HOLIDAY TO NORTHUMBERLAND - Part 1 - 5th July 2022




There was excitement amongst the Hug, as the July began.

"Dad's long awaited holiday to Northumberland is fast approaching" commented Gladly. "It has been six years since he last went, staying at Doxford Hall."

"That's right brother. After that sadly my Dad's health was such that he could not cope with the journey. Then after he died in 2019, Uncle Gerry's plan to go in spring 2020 was stymied due to Covid. I am glad that we are finally getting to go."

"It will be very emotional for Dad, being the first time without Uncle Brian, so we will have to do our best to comfort him at those times", replied Gladly.

"Yes it will. Northumberland was Dad's favourite county and he and Uncle Gerry went so many times over the years from about 1988", said Fred.

"There were those wonderful holidays staying at the Percy Arms in Chatton, and then after Pam and Kenny sold it, they stayed at their guesthouse at West Weetwood, then latterly at Doxford Hall", stated Gladly.

Dunstan said, "I always went to the Percy Arms, and I had to come down for breakfast to see Betty, Pam's mother. She expected to see me."

"That's right", agreed Fred. "You will be coming this time too."

"Yes and bringing all my railway bear pals, for our visit to the Aln Valley Railway, of which I am a Founder Member."

"Who else is going?, asked Polly. "At least for once Fletcher and I do not have to make the decision as we are not going to Armathwaite Hall until the end of September."

Gladly replied. "Ally and Bramble for sure. Ally is Bramble's best mate, and Bramble was adopted from Amble on the coast."

"Then we have to take Cheviot as he was adopted at the Tankerville Arms in Wooler, so that will mean his best friend Archie too", went on Dunstan.

"So the railway bears aside, two more to make up the 8 that Uncle Brian said was the maximum Dad could take to Armathwaite Hall", mused Fletcher.

"Well then", said Bramble who had overheard the conversation. "It should be Bamburgh and Benji, as they too are originally from Northumberland."

"Great" cheered Fred, "That's decided then. Just need to check with Uncle Gerry to be sure."

This was done and agreed, and we all happily waited for the departure day to come.


The journey & Dunstan explores Chatton

Tuesday dawned and we were up early. After breakfast we left Dad to pack and put the luggage in the car.

We were not idle Fred and Gladly organising us.

"Dad will be stopping on the way for lunch, so we need to pack a picnic for ourselves", said Fred.

Bamburgh called back, "Benji and I are on with the sandwiches."

Cheviot said, "Grizzly and Little Eric have baked cakes for us and Archie and I are organising putting them in the boxes."

"What delights have they made for us?", asked Ally.

"Chocolate caramel shortbread, Chorley cakes and mincemeat slice", replied Archie.

"Ooh lovely", cheered Gladly. "They will be delicious for sure."

All done and our belongings in the car, we waited patiently for Dad to be ready. Then around 10:45 he called out, "that's it, all loaded, come and get settled in the car."

We did not need a second asking and dashed out, calling goodbyes to our other Hug pals.

"Have a super time", called out Craig.

"Thanks pal", replied Gladly. "You all have a good time while we are away. We know what you have planned, but of course mums the word as far as Dad is concerned."

"Don't worry it will look like nothing has gone on when you get back", replied Craig's pal Ralph.

We headed to the M6 and took this north, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery. As we approached the Lune Gorge, Bramble pointed, "there's the Howgill Fells. You and STAG have had many adventures climbing to those summits."

"Yes lad", replied Dad. "Many of the adventures were with Uncle Eric for company too. If you want to get away from the crowds then those fells are the place to be. Especially the valleys and summits on the northern side. I recall that there were many adventures when we met nobody."

The motorway was followed to Carlisle where we then headed east on the A69, that was surprisingly quiet in the direction we were going, compared to other times in the past. "We are properly on our way now", commented Dunstan. "I remember that there is a large sign at the county boundary. A good first picture."

At Greenhead as expected Dad took the Hadrian's Wall road. This was arrow straight for long sections and many ups and downs as it crossed the undulating landscape. The traffic just melted away, and it was as we remembered with very few cars. 

Off here many Roman sites can be visited, Dad saying, "sometime I will perhaps have a night or two away to visit them properly."

"If you do, you will have to take Wray so he can visit Sycamore Gap", said Cheviot.

"Why?", asked Benji.

"Because 'Robin Hood Prince of Thieves' is his favourite film, and scenes were filmed there", replied Archie.

"And there it is", called out Fred excitedly, as he pointed out of the window.

"Can you take a picture, asked Benji.

"I'm sorry, but no", replied Dad. "There are no pull-ins and it is not really safe to stop on this road."

So onwards to Chollerford, where we crossed the river and at the crossroads took the road left signed to Rothbury. "When we get there we will nearly be at our destination", said Dunstan.

Dad announced, "I am stopping for lunch at Kirkharle. There is a nice cafe and a few shops."

"OK", replied Gladly. "We'll sit in the car and have our picnic.

So quite soon we were heading down the narrow road to the courtyard at Kirkharle.

Dad later told us that he had a delicious bowl of ham and lentil soup with a cheese scone. Walking through to Browns Larder to the right as indicated to pay, he also bought a couple of jars of chutney too.  And unsurprisingly he got chatting to the lady on duty.  Like Dad she likes the theatre and is pleased to be able to go to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle again.  He told her about the Royal Exchange in Manchester that Dad goes to with our pals Rex and Starbuck. 

Returning to the car, he said, "I'm going to explore the grounds, who would like to come along?"

