Thursday, 26 January 2012

Morpeth to Bothal

The trail from Morpeth to Bothal follows the river Wansbeck which is home to several species of birds including Mute Swans, Mallards, Goosander and Curlew.  Otters are also very common.

Stephenson's Viaduct

The Viaduct was designed by Robert Stephenson and built in 1849/50, replacing a timber trestle bridge of 1847.  It is on the Newcastle to Edinburgh stretch of the East Coast main line, near to Morpeth.  The Viaduct is a Grade 2 listed building.

River Wansbeck Weirs

As you progress along the river you come across Lady’s Well and Lady’s Chapel.  The Chapel was built around the mid 15thC by the first Lord Ogle and dedicated to the Blessed virgin.  Further along the river you come to the site of the ‘old’ Bothal saw mill.

St Andrews Church, Bothal

The Church of St Andrew’s is within bow shot from Bothal Castle and was built in 882.  The foundations of a stone church have been traced under the present church floor. The Anglo-Saxon Church was replaced by a Norman Church during the late 12thC by Richard Bertram, a Norman, who married the Anglo-Saxon heiress and in 1161 began to reside in Bothal.  It was his son, Robert, who was the first of the family to be called ‘Baron of Bothal’ and was given the title by King Richard 1 in 1199.

Bothal Castle

Bothal Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade 1 listed building. The Estate passed into Norman hands in 1095 when Guy de Balliol, baron of Bywell took possession.  The existing structure dates from the 14thC, with a license to build granted to Sir Robert Bertram in 1343.  The Gate tower and fragments of the curtain wall are medieval. The estate passed to the Ogle family in the 14thC and in 1597 passed to the Cavendish-Bentick family.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Morpeth to Mitford (and back again)

The Morpeth to Mitford walk starts at Morpeth Castle, of which only the Gatehouse remains. The original Morpeth Castle was a wooden stockade with a secure enclosed area (motte and bailey) and dated from the 11 century. It was situated on ‘Haw Hill’ but destroyed by King John in 1216. In the 1340’s a new stone castle was built in the original enclosed bailey.
In1516 Margaret, sister of Henry VIII and widow of James IV of Scotland, stayed in the Castle for four months as she fled Scotlandand her enemies. In 1644, 500 Lowland Scots held the Castle for Parliament for 20 days against 2700 Royalists.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The remains of Newminster Abbey

Following a route through High Church will eventually bring you to the ruins of Newminster Abbey.  The abbey was built in 1337 but quickly destroyed by burning by Scottish raiders.  It was rebuilt in 1180 and owned lands up to the Scottish borders.  It became a victim of the first wave of dissolution in 1537 by Henry VIII

River Wansbeck between Morpeth and Mitford

The route continues through wooded areas and follows the river Wansbeck which is home to all manner of wildlife (generally sheep), and a variety of birds.

Mitford Castle

Mitford Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade 1 listed building. It is the only five sided keep in England (or what is left of it).  Mitford’s had ownership before and after the Norman conquest of 1066.  Sir John de Mitford’s only daughter, Sybilla, was given in marriage by William the Conqueror to a Norman knight, Richard Bertram.  The Castle was subsequently seized by John de Balliol the King of Scotland, Roger Bertram III and William de Valence the 1st Earl of Pembroke, amongst others.  During the rebellion in Northumberland in 1310, the Castle was again seized by Sir Gilbert de Middleton who used it for kidnappings and holding prisoners, until he was seized for treason.  There are different accounts for its destruction but by 1323 it was referred to as ‘entirely destroyed and burnt’ during the inquest into the death of Sir Aymer de Valence.

St Mary Magdalene Church - Mitford

The church lies very near to the Castle and has architecture dating back to the 13th Century although it has a reset priest’s doorway (circa 1190).

Back to Morpeth

The route back to Morpeth again follows the course of the river Wansbeck passing through parks, streets and roads steeped in history.  Overall this particular route is about 5-6 miles, although it is worth noting that Morpeth, as a market place for drovers (the droving routes cross the Cheviots via Clennell Street and Alwinton) used to have the highest concentration of ale houses and the ‘Joiners Arms’ notably carries on the fine tradition of excellent ales.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Berwick and Scremerston - Holy Parish Church

Berwick–Upon-Tweed is situated on the east coast of Northumberland 2.5 miles south of Scotland. It has been central to historic border wars between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland for centuries. Berwick's strategic position on the English-Scottish border during centuries of war between the two nations and its relatively great wealth led to a succession of raids and sieges. Between 1174 and 1482 the town changed hands between England and Scotland more than 13 times, and was the location of a number of momentous events in the English-Scottish border wars.
The Berwick Parish church is the only one which was built during the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). Built from stones and timbers of the 13th Century Castle of Berwick-upon-Tweed  The church yard contains fascinating headstones, including Viking and Plague graves.

