HOLIDAY TO NORTHUMBERLAND - Part 2 - 6th July 2022




Ally and Bramble threw back the curtains, Ally calling out, "Oh no."

"Whatever's the matter", mumbled Fred sleepily.

"It's our day out with you and Gladly, but it's pouring with rain."

Gladly scrambled out of bed and grabbed the iPad, quickly navigating to the Met Office app. "Hmm. Yes we are in for a wet morning to start with at least, but it will clear up and we should be able to set off in the dry around 11:00."

"That's fine" replied Fred, "I can have a bit of a lie in. I am still a bit tired after the journey over yesterday."

Soon Dad went off for breakfast, taking Dunstan as he always did long ago when Betty did the breakfasts. Returning he slumped on the bed.

"What's the matter?" asked Bramble anxiously.

"I just feel off and tired. Perhaps due to being out at Elaine's on Monday and then the drive over, but it is more the fact the Uncle Brian is not here. The first time ever to visit Northumberland without him. It has brought the grief to the surface again. I wonder if it is a mistake to come."

"Oh Uncle Gerry", cried Fred, rushing over to give him a hug. "Like you I miss my Dad every day, and yes it is probably the grief, but I know that my Dad would want you to come. We can be sure that he will be with us in spirit during the forthcoming days. I'm sure once we set off you will gradually feel better as the day goes on."

We kept looking out and as 11:00 approached Gladly said, "look the skies are clearing."

"Great", cheered Ally.

"Ok", said Dad, "then it's time to go."

So we scampered down and settled in the car.


Our Day

Taking the road towards Wooler, Gladly asked, "what's the plan Dad?

"Visiting Etal and Ford and using the Heatherslaw Light Railway to get to Etal, lad."

"That's our railway", cheered Fred. "We have been on it before a lot of years ago, and the guard Mick allowed us to sit on the engine for a picture."

We came to the main road, having again had to give way to oncoming traffic at the narrow bridge spanning Wooler Water. Here we went right soon passing the Tankerville Arms.

"You and Uncle Brian stayed there", remarked Bramble.

"It was where our pal Cheviot was adopted", added Ally.

"Yes", replied Dad. "That's right. We first stayed there in 1984 on one of our earliest visits to Northumberland. Then again in 2009 when I adopted Cheviot. Then we had further stays in 2011 and 2012. For a change for dinner tonight I plan to go there, and on the way back we can call in to make sure there is a table free."

We drove on passing through Millfield. "There's the Red Lion", called out Gladly. "That was where there was a parrot called Popeye. It could talk and also mimic the phone ring, then pretending to answer it."

"Oh yes. Uncle Brian and I had a few laughs about that."

We began to wonder if we had missed the turning, but it was further than we remembered, and Dad assured us saying, "there is definitely a sign pointing to Etal and Ford."

We kept our eyes peeled and suddenly Ally called out, "here we are."

The straight road led to a t-junction where it was left to Etal, and about halfway we arrived at Heatherslaw, Dad pulling into the car park.

"The train is in the station. Come on pals we don't want to miss it", encouraged Fred.

Entering the ticket office...

...the lady issued at ticket and when Dad asked, she assured him that we travelled for free.

Then we quickly settled in the carriage and got comfortable in the corner of the seat.

l-r Ally, Fred, Gladly & Bramble

As we waited Bramble pointed. "the flowers in that planter on the platform are very colourful."

Right on time at 12:00 the guard blew the whistle and ever so gently we trundled out of the station. The track hugs the River Till and the train ambled along at about 10mph to arrive at Etal.

"This is great", said Fred. "Remembering happy times of the previous visits when my Dad was with us."

"Uncle Brian loved, riding on trains", said Gladly.

The guard and driver were different people now and indeed when Dad mentioned Mick to the driver, he replied, "oh aye, Mick has not worked here for a few years."

We could not expect to be allowed to sit on the engine today, so here is that picture taken on 7th September 2007.

