HOLIDAY TO NORTHUMBERLAND - Part 3 - 7th July 2022




It was Benji who threw back the curtains, this morning, and peering out of the window, called out, "the weather looks good today. No rain and looks like it will be a quite sunny day."

"Wonderful", cheered Bamburgh. "We are in for a good time for our day out."

Dad went off for his breakfast, taking Dunstan with him, as he and Uncle Brian did all those years ago, as Aunt Betty always wanted to see him and say hello!

Meanwhile we discussed what to do today. "Going to a beach would be nice", said Archie who with his pal Cheviot was also coming along today.

"Hmm", agreed Bamburgh. "Now much as I would like to go to my namesake place, it is very busy now, and parking will be difficult."

"There are plenty of others", said Benji.

"We went north yesterday, so going south today seems sensible", commented Gladly.

"We could head to Alnwick, where I was adopted", said Benji. "I am not suggesting we stop there, as it would just be wandering round shops. If we head on there is Warkworth and Amble to potentially visit."

Cheviot got the iPad and opening the maps app, centred on Warkworth. "Look", he pointed. "Just before the bridge there is a narrow road that leads to a parking area near the beach."

"Great" replied Bamburgh. "That's sorted. And afterwards we can explore Warkworth itself and visit the church."

"From Chatton we take the road through Chillingham", said Archie. "I do remember looking back at the diary Dad wrote from long ago, that he and Uncle Brian visited a small church at Old Bewick. Maybe we should suggest this to Dad. It will bring back more lovely memories for him."

"OK then we have a plan", cheered Benji. "Here's to our day out."

Dad returned refreshed from breakfast, and we told him our ideas. "Well done Lads, I like the suggestions." Then he went on, "first however, I want to go across the road and see Joy and also Margaret, who used to work here Pam & Kenny ran it.  Donna, who served breakfast, has pointed out the house."

"Ok Dad", said Bamburgh. "We'll make sure to be ready, when you get back"

So Joy answered the knock. "Do you remember me?", asked Dad

"Aye I do. It's been a long time"

They chatted on about those times, then Joy said, "I am in the throws of moving.  My husband can't manage the stairs so we are moving to a bungalow in Embleton, near our daughter." Then she pointed, "there's Margaret in her garden."

"Oh yes."

Shortly Margaret set off for the shop so Dad called out to her. Coming up, she said, "I recognise the face."

So more chat followed including Dad telling them about Uncle Brian's death. Joy went in to continue packing, Dad then talking on with Margaret.   Just so nice to have seen them and reminisce about old times.

As Dad returned, Bamburgh, Benji, Archie and Cheviot called out in unison, "we're ready."

"Ok lads, let's go", replied Dad.

"I know you'll have a good time, like we did yesterday", called out Fred.


Our Day

So taking the Alnwick road, we soon passed Chillingham then continued until we saw a hill rising above us.

"That's Bewick Hill", said Dad. "The lane to the church is just here", he went on pulling onto the verge. "I can't remember how much space there is to park near the church, so we'll walk down. It's not far and the exercise will be good."

Then Dad stood looking at the hill. "I am going to tell you a story lads that brings back a very happy memory with Uncle Brian. It was in October 1994. By this time we had been to most places of interest in Northumberland, so Uncle Colin at the Percy Arms, lent us a book by Stan Beckensall on the ancient Cup and Ring marked rocks. On Bewick Hill is an Iron Age double fort, remains of old shepherd cottages, an ancient burial cairn and ring marked rocks. Uncle Brian and I climbed up and explored all there was to see, which was absolutely fascinating. At the burial cairn there were a group of students having this explained to them in great detail and we listened with interest.

When one of the students referred to the tutor as Stan, Uncle Brian said, "he must be Stan Beckensall"

I had his book in a map case so turned it round to show the cover. Stan spotted it saying, "he's got my book."

"So we had quite a conversation with him when we later got to Blaewerie, where the ruined cottages are, and he directed us to the fort and ring marked rocks. We were privileged to have met him."

"What a super story and memory", said Benji. "How we all miss Uncle Brian.

So, now it was off down the lane to...

From the book The Companion Guide to Northumberland by Edward Grierson, Bamburgh told us, "the church was founded by Queen Matilda, wife of Henry I, in memory of her father Malcolm, King of Scots, who was killed nearby at Alnwick. Later it was in the possession of the powerful Tynemouth Priory. The oldest part of the fabric dates from the 12th century. Damaged by the Scots it was restored in the 14th century, but thereafter decayed and it was roofless until restored by a Mr J C Langlands."

