Durham Riverside Walk

The loop of the River Wear around the rocky outcrop on which Durham City sits made this a natural defensive settlement here from probably thousands of years ago. The steep sides all around from the riverside made it simple to fortify from all sides and establish ‘Dunholm’ as it was called, into what was an almost impregnable fortress throughout the Saxon and Danelaw era.

Taking a walk towards the City from downriver (we started near Gilesgate) gives an idea of how many would have approached Durham fortress in the times before roads, by river. We parked on the roadside just off Gilesgate itself and took the path from St Giles Close past St Giles’ churchyard, through the woods towards the river.

This joins up with the W2W Cycleway so you could also fit this as part of a longer bike ride.

River Wear

riverside walk from Gilesgate towards the city

Walking along the river you often see the University rowing teams in training for the regatta season, both here and nationwide. Passing Hild & Bede College on your right on the way, you’ll see several sets of wide stairs leading down to the river for launching the long 4 and 8-man rowing boats. There are more closer to the city as well, as you pass some of the City Centre Colleges.

The footpath leads pretty much into the city centre itself, and you’ll see the Prince Bishops car park on your right, after the New Elvet Bridge, next to the rowing boat hire yard. This is reasonably priced if you’d prefer to park closer to the centre. Its worth noting that are toilets available on the upper floors too.

Rowing boats are available to hire from the Boat Club; you can also take a River Cruise on the ‘Prince Bishop’ from here if you fancy a more leisurely boat trip.

Elvet Bridge

The Boat Club, Durham – hire a rowing boat and drift along the river.

Heading past the stairs leading up to Elvet Bridge, you pass under the bridge itself and start on the footpath looping around the City Centre itself as this map shows.

A great opportunity to feed the ducks if you fancy it!

Map of DurhamThe walk takes you along a well made path initially quite narrow but broadening out with trees, shrubs and wildflowers all around.

img_4650You may even get the chance to pick seasonal fruits and herbs. At this May time, the Wild Garlic was in full flush and we’d come prepared with some sellf-seal plastic bags (totally necessary to contain the pungent scent!) to gather some. There are also Blackberry stands and other fruits in evidence along the way.

You’ll also pass the boathouses and stairs for St Chad’s, St John’s and the St Cuthbert’s Colleges as you walk along. There are a few handy places to sit for a while and have a picnic and just take in the tranquility.

One notable feature on the walk is the amazing Classical Portico on such a small building, known as the house of the Polish ‘Count’ Joseph Boruwlaski; a diminutive entertainer, who spent the last 46 of his 97 years in Durham!

There’s a real standout feature if you’re looking for a seat on the way round, with amazing carved wooden seating all around.

Moving on, the path has rounded the South of the promontory and is now heading back toward the city, always with the river slowly coursing to your left.

The elegant Prebend’s Bridge leads from the Cathedral Close awaay from the city, now just for those on foot.

Prebends' Bridge, Durham

Prebends Bridge across the Wear

Beyond Prebends Bridge you come across the Old Fulling Mill, on the waters’ edge with the path rising around it. As the West towers of the cathedral come into view you get an impression of the intentions of the Norman conquerors by building on such a massive scale; in an age of thatched wattle huts, the combined Castle and Cathedral will have been truly intimidating.

Durham Cathedral pathThe Fulling Mill (which would have manufactured cloth) was until recently the site of the University Archaelogy Museum, though the proximity of the water meant that the collection was vulnerable to both damp and flooding. The museum has been resited in the Palace Green Library.

Fulling Mill path, DurhamThe path continues towards the bridge, and up the steps beside a collection of coffee shops and restaurants on to the lower end of Silver Street, one of the main shopping streets with many of the major High Street retail names.

img_4653TVennells Cafehis leads up to the main Market Square, and you can take the road around and on to Saddler Street to walk up to the Cathedral and the Colleges.

Off the Market Square is the modern shopping precinct, which also leads to the upper floors of the Prince Bishops car park.

There are more quirky shops and coffee shops along Saddler Street, as well as little alleyways such as the one leading to Vennels Café.

Part way up the hill towards the Cathedral, the path off to the left takes you down and across the Old Elvet Bridge; continuing up the hill leads past the St Chads and St John’s colleges and some of the charming student accommodation.

