DUNSTAN & FRIENDS HOLIDAY to NORTHUMBERLAND
13th JUNE 2011 to 17th JUNE 2011

 



Preamble

Higgy and Dunstan were chatting after browsing through the Moorsline magazine, the journal of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR).

"That was a great holiday, especially the day we spent on the NYMR", said Dunstan.

"Yes it was, and I am looking forward to our trip on the Settle-Carlisle", Higgy replied excitedly. "However it is just a week away from Dad and Uncle Gerry's holiday in Northumberland, and you will be going along of course to see Aunt Pam & Uncle Kenny."

"I can't wait, Dunstan replied. "It is hard to believe that Dad and Uncle Brian did not go last year. It is not often that they miss a year. It is their favourite holiday place and Dad told me that in all they have been about 45 times."

"Who's going with you?"

"Fred and Glad of course, and Bramble will be taking his pal Ally. After all Bramble like me comes from Northumberland", replied Dunstan. "Oh and I must not forget Cheviot and his pal Archie. We are staying again at the Tankerville Arms in Wooler, and Dad adopted Cheviot there in 2009. As for who else Dad decides to take we will just have to wait and see."

"Do you think Uncle Gerry will take you on the Heatherslaw Railway?", asked Higgy.

"I hope so and I plan to take a few of my pals too. It is just a lovely ride by the River Till to Etal and back, and we know the guard and driver, so with any luck we will get to sit on the engine to have our picture taken."

"Well I hope you all have a great time", said Higgy.


 

The Journey to Wooler

Monday dawned, and soon Dad was loading the luggage in the car, so my pals and I hurried to settle on the back seat. I had been right about who was coming, but in addition Dad agreed to take Bamburgh, who too comes from Northumberland, with his pal Oliver, and Tess and her pal Kenny, who Dad had adopted from the Heatherslaw Railway in 2005.

"Which way are we going?", asked Gladly.

"Up the M6 to Carlisle then along the A69 to turn off at Greenhead onto the road over Hadrian's Wall to Chollerford. Then we continue on the usual route to Rothbury."

"Oh heck that means we will pass the Howgills, so expect Dad to start naming the fells as usual", said Fred, laughingly.

Not just the Howgills, but all the scenery from the M6 is beautiful and we all enjoyed looking out as we drove along. The worst part of the journey was along the A69, the busy main road between Carlisle and Newcastle, where slow lorries held us up.

Suddenly Bramble called out, "look there is the sign reading 'Welcome to Northumberland'. Great to be in our home county again."

"It sure is", replied Bamburgh, Cheviot & Dunstan in unison.

Before long we were turning off along the B6318, that passes near the remains of Hadrian's Wall and for part of its length is actually built over the wall. We saw the Housesteads Roman Fort, and also a large tree in a dip of the wall.

Dad said, "look mate there's the tree."

"What's the significance of that?", asked Oliver quizzically.

"It features in one of our favourite films, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves", replied Fred. "We always try to spot it every time we come along here."

Eventually we crossed the river at Chollerford then, at the crossroads turned left towards Rothbury. Again we enjoyed the beautiful countryside, passing the National Trust house of Wallington. Then eventually the Simonside Hills came into view, that set our hearts racing in the knowledge that we were nearing the end of our journey. We did not go to the hotel yet however, instead we went to Chillingham Castle, the intention being for Dad and Uncle Brian to have lunch in the tea room, run by Aunt Julie, the daughter of Uncle Kenny and Aunt Pam. Archie, Cheviot and I went in with them.

Although it had been two years since the last visit, the lady selling the tickets etc, recognised them. Aunt Julie and Heather who was working too, made a fuss and we were fussed too. They came to chat when the tea room had quietened down. A nice lunch was enjoyed - soup and sandwich, then Dad had a piece of lovely home made chocolate cake, all washed down with pots of tea.