Inside here is the nave.

"Ahh", said Dad. "It is just how I remember it when I came with Uncle Brian. How I wish he was with us today."

"He will be with us in spirit", said Cheviot. "And he will be happy that you are visiting this church and thinking about him."

The real beauty of this church is the Norman chancel and arches and the apse itself.

"Oh!", exclaimed Benji. "How wonderful. I love the motif of stars on the blue background."

This effigy lies in the chancel.

Researching later, Bamburgh told us "it is of a woman and dates from the 14th century."

Here is the roof, a vital part of the restoration by Mr J C Langlands.

Standing at the west end is the font.

From the website, we found the following - 'The font appears to be Victorian, though in Norman style and standing on a very rough base that may be original. Given the number of Norman remains in the church, the author is inclined to think that the font may be a recut Norman one'.

To mark our visit, will you take our picture?", asked Archie.

l-r Archie, Benji, Bamburgh & Cheviot


Returning outside, Bamburgh pointed, "that gravestone has strange markings."

At the junction is this cross with Celtic design.

Reading from the book again, Bamburgh said, "this is a memorial to Mr J C Langlands."

"There is some writing on the base", said Benji peering closely. Although a bit hard to read as it had worn in places he said it reads, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD."

Onwards we drove into Alnwick, Benji calling out, “there’s the Tourist Information, where I was adopted.” 

Through the narrow arch, we soon took the road towards Warkworth, and keeping our eyes peeled for the turning just before the bridge.

"Here it is", called out Cheviot.

The lane led to the Warkworth Picnic Area, where there is lots of parking, and from which this track...

...leads to the beach that as can be seen was quiet. "This is how I remember Bamburgh Beach was, on the holidays with Uncle Brian", commented Dad. He then went on, "as it came into view, it made be think of the opening words of Vaughan William's A Sea Symphony - 'Behold the Sea Itself'."

"What is that island we can see?", asked Archie.

"Coquet Island", replied Benji. "Although owned by the Duke of Northumberland, it is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, as an important sanctuary for many species of sea birds such as puffin, kittiwake, fulmar, etc., and the largest colony of the endangered roseate tern in Britain."

We walked along the beach towards Alnmouth for quite a way stopping part way for a while to sit in the dunes...

l-r Archie, Benji, Bamburgh & Cheviot

...looking out to sea.

"This is something Uncle Brian loved to do", commented Bamburgh.

Glancing left, Archie said, "that tree branch looks like a snake or some such type of creature from the sea."

Making our way back, Bamburgh said, "that has been lovely, Dad thank you."

"You're welcome lads. I had to do a beach walk on the holiday."

So then into Warkworth, Dad following the car park sign, past the church to find a space by the River Coquet. 

"Free to park", commented Cheviot. "Not like the exorbitant fees in the Lake District."

"Quite", agreed Dad, "but it is far less busy here in Northumberland."

Here is the beautiful view of the sweep of the river.

A gentleman was trying to get his dog to fetch a ball rather than stones from the river.  He said, "I see you are a photographer. I am too and do a lot of work for the local council."

There was further chat then Dad asked, "Can you recommend a cafe. It's time I had lunch."

"Bertrams is good", he replied.

Returning to the car, Dad said, "I'm off for lunch. You've got your picnic lads, so I will see you in a little while and we will go exploring."

"OK Dad", said Benji. So we sat by the river enjoying the view, and having our sandwiches, cake and tea, until Dad came back.

"Was the cafe good?", asked Archie.

"Yes lad, and it was very popular. I had tea and a lovely sausage sandwich then a delicious piece of orange cake."

Setting off to explore, we first walked a little way by the river, so we could view the old bridge. Benji told us, ", it was built in 1379 and is one of only two incorporating a fortified bridge tower, later a tollhouse, situated at the south end. It is only 11 feet wide and has pedestrian refuges built above the triangular cutwaters. There are two arches and the roadway is cobbled. Now it is used only for foot traffic, having been replaced in the 1960s by a wider bridge."

Then we walked round to St Lawerence's Church, where for a little while we sat resting in the graveyard.