College doorwayThere is also a fantastic view of the west end of the Cathedral from this street, with a path leading up to Palace Green to the right.

Durham East Endimg_4670If you continue on the much quieter part of Saddler Street, you come to the old Abbey Gateway which leads into The College, surrounded by residences of the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral.

There is also a rear entrance to the Cathedral via the Cloisters.

 

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The cloisters are some of the most complete monastic buildings left in England. You’ll find a superb cafe and the ongoing building of the Cathedral in Lego; you can even buy a brick for £1 to add to it and help their fundraising.

The cathedral itself is rightly denoted as a World Heritage Centre, and you can see a lot more on the Cathedral website.

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LEaving the Cathedral via the North door you come onto Palace Green itself with the old Hospital buildings on the right, now a cafe as well as museum and visitor centre buildings. On the left is University College with a magnificent Great Hall and some of the most spectacular student accomodation anywhere – in the C11 castle itself!

Palace Green, Durham

This is just part of what can be found in Durham but hopefully add a little to the usual guidebook things. Of course Durham city is in easy reach of Terrace Cottage and makes a really great day out – you can book your County Durham break online via  Tripadvisor; you can also read what other visitors thought of the accommodation and their experience of the region.

Chris Tradgett

Our view on foraging for wild food

Our National Specialist Matthew Oates writes: ‘The National Trust supports the use of its properties for foraging for abundant species of wild food for personal use. Good foraging will remind us th…

Source: Our view on foraging for wild food

Sites in Northumbria in the Last Kingdom books

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Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred

If you’ve read the tales of “Uhtred of Bebbanburgh” in the Last Kingdom books by Bernard Cornwell, you will have become aware of the turbulent history of the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria and his desire to fight his way back to the far North and reclaim his ancestral home in Bebbanburgh (Bamburgh).

As we are set in the heart of this ancient kingdom, many of these sites are easily reached from a base in Rookhope, Weardale. In this list of sites, as you would expect, many of the places have of course been developed and built over in the years since the time of Alfred the Great.

Alclyt (Auckland, Durham)

The original Auckland is now known as Bishop Auckland, having been the location of the Palace of Durham’s Prince Bishops since mediaeval times, at Auckland Castle. There are nearly remains of Binchester Roman Garrison with sections of the Roman Road visible and some fine Roman Baths at the Vinovium site.

Bebbanburgh (Bamburgh, Northumberland)

The massive and impregnable fortress at Bamburgh was built over the centuries, covering nine acres across a rocky plateau. If you take a trip to see this impressive castle, its easy to see why Ida chose this as his base when first settling on the Northumbrian coast.

See a video of Bamburgh castle

Bamburgh_Castle_video

(courtesy of Bamburgh Castle)

Bedehal (Beadnell, Northumberland)

Beadnell Harbour

Beadnell is a picturesque fishing village, now largely turned over to weekend homes for marine activities for Newcastle families. Almost all of the current village dates from the C18, including the church which is dedicated to StÆbba, an Anglian saint who was the daughter of one of the Kings of ancient Bernicia.

Caer Ligualid (Carlisle, Cumbria)

Carlisle Caslte

Carlisle still shows a lot of its borderland history with the massive stone walls and gateways attesting to the continued border skirmishing all through the middle ages. Its very name attests to the political strains, coming from the Celtic and knows as Cael Luel in Cumbric or Cathair Luail in Scottish Gaelic.

Cetreht (Catterick, North Yorkshire)

Now best known as the location for the Army depots, the old village of Catterick is a quick detour from the A1, known in Roman times as an army camp and fortress, Cataractonium and mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geographia written around AD150. Very little is lest of any ancient remains apart from a Motte and Bailey from the tiome of King Stephen. Bishop Paulinus was known to have baptised local people in the River Swale nearby.

Cuncacester (Chester-le-Street, County Durham)

Situated next to the main A1 North Road between Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne, Chester-le-Street is now a small suburban town.

Dunholm (Durham)

Durham Cathedral from the air

The massively built centre of Durham City still shows how formidable a fortess on this unique site would have been, even as far back as the Ninth Century.

