Wednesday 7 April 2010

Magic Sites in Northumberland

Simonside & the Coquet Valley from Castle Hill

Today was our day off, a luxury that we allow ourselves now and again. Today we decided to wander round a few of the more remote archaeological sites in North Northumberland. Few visitors to Northumberland ever leave the main tourist route of Coast and Castles and they really miss a treat, in this county you really can get far from the madding crowd. Our first stop was the Iron Age hill fort on Castle Hill above Alnham. It's hard to find, you're not alerted to its presence by its silhouette on the horizon, as you are with many of the other hill forts. The approach is via a single track, unfenced road, which passes Alnham church (a gem in itself but that's for another day) and snakes its way up the hillside, through a farm yard and over a ridge heading into the heart of the Cheviots. It's at this point that you have to find somewhere to leave the car. No brown boards, interpretation signs or National Trust car park to welcome you. An unpromising narrow sheep track leads up the hill, through a couple of gates onto the top. Suddenly you are presented with a breathtaking view, over deeply dug ancient bank and ditch ramparts, to my beloved Coquet Valley and the Simonside Hills in the South and the snow covered Cheviots to the North and West. When I was last here, about four or five years ago, rabbits were rapidly digging away the banks, this now seems to have abated, possibly because they have realised that the thin topsoil masks ramparts composed almost entirely of sharp Cheviot redstone lavas.

Now I’ve called today’s blog 'Magic Sites in Northumberland' which may be a little romantic but as we sat on the ramparts looking out at the view the sun broke thorough the clouds and the silence was broken by the song of rising skylarks all around us. It really was pretty magical but an even more magical site awaited us.

From Alnham we headed for Milfield and a great lunch at the Milfield Country Café, after which I bought a useful little book by Archaeologist Clive Waddington;Maelmin a pocket guide to archaeological walks'. Walks centered around the Maelmin Heritage trail. One in particular caught my eye, a place that I have meant to visit for years, Roughtin Lynn.

The waterfall, Roughtin Lynn (or Linn), is hidden in an overgrown gorge with, dare I say it, a quite magical atmosphere. It's not a big waterfall, it's certainly doesn't carry a large volume of water, but it is a very beautiful waterfall. Most importantly as far as I'm concerned it lies at the heart of an ancient landscape containing England's single largest rock art site, which did not disappoint, right next to a deeply ditched and banked enclosure, which may be a strangely placed hill fort but is possibly much older. This site certainly warrants a second visit and it will get one.

Anyway, back to the workshop I've got to make potters wheels for my forthcoming Roman Pottery workshop and canopic jars for a couple of museums.

Visit my website at

No comments:

Post a Comment