A wooden Anglo-Saxon church is mentioned as occupying the site in AD 737.This was almost certainly destroyed in the Danish raids of 875. The church was rebuilt in stone during the 9th and 10th centuries; foundations of this church were discovered in 2008 beneath the present church when an investigative trench was dug.
Building of the church as we see it today began in 1132; it was constructed not only as a holy place but also as a sanctuary for the villagers in dangerous times. It had very substantial walls, with very narrow, high windows to keep out the enemy. On Saturday 13 July 1174, the day of the Battle of Alnwick, Donnchad II, Earl of Fife, commanding a column of the Scottish King Williams the Lion's army, entered Warkworth and set fire to the town, killing 300 of the inhabitants who had taken refuge in the church. Around the year 1200 a tower was built at the western end of the church although the belfry and spire were not added until the 14th century. In the 15th century the south aisle and entrance porch were added.

The room above the porch that is reached by a spiral staircase served as a schoolroom prior to 1736.
In 1860 there were extensive restorations with a new roof being applied, which resulted in the loss of the clerestory windows on the south wall. At the same time plaster was removed from the interior walls and the box pews were replaced by bench pews, as seen in this along the nave that at 27.6 metres (90 feet) is the longest Norman nave in Northumberland.

We walked up to look at the chancel.

"What a wonderful church", said Archie in awe. Then pointing he said, "will you take a picture of that window to include in the story."

Then Bamburgh said, "look at that old tomb. Worth a picture Dad." Later doing research he told us, "it is the Knight's Tomb from the 14th century, and features an image of a cross-legged knight, his feet resting on a carved lion, with a shield bearing the arms of the de Abulyn family of Durham."

Outside the Northumberland flag was flying, Dad after a little wait for the right moment with the wind, getting this reasonable picture.

Searching Wikipedia, Cheviot later told us, "it is the flag of the historic county of Northumberland and the banner arms for the Northumberland County Council. The shield of arms is in turn based on the arms medieval heralds had attributed to the Kingdom of Bernicia (which the first County Council used until it received a regular grant of arms). The Bernician arms were fictional but inspired by Bede's brief description of a flag used on the tomb of St Oswald in the 7th century."

"Let's walk up the main street to see the ruined castle", suggested Benji.

"Wow", said Archie, "it is still very impressive."

Dad said, "this and Alnwick Castle were owned by the Percy family, Dukes of Northumberland. When I visited with Uncle Brian, we were told that there were not sufficient funds to maintain both, and Alnwick Castle won out, hence Warkworth being in a part ruinous state."

We walked up along by the curtain wall...

Bamburgh saying, "please will take our picture again Dad."

Our exploration nearly over, we headed down the main street...

...and past the church, where Cheviot pointed, "wow that's a truly magnificent copper beech tree.

Back at the car, Benji said, "so far we have mostly shaped the day. Is there anywhere that you would like to visit Dad, always assuming we are not just going back to Chatton now."

"Yes there is", replied Dad. "Often with Uncle Brian we would stop in a layby on the Alnwick to Rothbury road to enjoy the expansive view. Looking down we could see the remains of Edlingham Castle and the railway viaduct. We never went to visit, so that is what I would like to do, if that is Ok with you lads."

"Absolutely", agreed Bamburgh. "Let's go."

So retracing our route to Alnwick, and as we were passing Barter Books, Benji called out, "there's the Tenantry Column topped by the Percy Lion, that is embroidered on my jumper."

Looking up later, Benji told us, "the monument was erected in 1816 by the tenants of Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland, in thanks for his reduction of their rents during the post-Napoleonic depression. The Doric column stands 83 feet tall and is surmounted by a lion en passant, the symbol to the Percy family."

There was a queue of traffic as we approached the narrow archway, but Dad said, "I reckon if we take the turning left we can avoid this and rejoin the Rothbury road."

He was right, of course.

After some miles Cheviot suddenly called out, "I can see the castle ruins down to the right."

"Here's the turning Dad", Archie then called out.

The road dropped steeply, then at a corner Dad turned right by the sign for the church, then parking on the verge.

Let's visit the church first", suggested Cheviot. "It is dedicated to St John the Baptist."

As we walked to the entrance Bamburgh pointed, "The roof is flat but looking at that roof line on the tower, it once must have been pitched."

It is mostly Norman, from two periods, the late 11th – early 12th century and late 12th century. The defensible west tower may also have been begun in the late 12th century, but completed later

The south porch with its rare Norman tunnel vault, and the chancel arch, are late 11th century, and the north aisle arcade is from the late 12th century.

We walked down the nave, where Dad then took this picture of the chancel.

"What a quite beautiful church", said Archie. "We'll have to have our picture taken here. We can sit on the shelf by the vase of flowers."

Then finally before leaving, Benji said, "please take a picture of the beautiful east window."