We alighted at Etal, and watched as the engine, Lady Augusta, ran round to the other end of the train. Here the guard watches to make sure the proper connection is made to the carriages.

Then before we went to Etal village, this general shot of the train ready for the return journey to Heatherslaw.

Beyond the platform a rough path climbs to Etal, and we could look back to the station.

The path leads to Etal Castle of which the oldest surviving part of the structure is the strong defensive tower house.

Fred read from the information board. "Etal was an important medieval stronghold on the border between England and Scotland, It was the home of the Manners family from the mid 12th century to 1547. The castle provided greater protection against raiding by the Scots, and was also response to the Manners' intense rivalry with the Heron family at nearby Ford Castle. Between 1341 and 1368 the tower house was heightened during the building of a walled castle." Then pointing Fred went on "the different colour of the upper third of the tower's stonework reveals the later work. When complete the castle consisted of the gatehouse, the north-east and south-west towers, and the curtain wall forming a large rectangular area." Pointing again, Fred went on, "that is a fragment of the east curtain wall jutting out from the base of the tower house."

"Thank you pal for the history lesson", said Ally, as we walked over to have a closer look, and then pose sitting on the remains of the east curtain wall.

We then looked over to the substantial remains of the gatehouse and the south curtain wall.

Bramble did the honours now reading from the information board. "The gatehouse was the most important building after the tower house. A castle's entrance was its weakest point so the building protecting it had to be strong and well guarded. Two fortified towers flanked a portcullis and double doors, behind which was a vaulted passage containing two guard chambers."

"On the front of the gatehouse, above the outer arch, is a stone shield showing the coat of arms of the Manners family. There are also holes for the drawbridge mechanism. The spacious first-floor chamber, lit by three large traceried windows, may have been used as a chapel."

We now strolled along the street passing the thatched Black Bull Inn and village hall.

As can be seen the seats outside the village hall were occupied, but later on returning for the train, we were able to pose of our picture.

"Are we going to the church?, asked Gladly.

"Yes lad" replied Dad. "We cross the main road and walk a little was up the drive towards Etal Manor."

As we did this, Ally called out, "that's magnificent copper beech tree."

Then turning right we came to The Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

To understand the reasons behind this chapel it is necessary to look at a little family history. In 1821 Lord Frederick FitzClarence, an illegitimate son of the Duke of Clarence (who would later become King William IV), married Lady Augusta Boyle, the daughter of the Earl of Glasgow. The couple made their home at Etal Manor. Lord Frederick was a career soldier, and served with the British military in India, rising to become Commander-in-Chief of the army in Bombay. When he died in 1854 Lady FitzClarence had his body brought back for burial to the nearby village of Ford, which formed part of the Etal estate. The couple's only child, Frederica Augusta, died just a year later.

Lady FitzClarence decided to build a mortuary chapel in the grounds of Etal Manor and bury her husband and child there. She called in William Butterfield, who would become one of the finest ecclesiastical architects of the Victorian period. He designed a very simple building consisting of a nave and chancel with a mortuary chapel to the south .There is no tower, simply a bell-cote over the chancel arch, housing two bells and sporting a copper weathercock. Construction began in 1856 and the building was consecrated for worship in 1859 as a chapel under the parish church at Ford. Curiously, it was not until Lady FitzClarence herself died in 1876 that her husband was disinterred and reburied in a vault beneath the south chapel. Lady FitzClarence was buried beside him, as was their daughter and, sometime later, their son-in-law Captain Theodore Williams. The chapel was served by a chaplain who had no direct duties since parishioners worshipped at the parish church at Ford. In later years the rector of Ford also served as the chaplain of Etal. In 1971 the chapel stopped being a private chapel and became a fully-fledged church within Ford parish.

So here is the view along the nave.

"Ooh", said Ally, "just look at the decorative ceiling of the chancel. It's beautiful."

"Will you take our picture sitting on the chancel steps?", asked Bramble.