As the photo shows, the river looping around the rocky plateau makes this a highly defensible place. One can imagine when walking around the river path, Uhtred scaling the cliffs in his attack on the fortress which once stood here. What remains is the massive structures of the Cathedral, deservedly a World Heritage Site, and the solid Norman Castle, which is now home to students of University College, Durham University.

Durham is wonderful for day trip visit, to understand the place – and to see the resting places of the Venerable Bede and St Cuthbert himself.

Eoferwic (York)

York is a wonderful city to visit and well documented elsewhere. Known as the Warrior books relate by its Saxon name Eoferwic, and then Jorvik by the Danish settlers, it remained the principal City of the North, continuously from Roman times through to the time of the Industrial Revolution.

Farnea (Farne Islands)

The Farne Islands from the airA visit to the inner and outer Farne Islands enables you to get a real feeling for how this area would have been in the time of Uhtred and the Danish raiders.

Now home to thousands od Puffins and other seabirds, the isles are one of the most important breeding grounds for some of our less rare birds.Its also possible to visit Cuthberts chapel, which was home to hermits until the C13.

Trips out to the islands can be booked from Seahouses and other local harbours.

Gyruum (Jarrow, Tyne & Wear)

The pre-conquest monastery buildings are still standing at Jarrow. Admittedly added to and the mpartially demolished by Henry VIII at the reformation, you can still get a feeling for how the buildings would have been in Anglo-Saxon times.

Heagostealdes (Hexham, Northumberland)

Hexham is a very appealing country town and very much worth a visit. The ancient layout of the Abbey and castle on the flat land at the top of the bluff show how this was a defensible place in more troubled times. The C12 Abbey still has the

Hocchale (Houghall, County Durham)

There isn nothing of the ancient Hocchale visible now. The original agricultural hamlet was expanded with rows of terraced houses during the C19 when deep coal mine shafts were sunk in the area, to house the miners.

Lindisfarena (Lindisfarne, Northumberland)

Lindisfarne, the Holy Island

Holy Island is still a very special place with its own unique atmosphere. It is well worth a day trip to experience the place and see the ruins of the Mediaeval Abbey. That was built on the site of the earlier Saxon monastery, which was sacked and burned by waves of Vikings during the times of invasion.

The fictional journey of the body of St Cuthbert as portrayed by Bernard Cornwell, is actually well documented in history. Simeon of Durham wrote of a Uhtred the Bold (who was actually an Ealdorman in the time just leading up to the Norman conquest) who helped transport the body of Cuthbert to his resting place in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral.

Ohnripum (Ripon, North Yorkshire)

Ripon is now a very cosy city dominated by the beautiful Cathedral, in fact the third smalled city in Britain. Originally founded by St Wilfrid in the time of Anglian Northumbria, it was ever a backwater, though of course settled by invading Danes and then Normans.

Thresk (Thirsk, North Yorkshire)

A small market town near where the A1 and A19 now meet, almost nothing is evident of its history. It grew from a settlement in Saxon times, and notably was gifted to the Norman Hugh, son of Baldric.

The Last Kingdom

BBC_Two The Last Kingdom
The Vikings invading near Bebbanburgh

The BBC TV Series, The Last Kingdom is currently proving a big hit in the ratings with viewings on BBC2 on Thursday evenings. See the BBC website for the programmes here.

The books are all available from Amazon and other booksellers. The Series (so far) is:
Book 1 The Last KingdomBook 1 The Last Kingdom     Book 2 The Pale HorsemanBook 2 The Pale Horseman    Book 3 The Lords of the NorthBook 3 The Lords of the North   Book 4 Sword SongBook 4 Sword Song   Book 5 The Burning LandBook 5 The Burning Land    Book 6 Death of KingsBook 6 Death of Kings    Book 7 The Pagan Lordook 7 The Pagan Lord    Book 8 The Empty ThroneBook 8 The Empty Throne    Book 9 Warriors of the StormBook 9 Warriors of the Storm

See two of Britain’s “50 Hidden Gems” in County Durham

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Swan Automaton

Recently the Daily Telegraph published a list of the “50 hidden Gems to seek out this summer” and in number 3 spot was the wonderful Swan Automaton at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.