Then it was on to Wooler and the Tankerville Arms, where we were staying. When room keys are issued teddy bears, like our pal Cheviot are attached, and indeed that was how he came to be adopted. Dad took Cheviot with him to check-in, to explain this, and Duncan, remembered them too, even to the room we had had in 2009! This time we had a different room, on the first floor, so it was easier for Uncle Brian, there not being too many stairs to climb. We were glad to get settled in and rest, sitting in a circle chatting about the journey.

Meanwhile, Fred & Gladly, were sitting on Dad's bed, doing their 'Angel of the North' impression. We nicknamed them Michael and Gabriel!

 



 

Tuesday

Today was spent visiting Uncle Jeff at his shop in Chatton, then on to see Uncle Kenny & Aunt Pam. I went along of course, together with Fred and Gladly. Oh how great it was to see them again after all this time, and we sat quietly by while they talked the hours away with Dad and Uncle Brian, catching up on all the happenings. In the evening we rested in the room, having our meal arranged by our pal Cheviot, of course.


 

Wednesday

Dad and Uncle Brian were not visiting any one today, so there was some excitement amongst us when I told the rest of my pals that the first part of the day was to be spent riding on the Heatherslaw Light Railway.

"Can Tess and I come along?", asked Kenny.

"Absolutely", I replied. "After all you were adopted from the shop there, after a previous trip and you wear the name sash with pride. You and Tess will definitely be riding the train today."

Can Archie and I travel too?", asked Cheviot.

"Of course Lads", I replied.

"I would like to come along with my pal Oliver", said Bamburgh. "We are not bothered about the ride on the train. I did hear Uncle Brian mention going to that new farmshop and cafe at Belford, that Aunt Pam told them about. From there it is just a short way to Bamburgh village, which I am named after, and I am sure they will go there as it is one of their favourite places."

All this was decided while Dad and Uncle Brian were down having breakfast. When they returned Uncle Brian sat a few minutes to rest, before getting ready to leave. Excited and ready for the off we dashed down to the car and got settled on the back seat. Dad took the main road north for a few miles, before turning right along a wide straight road leading to a t-junction. Turning left it was only a short distance to Heatherslaw. We parked in the yard facing the track.

"Look Dad", I called out, "there's Mick the guard walking along the platform."

As he walked past where were were parked, he noticed Dad, recognised him, even though we had not been for three years, and waved.

We scrambled out of the car and headed to the booking office, where Dad and Uncle Brian bought the tickets. Then it was on to the platform to settle in the carriage.

l-r - Dunstan with Tess, Cheviot with Kenny & Archie

Mick came along to check the tickets, and seeing us remarked to Dad, "I see you've got your teddies with you again".

"Yes", replied Dad. "They always have to come for a ride on the railway. It is good to see you again and we are really looking forward to the ride to Etal and back."

Soon it was time to depart, Mick blew the whistle, and we pulled gently out of the station. The journey is delightful running by the banks of the River Till in a wide circle towards Etal. Dad was busy with his camera and took this shot forward.

Through the trees there were nice views of the river, like the one below, as we looked out. At one point we spotted a heron standing motionless, waiting for an unwary fish to swim by and become his lunch.

Soon we were running into the little station at Etal, with the backdrop of the ruins of the castle.

Here the engine is detached, then manually turned on the turntable, to then run on the loop to be attached to the other end of the carriages for the return journey. While Uncle Brian remained in the carriage, we and Dad leapt off to watch the proceedings, and here is the locomotive carefully being backed on to the carriages by the driver Carl.....

and safely attached ready for departure.

On past visits the train was hauled by a locomotive named Lady Augusta, which is still used when there is more than one train running at a time. However on day-to-day running the train is hauled by their new locomotive Bunty at 2-6-0 Tender Tank, introduced to service in 2010. The locomotive was begun in 2005 by Neville Smith, Heatherslaw Light Railway's founder, and completed by Alan Keef Ltd, following Neville’s untimely death in 2009. The name is actually Neville’s nickname for his wife, Bernice, and according to a book on the origin of names means “little rabbit”!