"Sure lads".

We then went to look at the FitzClarence tomb, one of the main reasons for visiting.

 This ornate scroll gives details of Lord FitzClarence's life.

It was here that Dad's emotions spilled over. The feeling of loss following the death of Uncle Brian, and so for the first time not being with us in Northumberland. He just broke down and cried the grief being overwhelming. We did our best to comfort Dad. Then he sat and talked to Brian for quite a few minutes recounting some of the times they had together on the many holidays here. Northumberland was his favourite county. 

Fred asked, "are you alright Uncle Gerry. I know my Dad would be happy that you have come to Northumberland, and that he is here with us in spirit."

"You are right Fred. I feel better now, thank you."

As we walked back Bramble asked, "what's the time, we don't want to miss the train."

"Darn" said Dad. "I forgot my watch."

A gentleman was standing outside the cafe so Dad asked him politely the time. "13:16", he replied.

"Thank you", said Dad. Then to us, "we had better be getting to the station."

We stood on the platform, Gladly saying, "just look at that mass of meadowsweet. So lovely and full of fragrance."

Soon we heard the train coming and Dad took this shot of The Lady Augusta working hard on the gradient into Etal station.

As the engine was run round, we settled in the carriage. Fred said, "I have just realised that the locomotive is named in honour of Lady Augusta FitzClarence, who is buried in Etal church."

"Oh yes, you are quite right", agreed Ally.

As we waited for the train to depart, a family passed by and noticed us. "The bears are having a day out", explained Dad.

"How lovely is that" the lady replied.

So the whistle blew and off we went meandering sedately through the lovely countryside.

At Heatherslaw, Dad said, "I am hungry so I'm going to the café at Heatherslaw Mill."

"That's fine", replied Gladly. "We'll have our picnic sitting in the car. Dunstan arranged this for us."

So Dad crossed the River Till...

...and walked up to Heatherslaw Mill.

On return he said, "I had a nice pot of tea and a delicious piece of really sticky flapjack and a scrumptious piece of blonde apricot slice."

"Sounds yummy. Cake stuffer Allen would have appreciated that", laughed Fred.

"Right then, off to Ford now", called out Bramble.

As we walked up from the car, Ally pointed, "there's a seat."

So we went and sat there to rest a while, Dad taking some pictures of the houses....

...and this of the Lady Waterford Hall.

"Then Dad said, "I'll take your picture too, lads. After all it is your day out."

We noted the family who had seen the us on the train, coming out of the gallery, and we saw the husband point to us and comment to his wife!

Dad now resolved to visit the Lady Waterford Hall. He was welcomed by the attendant Vicky, and he talked to her a while, explaining how he and Brian had visited the county many times, and that returning for the for the first time without him was emotional.  She understood. 

Originally commissioned by Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford as a school for local children in 1860, she then spent 21 years completing her artistic masterpiece: the watercolour murals. . Entering the Hall, one is immediately surrounded by these that adorn the walls. These were painted by Louisa from 1862 to 1883 and were influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The pictures were painted in life-sized watercolour on paper stretched on wooden frames or panels, which were then washed with distemper to tighten them, and mounted on the walls. These murals are made even more special by the fact that they were modelled by the school children and other residents in the village and wider estate. All of Louisa’s models were painted in her studio in the attics of Ford Castle – including the sheep!

There was a lovely large hardback by Philip Nixon called ‘Exploring the History of Northumberland’. £22 but just a superb book. "I've got to have that", he said, said handing it to Vicky. Then on leaving, he said, "thank you, I have enjoyed the visit."

Later checking back in the diary, Fred said, "this was the first time we had been inside the hall as on previous visits with my Dad it had been closed."

"Are we going to the church now?", asked Gladly.

"Yes lad" replied Dad.

So here is St. Michael and All Angels.