Archie and Cheviot put there paws up, leaving the rest of us to have a snooze after our filling picnic.

Archie pointed to the cafe. "What is that blue plaque about?"

Cheviot had the answer. "Kirkharle is only tiny, but it is famous as the birthplace of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, probably the most famous landscape artist."

Seeing the old water pump and the pretty flowers Archie said, "let's sit there and have our picture taken."

"OK, let's go and explore the lake", said Dad, following the signs that took us along this wide gravel path.

Here an information board told us that this pathway is laid on the track that Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was likely to have walked on his way to school in nearby Cambo, and this daily journey through the Northumbrian countryside would have shaped his thinking on landscape design.
Brown wanted his landscapes in all their different aspects to be enjoyed; whether they be hay meadows, woodlands, arable fields or grass pastures, each adds a particular character. Most importantly, he wanted these areas throughout the year to represent a living environment. This great variety of landscape in one place, a mixture of both beauty and interest, is what marked Brown out from his contemporaries. In a small way his genius is represented in what we were to see around us.

Round the lake, rather than manicured and sterile grass areas, native grasses and wild plants are encouraged to grow naturally, so as to attract the greatest number of insects; in turn they will feed and sustain a wide range of birds and other wildlife. Surrounding this area are fields on which native breeds of sheep and cattle from the farm naturally graze, the mosaic pattern of mixed grazing similarly contributes towards this end. In keeping with the spirit of Brown's artistic nature, we would return at the end of our walk to a place where some 35 people are now employed within their own creative business, thus replacing some of those agricultural jobs long since lost.

Cheviot suggested, "let's sit on that seat while we think about what we have read."

Dad said, "the information board told us that Kirkharle will never represent one of Brown's greatest landscape works. However is serves to remind us that from this small corner of Northumberland, arguably the nation's greatest landscape designer emanated."

We sat on a little while longer taking in the beautiful countryside, before ambling round the lake seeing the native grasses and plants, including the meadowsweet. "How lovely and what a sweet fragrance", commented Archie.

Soon then we returned to the courtyard, Cheviot saying, "those planters will make a colourful picture."

So now it was time to resume our journey. As we settled with our pals again, Bamburgh asked, "Did you enjoy your exploration."

"Oh yes", enthused Archie, "and we learnt quite a lot about Lancelot, 'Capability' Brown, which we will tell you."

So the miles went by and finally we dropped down into Rothbury, there taking the road past the vast Cragside estate and up and down to the crossroads.

"Alnwick is straight on, but we go left towards Wooler", called out Gladly.

There the sign pointed right over a narrow bridge to Chatton our destination. We met traffic coming the opposite direction, so Dad had to give way. We were to cross this bridge a number of times during the holiday and almost without exception we always met oncoming traffic. Sod's law!!

Soon we entered Chatton. "It is just as I remember", said Dad, as we made our way along the street to pull in at the Percy Arms, where Dad and Uncle Brian had stayed so many times in the past.

Dad took Dunstan with him to check in. He explained about staying here many times long ago and about the fact that Dunstan always came down to see Betty, Pam's mother at breakfast.  We are in the River Till room at the front corner.  The rooms have been much altered and upgraded, such that those they used to stay in no longer exist being subsumed into others to make them all en-suite. The room is nicely appointed with a large comfortable king size bed and lovely bathroom too. 

We came in, Ally saying, "good there are chairs for us to sit on. You'll have to lie on the bed Dad."

"Hmm, bears rule OK", he replied with a sigh.

top l-r Ally, Dunstan, Archie, Cheviot, Benji & Bramble
below l-r Bamburgh, Fred & Gladly


Circle from back left - Chuffer, Summer, Leander, Higson, Scooter, Dale (back towards camera) & George

Dad said, "I'm going to walk round the village to refresh my memory."

"Can I come, please?", piped up Dunstan.

"Sure, come on."

Turning left we came to the shop that Uncle Jeff used to run and Dad and Uncle Brian never missed popping in to see him. He is retired now Dunstan saying, "it is good to see it's still open. So many villages have nothing now."

Walking down the lane we came to The Church of the Holy Cross.

Holy Cross Church was constructed between 1763 and 1770 to replace a ruined C13 church on the same site. In 1846 Anthony Salvin, then architect to the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle, added a north aisle. Subsequent additions have included a vestry to the north of the tower, early to mid C20 riddel posts to the High Altar and a clock to the tower in 1901. The organ by G. M Holditch of London (1816-96) installed in Salvin's 1846 north aisle, is believed to have come from an Oxford University College.

"Can we look inside?"

"Of course lad.

Here is the view along the nave.

We walked up then went to see the altar and screen in the north aisle. This is now a lady chapel and the reredos screen depicts the Patron Saints of the British Isles.

As we strolled back down the nave, I said to Dad, "there are some beautiful stained glass windows."

"Yes there are Dunstan. I'll take a couple of pictures."

At the back was a table with various items on it, including two little white lambs. "Ahh, will you take my picture with them to record my visit here."

Leaving we walked on down the lane towards the main road, that was lined with trees.

At the junction by the village boundary stands this monument that I posed on.

It was placed here to mark the millennium and represents the road map of Chatton in 2000.

"Thanks Dad", I said as we walked back to the hotel.

Later Dad went for dinner. I had arranged for ours to be delivered to the room.  After he returned we watched some TV, Ally and Bramble keeping Dad company on the bed.

Finally it was time for bed and we slept well, particularly Ally, Bramble, Fred and Gladly, who were to be going out for the day tomorrow.