Dad then took our picture, as he always does here, sitting on the seat.

Mick had been busy checking the tickets for the return journey, but now came along to talk to Carl and he remarked to Dad, "have you got your pictures."

"Yes", Dad replied, but then asked, "would be possible for the bears to sit on the engine footplate"

"It's rather dirty and oily", he replied.

However Carl said, "we can use this rag to wipe the oil off the floor, and I can then burn it in the engine."

This done, we quickly climbed up and settled on the footplate. This made our day, especially Kenny, who originated from the railway.

Departure time was near, so thanking Carl and Mick, we trotted down the platform and climbed aboard the carriage. Mick blew his whistle, acknowledged by a toot from Carl, and the train pulled out of Etal Castle Station. At one point the track curved quite sharply and there is a passing loop, that facilitates the operation of two trains.

So, all too soon we were pulling into Heatherslaw Station at the end of our ride, and we called out our thanks to Carl and Mick. Then we sat and watched the train depart once again for Etal.

We all waved our paws and Kenny called out, "thanks Dad for letting me ride. I have had the time of my life."

Lunch was the next priority, and Dad suggested going to Sunny Hills at Belford, as recommended by Aunt Pam. Uncle Brian readily agreed. Dad consulted the map and a route was devised. This took us past the village of Ford and on to Lowick. In about the middle of the village we took a road to the right across country.

As we drove along, Archie remarked to his pal Cheviot, "according to the Satnav, this road is called the Devil's Causeway."

"So it is", replied Cheviot. "I wonder why."

"There have been long straight stretches, so I wonder if originally it dates from Roman times?", said Bamburgh.

"We'll have to look it up on Dad's laptop", when we got back", I replied.

We did, and Bamburgh's surmise was correct. We had indeed been travelling along part of the Roman road known as the Devil's Causeway. It starts at Port Gate, now a roundabout where the Roman Dere Street (A68 road) crosses the Military road. From here it can be traced through Northumberland for about 55 miles north to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Incidentally the Military Road is the name given locally to part of the B6318 road in Northumberland, which runs from Heddon-on-the-Wall in the east to Greenhead in the west. For much of its length the road is straight and gives the appearance of a Roman road. However the 'military road' term comes from the building of the road by Hanoverian forces in 1746 in order to suppress the Jacobites to the north. The main features of the road is that it runs alongside Hadrian's Wall for much of its length, and in some parts the road is built on the foundation of the wall. Indeed we regularly use the section from Greenhead to Chollerford, when we travel to and from Northumberland.

Well after all that I'd better get back to the day. The Devil's Causeway road eventually brought us to a junction with the road between Belford and Fowberry. Here we turned left , to climb steeply up, where looking back there was a superb view of the Cheviots. Just nowhere to pull in on the very narrow road to get a picture. Soon we were dropping down into Belford, where at the junction we went right to come to Sunny Hills, set back off the road.

Here Dad and Uncle Brian enjoyed a lovely lunch. It can be truly recommended. There is an excellent farm shop selling all sorts of goods. The meat especially looked to be really excellent. Sunnyhills.

Cheviot had arranged for the hotel to pack us a picnic, which we had sitting at the table in the centre of the picture. Then while we waited for Dad and Uncle Brian we went to look at the alpacas in the adjacent paddock.

As we climbed into the car once again, Bamburgh asked, "where are we going now?"

"To Bamburgh, after which you are named", replied Uncle Brian.

Crossing the A1, the route led us first to Budle Bay a large inlet. We stopped here, and Dad took Bamburgh, Oliver and myself to have our picture taken amongst the grass above the bay. As you can see the tide was in.

l-r Oliver, Bamburgh & Dunstan

Just a short drive then brought us to Bamburgh, the pretty village dominated by its huge castle. It is very popular with visitors and we began to doubt that we could find anywhere to park, but finally Dad did. He and Uncle Brian went to the RNLI shop at the Grace Darling museum and then sat outside for a while. Meanwhile Bamburgh took Oliver and myself on a quick tour of the village, before he and Oliver posed on the wall in front of the church.