Follow the cross to Scremerston

Scremerston church

To the south of Berwick (3miles) lies the village of Scremerston and can be accessed by following the A1 south or following the cliff tops.  The lands historically were held by the Radcliffe family, Earls of Derwentwater, but when James the last earl was tainted in 1716 the lands were granted to the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital. At the end of the nineteenth century the sole landowners are given as the Lords of the Admiralty.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Amble to Dunstanburgh on the Coastal Trail

Today Amble is an important fishing and leisure centre, however, it goes back to the very early days of Northumberland's history.  There is evidence of prehistoric burial grounds on the links.  Amble was little more than a hamlet before the construction of its harbour between 1838 and 1839, although it is suggested that a harbour has probably existed as far back as the 14th century.  For great coastal walks check out

Coquet Island

Whilst at Amble you soon discover Coquet Island which lies about a mile offshore with its 80 ft high lighthouse, which is built on the top of the ruin of a medieval tower.  The Island is an RSPB reserve for thousands of puffins, terns, eider ducks and the roseate tern, one of Britain's rare seabirds.

Warkworth Castle

By taking the Coastal route north (A1068), you next come to Warkworth.  This beautiful village is very old with a long turbulent history.  It is built on a rocky spur within a tight loop of the River Coquet, close to the river mouth.  Warkworth castle is situated on a commanding site giving the inhabitants every opportunity to defend themselves.  It is believed the Castle dates back to the 12th Century, however, it may have been built by King Henry II when he controlled the region.  The Castle has spent most of its life in the possession of the Dukes and Earls of Northumberland.

Dunstanburgh Castle

As you carry on along the coastal route you pass through some wonderful Northumberland coastline and eventually come to Dunstanburgh Castle lying just north of Craster.  Building of the Castle commenced in 1313 by the Earl of Lancaster, however, the site shows traces of earlier settlements.  The Castle did not play a significant part in border warfare but was held by the Lancastrians during the War of the Roses (1462).  The Castle covers an entire 11 acres of headland and has been the source of many paintings and photographs.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Glen Etive - The road to nowhere

The Kings House Hotel stands at the head of Glen Coe and is a ideal spot to follow the river Etive along the length of Glen Etive.  As you follow the road from the A82 towards Glen Etive you become dwarfed by the Mountainous crags of Stob a Ghlaise Choire on one side and the famous  Buachaille Etive Mor ridge made up from Stob na Doire, Stob Coire Altrium, Stob Dearg and Stob na Broige (the latter two being munro’s – over 3000ft).

Snow topped peaks

The snow topped ridges of Stob a Ghlaise Choire disappearing into the distance.

River Etive

Beautiful scenery and excellent walking along the road next to the river Etive.  The river is used extensively for fly fishing and by white water canoeists.

Stob Dearg - the last rays of sun

Just as I got back to the Kings House Hotel the light started to fade but a last glimmer of sunlight broke through the grey clouds highlighting one of the more awesome munro’s.  If you are partial to lots of ale and a massive collection of whiskeys try the nearby Clachaig Inn.  It is frequented by hikers, climbers and skiers and you will have a night you wont forget, that is, if you can remember it.

A local inhabitant of Glen Coe

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

View from Alnwick Moor to Edlingham

Alnwick moor is a beautiful walk that can be accessed from the B6341 which runs between Rothbury and Alnwick.  The best place to start is near to Edlingham Castle, however, the prime farming stock appears to be grumpy bulls so you need to be wary at all times.  There is a path which runs from Bottle wood on the B6341, past disused quarries and onto Mare’s Rigg.  The path provides the opportunity to look over your shoulder and see the panoramic landscape of Edlingham.

Rock formations - light and shadows

As you progress further up the path there are several rock formations which are off the beaten track but are an ideal resting place for a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich (if you have packed your burner, kettle and frying pan).  There is nothing better than an early morning freshly made bacon buttie in the middle of nowhere! The crags here are steeped in history with numerous Bronze Age settlement sites and the adjacent Devils Causeway (remains of a Roman road).

Mares Rigg - tree in silhouette

When you reach Mares Rigg you can walk a bit further and suddenly you will have a sweeping view as the land gently slopes down towards the coast.  On a good day you can see Amble, Warkworth and possibly Alnmouth!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Alwinton - Clennell Street

This is the start of Clennel Street from the village of Alwinton. Clennel Street is an ancient drover trail that joins Morpeth on the English side to Kelso on the Scottish. A previous name for this route is 'Ermspath', which is Old English for 'eagles path', again indicating a route across the Cheviot hills towards Scotland. In addition to drovers, the routes were well trodden by Reviers and Wardens guarding the Marshes. The Marshes had 'trysting places' where both English and Scottish Wardens would meet to discuss and adjudicate on criminality and trespass on both sides of the border

Hosedon Burn - Clennell Street

Hosedon Burn runs adjacent to Clennell Street with the bracken covered slopes reaching up to Lords Seat. To the left of the image is a series of old Bronze age settlements which adds to the history of the land

Kidland Forest - Clennell Street

As you walk further up into the hills you come to the magnificent and vast Kidland Forest, where it is not unknown for people to become lost for several days.  The mist can gradually creep between the forest pines or the cloud base can quickly descend giving an ethereal appearance to the landscape.  The beauty of the Cheviot hills is the feeling of isolation, peace and tranquillity which is only broken by hardy hikers, sheep or the ghosts of times past.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Codger fort, Fontburn

Codger fort is near to Rothley Lake, Fontburn (and quite close to the unique 'Goats on the Roof' cafe).  It was erected by Sir Walter Blackett after the Jacobite rising of 1745, probably to demonstrate his loyalty. The fort contained six cannon and would have proved a serious obstacle to any invading forces.