It really is worth taking the time to visit this gem – in a gem of a building. The Bowes Museum was build by John Bowes (of the coal family) and his wife to house their growing collection of art and artefacts from their travels.

The collection includes works by Canaletto, El Greco and Goya as well as porcelain from Sevres and other decorative arts obects and fashions from across Europe.

you can read a little more and link through to the Museum website on our Bowes Museum page.

Apollo Pavilion

Also in the list was something else in the North that I’d never come across despite living in the region for well over 30 years, the Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee, County Durham. It was named after the first Apollo moon landing in 1969 and opened as a community centre.

Apollo Pavilion

Designed by Victor Pasmore in the 1960s, the building has recently been restored to repair years of neglect and vandalism. Well worth stopping off to see – if you like 60s brutalist architecture!

Chris Tradgett

Electric Bikes Across the North Pennines

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Over the last year Electric Bike Network has been working hard to set up this innovative new scheme for both locals and visitors alike. Ten hire points give you plenty of options for starting points across Weardale and Teesdale and there is plenty to see on the way around the North Pennines.

North Pennine Electric Bike Hire

One of the obvious benefits is that for non-cyclists, it gives the opportunity to see so much more of the scenery over the walls and hedges without getting worn out!

All of the suggested routes are within the battery capacity of our electric bikes and which follow the quietest roads with the most stunning views. Here’s a starter route ideal for our guests at Terrace Cottage you can download that pdf map starting at Rookhope, Weardale Communtiy Transport or Chatterboz Café – Length: 32 km/ 20 miles

You can hire bikes from several places from Teesdale to Allendale:

Electric Bike hire in North Pennines

You can see more on their website: electricbikenetwork.org.uk

Charging Points

County Durham

Northumberland

Green Policies Under Attack

The National Trust has written a very concerning article outlining how the government has scrapped ten important policies which should have been in place to protect the environment.

As Craig Bennett, chief executive, Friends of the Earth, said:
“This all out attack on green policies undermines UK efforts to tackle climate change ahead of global talks in Paris, and sets back our renewables industry when other countries are speeding towards clean energy and green jobs.”

Obviously the effects of corporate ‘lobbying’ have had their effect – and no doubt there will be some fairly obvious corporate names appear in both the party donors lists and New Year Honours.

You can read the full article on the National Trust website.

Chris Tradgett

Exploring Hadrian’s Wall and Roman North Pennines

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Running through the glorious North Pennines, Hadrian’s Wall remains a testament to the power and vision of rulers at the height of the Roman Empire – and the wildness and strength of their adversaries, Britain’s Northern tribes.

Hadrian's Wall

If you have an interest in the history of our islands, the North East of England makes for a very satisfying experience. The region offers prehistoric settlements, remains of Roman occupation and amazing buildings giving glimpses into every stage of history, as played out in these dramatic landscapes.

Hadrian’s Wall

The Wall itself, built at the command of Emperor Hadrian was essentially a fall-back position for the frontier, abandoning the Antonine Wall to the North between Forth and Clyde, to a more defendable, though longer 80 mile line across from the Tyne to the Solway Forth.

There are amazing remains of the wall for much of its length, with some of the most illuminating being at Housesteads Fort, Walltown Crags, Birdoswald and Chesters.

As well as this World Heritage site, Hadrian’s Wall itself, the region has plenty of other sites that offer a more in-depth glimpse into the military and social life of Roman citizens at the Frontier of Empire. There’s more about the other Roman remains in the North Pennines on our website but here’s an idea for a quick day tour to catch some of the main features along the Wall.

As many of the properties are managed by English Heritage, it will be very much worth your while to consider a Membership, giving free entry and parking at any site in England.

Tour Along the Wall

As the wall started in Newcastle upon Tyne, head for Wallsend and the Segedunum Museum which is well signposted (in English and Latin!). This is also hosting a British Museum exhibition on Roman Britain in 2015. Here you’ll find a very extensive Roman fort with a reconstruction of the original bathhouse which gives a real idea of how the legions relaxed.

Denton Hall TurretFrom here, the wall took a line through Newcastle, mostly overbuilt in the ensuing 2 millenia, though you can glimpse occasional snippets such as the wall next to the A69 at Denton Burn and the Mithraic temple site nearby. You may also want to take some time out and visit the Hancock Museum, in the Newcastle University campus which contains a number of artefacts and carvings from the Wall.