The church was begun sometime in the early 13th century, and surviving features from that time include the west wall, topped by a small bell-turret, along with the south aisle and the chancel. The church as we see it today is a result of a comprehensive 1853 restoration sponsored by Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford. The architect was John Dobson of Newcastle, who added a north aisle, widened the chancel arch, and raised the nave roof. Here is the nave...

...and below the chancel. The organ, east window, and choir stalls are a memorial to Marguerite, the wife of Baron Joicey who bought the Ford estate in 1907.

The beautiful stone pulpit dates to 1887 and was installed to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee.

Beside this are these two glass cases displaying a Book of Common Prayer and Bible given by Lady FitzClarence of Etal Manor in honour of her husband Frederick, the natural son of King William IV. As we had seen Lord and Lady FitzClarence are buried in Etal Chapel.

Above is this memorial window to Michael Edward Joicey, 4th Baron. Born 28th February 1925 who died 14th June 1993. He is buried in the churchyard.

"It has been a very interesting visit", said Ally. "Thank you Dad. Will you take our picture at the chancel steps to mark it."

As we set off back to the village Fred pointed, "that is a very elaborate grave." Then studying it more closely he said, "it is the grave of Lady Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, who created those amazing murals."

Settled in the car, Bramble said, "is it back to Chatton?"

"Not just yet", replied Dad. "I want to revisit Routing Linn waterfall. It is so beautiful."

"How do we get there", went on Gladly.

"We follow the road from Ford until we get to the junction with the Berwick to Wooler road, and turn right. Then we take the first right."

This was a narrow road that we followed for a couple of miles, and at a kind of junction Dad said, "this is where we park just on this track to the left. I am sure this is the place, but I will ask that lady with her dog, just to be sure."

She replied, "yes this is the place. Down that rough track opposite. Just remember that it's steep down into the gorge."

Fred said, "we have had enough excitement, so we'll just sit in the car."

Dad changed from sandals into trainers and set off along the track. Soon a path went off left, but it was fenced, and on closer inspection, seemed this was due to trees having fallen during Storm Arwen. But in a few yards Dad a spotted another path left leading to the steep descent.  "Darn" Dad muttered, "I meant to bring my stick", so he walked back to get it.

"That was quick", commented Ally.

"I forgot my stick", replied Dad.

"We're glad you came back for it. We don't want you to slip", said Gladly.

So he made the descent safely and short walk brought him to the fall deep in the gorge. Beautiful as ever.

Knowing he is unlikely to come here again, Dad stood a while taking in the scene, before heading back along the path.

Now we drove back to Wooler, Dad going to the Tankerville Arms to book for dinner at 19:00, then on to the Percy Arms.

"What a super day", said Gladly, "Thank you Dad."

"Yes it was", agreed Fred, "but I am tired now and ready just to rest and have a nice dinner."

"That's all arranged", said Dunstan. "You can all tell us about your day while we have it."

Cheviot said, "can Archie and I go to the Tankerville Arms with you Dad. After all that is where I was adopted."

"Sure lad", said Dad.

Here I am with my pal Archie, sitting in the bar.

The food was good and Dad enjoyed a lovely dinner.

Drink – Pint of Tyneside Blonde
Main - Butterfly chicken, rustic fries, tomato, onion ring & peas
Dessert – Mango and passion fruit cheesecake (very tasty!)
Finishing off with a pot of tea.  

Dad chatted the barman, who said, "people from London are buying up properties for holiday homes and lets. It ruins the chances of local people getting a house."

Dad agreed saying, "this kind of thing has been happening in the Lake District too for a while. It's such a shame." He then asked, "where is it relatively quiet for a beach walk."

"I would avoid Bamburgh as it is so busy now. Low Newton or Amble are better options."

"Thank you for the advice", Dad replied as he left.

Back at the hotel, Fred said, "how are you feeling Uncle Gerry. I know it has been a hard day emotionally."

"Much better than this morning, thank you. It has been a good day in the end. Just have to decide where to go tomorrow for your day out, Archie, Bamburgh, Benji and Cheviot."