Chevy Chase Recce 13th June 2021


I’m a sucker for helping anyone and I’ve also got a thing about pushing people to the edge of their comfort zone. A Chevy Chase recce with an assorted range of abilities should do both. Adrian Cantle-Jones, Brian Buckley, Ian Hutchinson, John Donneky and I agreed to meet at Wooler on June 13th for twenty miles of Cheviot fun. Leading up to the run I had two goals

  • to get everyone around the course safely
  • to see the waterfall on Carey Burn I had raced past 5 times but never seen

The Chevy Case is a 20 mile race in the Cheviot Hills taking place on the first Saturday in July. Organisers cancelled the race in 2020. It is one of the oldest races dating back to the 1950’s and 2021 will be the 64th race. One of the advertised races on the inaugural Fell Runners Association calendar in 1970 and is part of the FRA 50@50 celebration. Along the way it takes in the two highest peaks in the Cheviot Hills Cheviot and Hedgehope. The route has some stunning scenery and about 4,000ft of ascent. At times there is no obvious path or trod to follow and a bit of local knowledge helps.


Adrian decided back in 2019 he was going to tackle the Chevy Chase. He enjoyed running the two big hills and thought it would be a good idea to improve his fitness over the winter and have a target race. Fast forward eighteen months and things haven’t quite gone to plan. Working from home in North Tyneside has meant easy access to food and less hills to train on. He’s put on a bit of weight and is less fit. Predictably Adrian still wants to embrace the challenge and complete the race next month. This Chevy Chase recce is his chance to test his legs and gear in a supportive environment.

John and Ian are Chevy Chase regulars and should have no problems with the length or terrain. John won the veteran male over 40 trophy in 2019 and set a club record time. The opposite can be said of Brian who wants to run the course he has heard about for thirty years. He hasn’t done much fell running for a few years and the long grass on the descents is sure to cause him problems.

John, Ian and Adrian are taking part in the 2021 race. Brian has his second Covid injection on the day and I’m not entering this year.

Chevy Chase veterman male over 40 trophy
Photograph John Donneky

Recce Underway

John takes back his vet 40 trophy as the rest of us chat about the route and make sure we have enough fuel and water. The idea is to get Adrian around the first few checkpoints under the cut off times and see how it goes from there. I’ve got a good idea of the route but I still take my OS map and compass just in case we go wrong or need to bail out. We meet John at the start on Ramsey’s Lane and after a quick photograph we are on our way.

Brian, Adrian, John and Ian at the start

After the first half mile on road we follow the sign onto Wooler Common. Keeping the trees on our right we cut over the common and exit onto the stony track. I’ve already been this way twice in 2021 so I’ve confident we can’t get lost yet. We drop down Hell Path and Brian grinds to a halt. He isn’t confident on the uneven loose rocks and stony underfoot conditions. I assure him it will be much more fun running back up it in 15 miles. His reply to this suggestion is unprintable.

Some new friends near Wooler Common

Our Chevy Chase recce continues along the Carey Burn towards the first checkpoint of the day at Broadstruther. It hasn’t been a quick pace as everyone find their fell legs but we are ten minutes inside the cut off time and Adrian celebrates with a photograph. It’s an isolated cottage on a winding dirt track. Perfect for Summer but a bit isolated in winter?

Adrian at Broadstruther

Tackling The Cheviot

From the first couple of miles we have seen Cheviot to the right and Hedgehope to the left ahead of us. Leaving Broadstruther the path continues on a gradual uphill skirting Broadhope Hill and running down a stony worn path downhill. Brian is already complaining we are running the hard bits and walking on the parts he finds runnable. I know what is coming up so I just agree.

Skirting Broadhope Hill

We start the big climb 250m in about a kilometre. The peat bogs which are usually full of water and a lottery of underfoot conditions are dry and have a uniform feel to them. It could be different on race day but it is much easier than usual not worrying about having your leg sucked into the bog.

The Cheviot

Adrian has dropped off on this climb his handheld water bottle usually seen on a Parkrun welded to his fingers. His new shoes aren’t quite as he had hoped but he’s getting used to them on the Chevy Chase recce and not the race itself which is sensible. From being at the back Brian is now at the front as he tries to keep a steady pace and climb the highest peak in the Cheviot Range. For John, Ian and myself its a leisurely pace and an enjoyable experience not racing up the hill.