Head West on the A69 and take the turn off for Heddon on the Wall along B6318 towards Chollerford. From here along the Military Road, you will see farms and buldings with tell tale signs of having been constructed from reclaimed Roman stones – often the huge blocks used as corerstones. From where you cross over the dual carriageway, you’ll see the earthworks of the Vallum on the left of the road.

As you cross the A68 you’ll see the signs for Corbridge, the Roman town of Coria. You can if you wish head down and take in the remains of the town and its granaries there.

Heading towards Chollerford, another well-preserved section of wall shows itself at Planetrees. This makes a nice 30 min walk up from the car park next to the river if the weather allows. Also close by is Brunton Turret, signed from the road. At the bottom of the hill, before crossing the River Tyne, there are the massive remains of the Chesters Bridge Abutment, the key river crossing point. You can imagine how awe inspiring to the local population a bridge on this scale must have appeared, when Celtic building was largely wood, wattle and daub.

the Roman Wall at ChestersAcross the river is the extensive excavated remains of Chesters Fort, which is well worth spending time at. The Museum has some extensive remains of temple altars and other artefacts from the area. There’s also a decent cafe with picnic tables ideal for a spot of lunch.

Chesters Bath House

The Bath House at Chesters Roman Fort

Heading West you’ll pass Black Carts Turret, and at Carrawburgh, stop off to view the Temple of Mithras at Brocolitia. The Mithraic cult was a mysterious all-male cult very much embraced by the Roman military. A few miles West is Housesteads, one of the most atmospheric sites, giving a real impression of how bleak this must have been for an italian or North African legionary, posted to guard the wall!

Vindolanda Tablets

The famous Birthday Invitation tablet from Vindolanda

To the West of Housesteads, take road on the left leading to Bardon Mill and about half a mile down, the Vindolanda site is on your right. This is privately managed and has proven to be an incredible window into the lives of the real Romans in the region. You can see some of the private letters from Centurion’s wives or lists of household goods in the amazing tablets that continue to be uncovered in excavations at the site.

Back on the B6318 it continues west with fewer interesting remains as you head west, and joins up with the A69 again at Greenhead. There is the Roman Army Museum at Walltown, which gives some great insights into the military legacy of the Empire.

There’s really not much else in evidence as you travel West, though the Hadrian’s Wall path continues to the site of the end defensive fort at Bowness on Solway. Beyond Carlisle, the wall was an earth and palisade construction during the early period to be replaced by a stone construction later on.

Other Resources

There are lots of resources online that can enhance your knowledge. Look out particularly for the fairly scholarly but very interesting Oxford University site detailing the contents of the Vindolanda Tablets. There are also other resources on the Roman Sites Website Page.

Staying in the North Pennines

I hope that has whetted your appetite to find out a little more about the Roman North East and explore more of the remains. There is a whole lot more as well to make a stay in the region well worth your while such as Durham Cathedral, the Pennine villages and amazing hillwalking.

Our cottage in Rookhope, upper Weardale is ideally placed to reach much of the Wall’s attractions and other Archaelogical sites across the North. You can find out more and book online on the main section of the Terrace Cottage Website.

We look forward to welcoming you to the North Pennines!

Chris Tradgett

Weardale Pubs News

The former owners of Emmerdale's 'Woolpack' inn, Glenn and Caroline RoystonIts great to see pubs which appeared to have died, re-opening. Last autumn, Glenn and Caroline Royston (above) moved North from Emmerdale’s legendary ‘Woolpack’ (which is actually in Esholt!) to reopen the Golden Lion in St John’s Chapel. You can read more in the Northern Echo article on their move.

The Rookhope InnMeanwhile, here in Rookhope village, Kenny and Scott breathed new life into the Rookhope Inn placing it firmly back in the heart of the village.

Its good to see from a recent Facebook post that the George & Dragon in Garrigill is also back on the map and looking like the perfect stop for a spot of refreshment in South Tynedale. You can follow more of what they’re doing on their Facebook page – and you can read about more of the great pubs to visit in Weardale on our website Pubs Guide.