Benji again searched the Internet later, and told us, "the glorious east window was installed in 1864 in memory of Lewis-de-Crespigny Buckle, who died when the S.S. Nemis was lost at sea. It carries the inscription 'The sea gave up the dead which were in it'."

Ok lads to the castle", said Dad, as we went through the gate and along the clear grassy path.

"There's the viaduct", pointed Archie. "It is rather obscured by the trees, but nevertheless worth a picture for the story."

It was built about 1885 for the North Eastern Railway Company, it has 5 arches and is part of the former Alnwick to Coldstream (Cornhill) railway. The line opened in 1887 but closed to passengers in 1930. It was used for freight until its final closure in 1965, although the section over the viaduct was closed in 1953. It is a Grade II listed structure.

So we entered the ruins of the castle via what was the gatehouse and barbican.

The most substantial remains are of the solar tower built about 1340-50, and joined on to the stone hall-house the scant remains of which be seen immediately in front being built in 1300 by Sir William Felton. The tower greatly enhanced domestic comfort, but also made the castle more defensible, necessary because of the warfare and border raiding that ensued for three centuries. At about the same time the curtain wall was begun and a gatehouse built this being enlarged and the walls strengthened towards the end of the 14th century.

We explored the ruins this shot taken from the hall-house looking towards the kitchen range centre and right, and the end of the hall-house left.

After centuries of domestic use the castle was abandoned in the 1600s. Stone was removed from it for other buildings and it became a ruin.

Before leaving we of course posed for our picture.

"Thank you for coming here lads", said Dad, as we walked back.

"Thank you for taking us. It has been really interesting", replied Benji.

By the church Dad got chatting, as he does, to a gentleman who was walking his dog.  It turned out that he was originally from Fleetwood and his wife was from Preston!  Small world when Dad told him we live in Morecambe and that he was originally from Southport. 

So, all done, we headed to the A697 and to Wooler calling at the Tankerville Arms for Dad to book dinner again.  Cheviot went in and he was seen by the owner.  They have different bears now.  She said, “I’ll give him a bow”. 

So off he went and returned with a large one in a tartan design.  "I am made up" he said.

They have a brochure featuring Cheviot, but the pictures are too dark. She said, "could you send some pictures so we can redo the brochure."

Dad replied, "I’ll try, but it could take while to organise this."

So now to the Percy Arms and we sat in the room and told our other pals about our fascinating day.

Dad meanwhile went to find where Auntie Pam lives. As he walked up to Holkam Lodge, neighbours Trish and Roy asked if they could help.  So Dad explained, Trish saying, "well Peter lives at Holkam Lodge."

Roy went off to see Peter, and the mystery was solved.  Auntie Pam did live there but only until Aunt Clare and Uncle Steve's house was built that is just behind. No.25 called Thistledoo.  There was movement so they were at home, Dad's plan being to call later.

When Dad was ready to drive to the Tankerville Arms for dinner, Cheviot said, "can Archie and I come with you?"

"Of course."

There, a dog at the adjacent table became interested, in us so Dad explained.

The dog was lovely, the lady saying, "he likes soft toys, hence why he was trying to get to the bears."

The food was good again, and Dad enjoyed a lovely dinner.

Drink – Pint of Tyneside Blonde
Main - Salmon with Hollandaise Sauce, new potatoes & vegetables
Dessert – Mango and passion fruit cheesecake (very tasty!)

We settled in at the Percy Arms, Dad saying, "I'm off to see Auntie Pam, You must come too of course Dunstan."

When Auntie Clare opened the door the look on her face was a picture!  She was so pleased to see Dad and Dunstan and they hugged.  Auntie Pam was pleased too, as was Uncle Steve when he returned from walking the dog.  So a long chat ensued, reminiscing about times past. So lovely for Dad to see them again after 7 long years. He said, "the main reason for coming to Northumberland was to see you all."

Clare and Steve's son Max was not in as he was at football practice, however as Dad walked back to the hotel Max was coming home. Dad said, "are you Max", then explained who he was. They had a brief chat. He is 22 now, but was just a toddler when last Dad saw him at Weetwood.  Ahh! 

What a super day we had had. Thank you Dad!! 

PS: Adding to the pleasure of seeing Auntie Pam, Auntie Clare and Uncle Steve, Dad and Dunstan, met up with Uncle Colin and Uncle Jeff and Auntie Pam for lunch at the Percy Arms on Friday. Dad was so so pleased to see them too.