You might just spot someone walking up the path in the back ground between the bears. It was two ladies, and when they saw us and Dad, remarked that they has seen him taking our picture at Budle Bay. He was obliged to briefly tell what was going on.

Well, that was the end of our day out and we now just drove via Chatton, to Wooler and the Tankerville Arms, where we told our other pals all about our day.


 

Thursday

This morning we woke up to find it was raining, so I was a little down hearted as to what we would be doing today, especially as I had promised to take Bramble and his pal Ally with us.

"Well let's see what it is like after breakfast", said Dad as he and Uncle Brian headed out of the room. Ours was delivered to the room, as arranged by Cheviot.

After they returned some discussion took place.

Dad said, "we have just got the morning to kill, as we are meeting Aunt Pam, Uncle Kenny, Aunt Julie and Uncle Colin, for lunch at Sunnyhills once again. So how about we go to Alnwick and Barter Books, as there are thousands of books to browse and we will be inside if it rains."

Uncle Brian's eyes lit up at this suggestion, as he is an avid reader and loves looking round bookshops.

We drove south along the A697, then took a turning left, along one one of the few roads we had not been on before in this area, to join the road from Chatton, and so right passing along by the high wall of the Alnwick Castle estate. Then driving through the main street and under the narrow arch of the ancient gateway, turned right up the slope to Barter Books, that is located in the building of the former Alnwick Railway Station. You can see Dad's car parked in front.

Uncle Brian made his way inside eager to get browsing, but Dad kindly took the time to take our picture sitting on the seat outside.

l-r Dunstan, Bramble & Ally

Just across the road is the tall Tenantry Column. The Doric column is 83 feet (25 m) tall and topped by the Percy Lion, symbol of the Percy family. It was designed by the Newcastle architect David Stephenson and erected as thanks to the second Duke of Northumberland, by his tenants in 1816, following a reduction in their rents. Buried in a cavity in the foundations is the regimental roll of the late Percy Tenantry volunteers, written on vellum and sealed in a glass tube.

Anecdotal history suggests there is slightly more to the story of the column; the local Rothbury website summing matters up thus:

During the 19th century local farmers profited, very nicely thank you, from the high cost of goods sold to support the war with France. The Duke, reviewing his rents, as one does, saw fit to suggest a small increase; double or possibly quadruple. And everyone was happy.

Unfortunately when peace broke out, reduced prices in the market place created a cash flow problem and farmers were unable to meet the vastly increased rents. They commented on this to the Duke who reduced the rents accordingly. The tenants in their turn, felt beholden to such generosity and erected a column, topped by the Percy Lion to express their gratitude to the Duke.

The Duke in his turn decided that if the tenantry could afford such an edifice then they could afford the rents which were promptly raised again. The cost of this edifice was such that with the re-imposed rental increase farmers were unable to survive and promptly went into bankruptcy. But the subscriptions were insufficient to complete the monument and the Duke was forced to finish it himself. Noblesse Oblige. Also interesting as it is reported that the Duke died before its completion.

Now you will see that there is blue sky through the clouds, but it was as well that Dad took these pictures when he did as shortly the skies darkened and there was a terrific downpour that lasted for some time. We however were safely inside, this vast secondhand bookshop, in fact one of the largest in Britain.

The shelves stretch away to the distant table, and then as far again beyond. An absolute paradise for book hunters. This part of the building is where once stood the track and one of the platforms of the station. Before reaching this area, there are more books, and above the shelving is a miniature railway with trains running round.