George & Dragon, Garrigill

Its also great to see increased visitor numbers – we’ve had a steady of people visiting Terrace Cottage in Rookhope and from the Tripadvisor reviews, it certainly seems that as we had hoped, this has been an excellent base for visiting the region.

We look forward to welcoming more over the coming summer months to Rookhope and the beautiful Northern Pennines – really living up to its name as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty!

View from Terrace Cottage

Chris Tradgett

Diggerland

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Diggerland.

Nice little piece reminding visitors of this fun attraction – if you like diggers that is 🙂

Beamish Museum in a Day

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Beamish, the Living Museum of the North

Edwardian Town, Beamish Museum

Beamish is a world famous open air museum giving an insight the lives and work of people – a truly immersive experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. Telling the story of life in the North East of England from the 1820s to the 1940s, it makes a fantastic and entertaining day out for visitors of all ages – great for families.

The attraction is winner of multiple awards both for the overall place and for its excellent staff, who are there in costume to tell you all about the ‘exhibits’ and activities. Many, such as those in the drift mine were actually miners themselves originally so you hear it all from first hand experience.

Village ParlourWith everything from a Georgian Manor House to Pit Village, and Edwardian town to a WW2 era Land Girls farm, there really is a huge amount to take in. The whole venue is connected by transport from the era, with trams and buses all free to board, though at busy times its an easy and pleasant walk from the entrance to either Pockerley or the Pit Village to start your day.

The scale of Beamish is deceptive and larger than you’d expect. Even on Easter Monday when these photos were taken, having driven into a very full car park, once inside the grounds you’d never have guessed and rarely were there queues – apart for Davy’s chippy (at lunchtime) and the sweetshop!). There are so many directions you can go once inside.

This map gives an idea of the scale and what there is to see:

Beamish visitors mapThe map opens in a new window, or download the pdf for your tablet (links to Beamish Museum website).

workshop, just as they left itThere is a lot more on the Beamish Museum page on this website to give you more of an idea of what there is to see and do.

Remember that on busy days such as summer weekends and Bank Holidays, the entry queues can be long, so buy your tickets online and save the queueing. These will last for a full year, so you can return as often as you wish to make sure you don’t miss anything!

Bandstand and park in the Edwardian Town, Beamish Museum

Terrace Cottage in Rookhope is less than an hour away, so an ideal base for a Beamish visit.

Chris Tradgett 2015

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Poetry of Weardale

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Like many rural communities, Weardale over the centuries has recorded its history in song, a process that goes back millenia to the Norse Sagas and before. Here are a selection I have discovered so far:

Rookhope Ryde

This wonderful evocative story about fighting off a band of Border Reivers gives a real taste of the hard life of the farmer in these parts. The full text is on the Rookhope Ryde page. In this we hear of the Bishop’s Bailiff leading the Weardale ▶_The_Rookhope_Rydemen against the raiders in an epic battle. You can hear a modern recording by a local singer in this Soundcloud post:

The Bonny Moorhen

This poem is about the hardships of local folk and how their resorting to taking of ‘Moorhen’ from the surrounding fells led to another battle, this time against the landowners’ Bailiffs. The full text is on the Rookhope Village page of this website.

Rhymes of Northern Bards

There is also a wonderful collection of Weardale and regional ballads available as a free eBook. This contains such gems as Barnard Castle Tragedy, The Sedgefield Frolic and Elsie Marley (an alewife of Picktree!).

Sir Walter Scott

The great Walter Scott was inspired by the Weardale area, and famously was the collector of the Rookhope Ryde chaunted by George Collingwood. He was also inspired by the bleakness of the moors in his own work.

W.H.Auden

There is an earlier post about Auden‘s place in Weardale’s poetic history, with specific reference to his visits to Rookhope, particularly Amor Loci.

Living Poetry

Carolyn Ramsbotham’s grandfather left us a couple of lovely verses from the 1920s on Tunstall and The Moor, which she published on her Pasture Gate B&B website.

Its good to hear poetry is still a living art in the dale with the relatively recent series of recital events in 2013 by Jules Clare. This was recounted in the Northern Echo at the time, but read more of his work in his Writecloud posts – the words of a Wolsingham Tale are on the Northern Pies blog. It is good to hear the public sharing of verse continues almost 500 years from the time of the Rookhope Ryde.