Brian pushes on up the steep climb to Cheviot

The climb flattens out a bit near the stile which takes you to the summit cairn. We leave Brian resting at the stile and jog back down the bank to pick up Adrian.

The Cheviot

It isn’t long until we are climbing the stile and heading along the rough paving slabs heading towards one of the more interesting trig points I’ve visited. The construction sits on a concrete plinth which then has a rough grey breeze block type blob on top with the trig perched more than five feet above ground level. It is a good place to have a stop and regroup.

More practice needed taking selfies Ian Hutchinson

One of my favourite parts of the Chevy Chase is the descent from Cheviot. It is steep and pathless before eventually joining a sheep trod down to Harthope Burn. I’ve been telling Brian for weeks how steep the descent is and the force it puts through your legs but he thinks I’ve been exaggerating.

We climb over the stile near the trig and negotiate the little peat hags which are very dry. Adrian is doing something with his bag behind and the rest of us walk to the edge of the descent.

Hedgehope from Cheviot

Into The Valley

Whenever I run down this hill it seems like Into The Valley by the Skids sneaks into my head and won’t leave. I’ve got a bit more time than usual to contemplate this as the guitar riff kicks in. The lyrics don’t fit the valley I’m descending into but its a nice fast paced song and exactly when you need to keep going.

The moment I’ve been waiting for since Brian said he was coming on the recce arrives “where’s the path?” we all look at him and reiterate there’s no path but Brian is still muttering about the lack of a path when Adrian arrives. We begin to enjoy the exhilarating drop from 800 metres to 400 metres in a kilometre but I need to put the brakes on when I glance back to see the contrast of techniques behind.

Sledging or dancing which is the best technique?

Refuel And Regroup At The River

A while later we arrive at the stream. It doesn’t matter how you get down the bank but in order to join onto the next path it is important to look for the tree cover on the bankside. Bottles are refilled from the fast running water and I distribute water purification tablets to ensure it is fit to drink.

John and Ian near Harthope Burn Adrian and Brian are the two blurry dots in the distance

Adrian has a muscle strain from his dancing descent and Brian’s notoriously dodgy shins are playing up but otherwise we are in good shape. Hutchy and I both know what is coming next so we scramble up the almost pathless mound in front of us before Brian can say his catchphrase. John catches us up and says Adrian might turn off at Hedgehope but we know its a bluff. There is no way he will stop now and he will keep going.


The climb up Hedgehope is easier and less stressful than in the race. We don’t have runners taking multiple different lines and I’m always worried I’ve chosen the slowest route. I’ve tried them all and I prefer going through the middle but it doesn’t stop you thinking. There isn’t much else to do than think on the long climb from the burn. What time will I get home? Am I drinking enough? Is Jacob meeting another Newcastle Eagles basketball star at his weekend job while I trudge up this hill?

We come to the little stream crossing and I can hear a collective groan from behind. Trashed legs from the previous descent now dropping down another steep slope. We all survive and continue climbing. The fell is dry and the weather fine although the mist has now moved onto Cheviot. Brian can’t understand how we can race on this terrain. I’m a bit confused, a race is a race. A to B as fast as you can whatever the course or weather throws at you.

Big valley for a little tributary

The pile of stones on the final path always gives me a lift. By then the path is grassy not rough and tussock peppered like the lower slopes. It is easier to get a rhythm and tap out a consistent pace. Brian is pushing on strongly at this point with less difficult terrain suiting his running style. We reach the top and stop for a few windy photographs.

Mark and Adrian on Hedgehope
Photograph by John Donneky

Now The Race Begins

At about 12 miles the climbing is mostly over and the race can begin. Who has preserved their legs best over the climbs and can push to the finish? For us it is time to slow down and make sure we get back to Wooler with as few problems as possible. On our Chevy Chase recce Brian continues his push towards the finish by starting the steep descent from Hedgehope first. I’m happy to take my time as it is the best view on the whole route.