Above is The Writers Gallery, painted by Peter Dodd. It consists of more than forty life-size figures, beginning with, on the Lower Gallery: Charlotte Brontë, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, W B Yeats, Wm Faulkner, Samuel Beckett, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Mark Twain, an intruder cat, T S Eliot, R L Stevenson, F Scott Fitzgerald, Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes, John Keats, Wilfred Owen, Scarecrow, Spike Milligan, Toad, Ratty, Alan Bennett, Mole, Badger. Upper Gallery: G B Shaw, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard, James Joyce, Doris Lessing holding Archie (owner's moggie), Russell (ditto), Charles Dickens, Edward Lear. Many more too are commemorated along the railing.

On the other side of the wall is The Railway Mural, designed by Mary Manley, who with her husband Stuart opened Barter Books in 1991. It stands in recognition of the pivotal role played by the North East of England in the railway, and in memory of all the Alnwick Station staff. The mural consists of the names of all known staff from 1850-1968. It is just possible to see that some names are singled out in red, and these are of the Stationmasters. The design also includes the coats-of-arms of the three railway companies that were in operation during the Station's working life: North Eastern Railway, the London and North East Railway and British Railways.

We were fascinated by all this, and wandered around, while Uncle Brian and Dad were book browsing. Unsurprisingly Dad was browsing books about walking, while Uncle Brian was concentrating on biographies.

"It isn't half raining hard Dad", said Ally.

"Too true Lad, so lets go and have a snack in the 'Station Buffet'", he replied.

This is situated in what is called the skylight room, long lost and rediscovered by chance. Adjacent is seating in three rooms called the red, green & blue. They were formerly the gentlemans 1st class waiting room, a passage way between platforms 1 & 2 and the ladies 1st class waiting room, respectively. They had tea and coffee and a cake each.

"This is a very nice addition to the place", remarked Dad.

"Yes just up your street", replied Bramble, laughingly.

Before leaving we sat on the table and posed for our picture.

It was time now to be heading off up the A1 to meet up with Aunt Pam and Uncle Kenny for lunch at Sunnyhills. Thankfully the rain had passed over, and the sun was coming out as we drove north. Again Cheviot had arranged a picnic for us which today we had sitting in the car as it was rather too breezy to sit out. Dad and Uncle Brian had a great time with Aunt Pam, Uncle Kenny, Aunt Julie and Uncle Colin. Once again it was a nice lunch and there was time to have a really good chat and not a few laughs too. Finally it was time to say goodbyes until next year and I went and said my goodbyes too. Then before we left Dad took us sitting on the table outside.

Well we were all ready to return to the hotel and have a rest, especially as there was the journey home to be faced tomorrow. We took the Fowberry Road out of Belford, the one we had come down yesterday. As we reached the crest there was again that superb view to the Cheviots.

As we drove on, I called out, "just look at that poppy field. It looks beautiful."

"I get the hint", replied Dad stopping the car and then reaching for the camera, as he got out.

Further on we came to the narrow Fowberry Bridge.

It was built 1825 in dressed stone, for Matthew Culley of Fowberry Tower. It consists of a single segmental arch spanning the River Till, and a segmental carriage arch over the drive to Fowberry Tower, which we could clearly see over the wall.

This diversion over, we continued to join the road from Chatton, and so to Wooler and the Tankerville Arms. Another interesting day, and once again we regaled the rest of our pals with the details. Going home tomorrow, there was just one more thing to do. That was to troop down to the garden for our usual end of holiday group picture.

Oliver with Dunstan in front, Bramble, Gladly with Tess, Archie, Fred with Kenny, Ally, Bamburgh & Cheviot

So ended a lovely holiday in Northumberland. Having not visited last year, we all realised how much we had missed seeing this beautiful county and visiting our friends. Dad and Uncle Brian vowed not to miss a year in the future. Friday dawned dry with sunny periods. After breakfast packing was done and Dad took the cases to the car. We settled on the back seat, but Cheviot went to reception with Dad to check out. We had thoroughly enjoyed our stay and can recommend the Tankerville Arms without reservation. There then followed an uneventful journey home.

Thank you Dad from us all for a lovely holiday.
Dunstan.

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