Please let me know of any other poetic events in the dale coming up and I’ll make sure visitors are made aware.

 Weardale Poetry in Print

There is a British Library publication, Poems & Sonnets on Weardale and Teesdale by James Green, Vicar Of St. John’s Weardale and available from Amazon:Poems & Sonnets of Weardale and Teesdale, British Library

Chris Tradgett

A win for nature: Government announces plans for fracking ban in special places

National Trust Press Office

We are pleased that Government has listened to our recommendations and agreed in principle to rule out some of our most treasured natural and historic landscapes by promising to ban fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Peter Nixon, National Trust Director for Land, Landscape and Nature, said: “Today’s announced plans by Government to ban fracking in sensitive areas represents a hugely important moment for the natural world and our wonderful landscapes.

“It would be a very dangerous gamble to expose these special places and wildlife that as a nation we love to a largely untested technology that only takes us further away from our climate change targets. We now need to continue to fight for strong regulation to protect our wider environment against the impacts of the shale gas industry.”

Read the Are we Fit to Frack? report, which we launched…

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New partnership calls for better ‘Landscapes for Everyone’

National Trust Press Office

The National Trust has joined forces with charities across the UK this week to call for the protection and celebration of Britain’s treasured landscapes.

With ongoing speculative development in and around sensitive areas, such as National Parks and AONBs, the group of 27 organisations believes that it is vital for future government policy and funding to reflect the extraordinary value of landscapes.

Common heather, Bell heather and Western gorse lining the coastal path on the Great Hangman with the Little Hangman, Devon Common heather, Bell heather and Western gorse lining the coastal path on the Great Hangman with the Little Hangman, Devon. National Trust Images/David Noton

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Allendale Tar Bar’l Procession

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Allendale Tar Bar'l carriers

Guisers in the Tar Bar’l Procession

Every New Year’s Eve the small town of Allendale, high in the North Pennines, is lit up by one of the most wonderful bizarre ceremonies there is. Its not quite as spectacular as ‘Up Helly Aa’ in Shetland but always draws a big crowd to enjoy the spectacle – and warm themselves by the huge fire at the end of the procession.

The tradition apparently goes back to 1858 and came as a practical solution to a problem. The town’s silver band who carolled in the New Year were unable to use candles to light their music due to the strong winds, so it was suggested a tar barrel be used. So as they also had to go round the town to play, it was suggested to carry the barrels upon the guisers heads, rather than rolling them. There have been claims that it is a pagan festival, however, these claims are unfounded. Where the name ‘guisers’ came from is also unclear.

The 45 guisers are all from local families and the honour is passed through families and there is rivalry in the fancy dress they adopt for the event – and in the way they build the bonfire at the close. At the end of the Procession, the ceremonial fire is ignited and after the crowd shouts “Be damned to he who throws last”, the guisers ceremonially toss their barrels onto the mighty Baal bonfire to welcome in the New Year.

This video from New Year’s Eve 2014 gives a vivid impression of what it was like to be there:

see us on Tripadvisor

We’d love to welcome you to the North Pennines to experience it for yourself. You can make your booking for New Year at Terrace Cottage in Rookhope very easily online via the Holidaylettings or Tripadvisor page. Allendale is a short drive from Rookhope so you’re ideally located.

Chris Tradgett

7m Walk from Allendale Town

View across the Allendale countryside

Walk: 7 miles across North Pennines field paths, farms and minor roads and returning by riverside path.

Map: OS Explorer OL43 – we provide a copy for our guests’ use.

Start in Allendale Square, where there is plenty of parking. Take the Hexham Road and in 50m cross the Phillip Burn, right up the lane. 100m turn left onto the field path. Follow the yellow arrow markers via Housty and Stone Stile towards Catton – continue on the path below Pasture House and Old Town and turn left onto Colliery Lane, down towards the River East Allen. Turn left to cross to the south bank of the River and then follow the the riverside path 2.5 miles towards Allendale.

Parking: in Allendale town square

Refreshments: There are several good pubs and cafés in Allendale itself as well as a very good pub at Catton en route.

There’s more information on our Allendale page

Chris Tradgett