Brian leads off Hedgehope
Photograph by Ian Hutchinson

Brian and Adrian carefully pick their way down the hill as I enjoy an another run to the bottom. For the next couple of miles it is flatish fell running with a couple of crags thrown in.

John Takes On A Snake

I’m not expecting any excitement and soon we are all munching on Squashies as we climb over the fence at Long Crags. John checks the England football score on his phone which I’m surprised has a signal. I’m explaining to Adrian about the route choices to Langlee Crags when an Adder slithers onto the path less than a metre away from us. Four people retreat quickly out of striking range but John stands his ground daring the poisonous snake to bite him. Fortunately it decides not to sink its fangs into his leg and slithers away into the undergrowth.

We take a good line from Langlee Crags and reach the gravel track. The weather below the two peaks is noticeably warmer, muggier and less windy. I’m pleased I’ve got my wide brimmed hat on and caked myself in sun cream earlier. We cut the corner off by using a sheep trod which is only visible in places. I’m at the front of the pack leaving Adrian at the back to hear about the lack of a path. The contents of my bag are moving about and the zip has become partially undone. On investigation I’m surprised to find my water bladder is almost full and I’ve drank about a third of my normal fluid intake. I squash the bladder in the side of my bag and wrap the long hose round my head like a creature from Dr Who. Hopefully this will help me remember to drink more.

John and Hutchy cutting the corner on the path

Brands Corner And Carey Burn

I tell Adrian reaching Brands corner means all of the true fell running is done. A few fields and a riverside path left. It sounds idyllic but there are still challenges to come. The path down to Carey Burn Bridge has several stones sticking out in awkward places and I know Brian and Adrian won’t relish running on it. We are about half an hour slower than the cut off time at Carey Burn Bridge but have generally made good time up to Hedgehope. After the run along the burn path we retrace our steps to the finish.

The path along Carey Burn is a bit more difficult than a riverside walk. There are several different surfaces and some climbing. Gorse bushes also grown onto the path all of which makes concentration essential. I’d never seen the waterfall featured on this You Tube clip but as this was a run not a race I was determined to see it today.

I can hear it before I see it and the waterfall appears on the left. I’ve got plenty of time to take a photograph and cool my legs in the stream before Brian comes around the corner leading Adrian and John.

Brian on Carey Burn path

On The Finishing Straight

At the end of the path we find ourselves at the bottom of Hell path. The path hadn’t seemed long or steep on the way out but I’m sure it looked like a mountain to Adrian who was by now melting in the heat. A slow jog across the fell and the sheep fields later we could see the welcome sight of the final road section nearing the end of our Chevy Chase recce.

Last few metres before hitting the road

Brian had a good pace on the road and we waited for Adrian at the turn for the Youth Hostel. By now I’m sure we all wanted to go home but there was one final part of the route to show Adrian. By the time Adrian caught up we were three hours behind John’s club record time but speed wasn’t the aim of the day. A gentle jog along the path and a left turn later we were outside the Youth Hostel entrance. Our Chevy Chase recce was completed in six hours twenty minutes, Adrian would need to find a way to shave off twenty one minutes to avoid a DNF on race day.

All smiles at the finish

Post Chevy Chase Recce Confessions

When we got back to the car Sandra had been on the phone to find out where Adrian was. He had told her he would be 6 hours not that the run would take 6 hours. Similarly Hutchy had told his partner he was going for a run up Cheviot which was only partially true.

Overall a nice day out on the fells. Some battered and tired bodies with Adrian gaining the inevitable nickname of Banana man. Adrian and Brian have got much more idea what it takes to run the Chevy Chase and John and Ian will have had a refresher before this years race. Pretty much fun all round and both objectives met.

When I get home Jess points out an amazing similarity between some turn of the century children’s TV entertainers and our running crew today. Can you see the resemblance? This was quickly made by Jess to express the sentiment.

We hope you enjoyed reading about our “Chevy Chase Recce“. Have you done the Chevy Chase? Can you take a better selfie Photograph than Ian Hutchinson? Do you like pathless race routes? Let us know in the comments below.

Read some of our other blog posts for more hilly adventures on

Recce of the Old Crown Round

Day Trip To Wooler

45 at 45 Challenge

Supporting Juhana’s Bob Graham Round

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