees, and are native to many other parts of the world but not Northumberland. However, they do like exposed situations, and here, at the top of the Kyloe Hills, must be perfect for them. Apparently, there are well over 100 of them growing here.
We sat in a sort of ring of Araucarias as they crown and surround the top of the iron age hill fort of Kyloe Camp. A most surreal combination of geographies and histories …They are such beautiful trees – those long curving branches (very prickly!) …With their beautiful bright green tips and rosettes …This is our favourite tree on the site. From its collapsed trunk has grown the most elegant of shapes …Finally time to leave, a little sadly perhaps – but, my goodness, the trees were as magnificent on descent as when we walked up through them …Back home to research this extraordinary plantation. Apparently these trees were planted by Christopher John Leyland of nearby Haggerston Castle in the early twentieth century …Christopher Leyland (formerly Naylor) inherited the estate of Haggerston from his uncle in 1891 and with great enthusiasm (and huge expense) rebuilt the estate, establishing fabulous buildings, gardens – and a small zoo!
He was an enthusiastic silviculturist, and had brought with him from his family home of Leighton Hall in Powys several small seedlings – one of which he named Haggerston Grey. And it is this seedling, later renamed Cupressus x leylandii (but commonly known now as Leylandii) that he nurtured and planted abundantly on his Kyloe hill estate – along with grand firs, sequoias and araucarias. What vision!
In recent years Leylandii have acquired a bad name for themselves – but this is because they have been planted in wildly unsuitable urban locations, giving no room for this fast-growing tree to expand as it requires …In the spacious surroundings of the Kyloe hills, it is a beautiful happy tree … Christopher Leyland died in 1926 and the Haggerston Castle estate was sold by Leyland’s son in 1931…The castle grounds are now Haggerston Castle Holiday Park . Leyland’s water tower and rotunda (both grade II listed) remain to remind us of the magnificence that once was Haggerston Castle …But I suspect Christopher Leyland would be happier to think his memorial was in the glories of nearby Kyloe Woods …
4 thoughts on “Kyloe woods”
You have the most extraordinary places to walk where you live. Who knew Monkey Puzzle trees could grow there? I take it that was more than a one day trip! Cheers.
We were amazed to find this place too! There aren’t just monkey puzzle trees but Californian redwoods as well – I’d never have thought they could grow in northern England, so very different from their Californian home!
There are Wellingtonias, natives of New Zealand planted there too. My grandfather worked for Hagggerston estate and Leyland travelled the world to bring back non native trees.There was a tree nursery behind the Bogle houses and the first Leyland was planted there,reaching the height of approx 50/60 feet. In the late1800s people lived in the Bogle houses which have nothing to do with bogeymen!! There used to be a sawmill near the houses and cut wood was put into carts and taken out of the woods. Whether the carts were called bogies,I don’t know. Kyloe woods were our playground unlike Fenwick woods which have an uneasy atmosphere, even as adults none of us would go into them; they are ancient woodlands over 1,000 years old.
Thank you very much, Elizabeth, for your most interesting comment. I do so wish that I knew more about trees and could identify the magnificent trees in Kyloe woods better. What a wonderful gift Leyland, your grandfather and others who worked on the estate have give us with the Kyloe woods plantation!