Derwentcote Steel Furnace – Britain’s Oldest Surviving Steel Furnace

Derwentcote Steel Furnace is a 300 year old steel-making furnace making it one of the pioneers of Britain’s industrial revolution.

Derwentcote Steel Furnace is a relic from the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. It was built in the 1730s to convert wrought iron into steel using a process known as cementation. It is the last surviving furnace of its kind in the north-east and the only intact and complete example in the UK.

The building, which is managed by English Heritage, can only be viewed from the outside but it is a pretty woodland setting and worth the effort. It was in use until 1891 following which it fell into disrepair until restored by English Heritage a century later. The roof tiles are obviously recent but the walls, conical chimney and steel furnace door have great character and look like originals.

You can read more about the cementation steel making process on English Heritage’s website.

Opening Hours & Admission Charges

Open daily during daylight hours.
Closed 24-26 December and 1 January.

Admission to the grounds is free.

Although there is normally no access to the inside of the building, a sign outside says access can be arranged for groups by appointment, please call 0191 269 1200.

How To Get to Derwentcote Steel Furnace

The exact location is marked on this map (it’s actually in County Durham, not Northumberland, but still within the scope of this blog):


Derwentcote Steel Furnace
Forge Lane, Hamsterley, Rowlands Gill NE17 7RS

Tel: 0191 261 1585

GPS: 54°54’11.3″N 1°47’53.2″W
54.903133, -1.798098


There is a carpark and picnic area a couple of minutes walk away on the opposite side of the A694 and is clearly signposted.

The Hopper Mausoleum St. Andrew’s Church, Shotley

The Hopper Mausoleum commemorates several generations of the Hopper family who were buried in this somewhat bleak cemetery at St Andrew’s Church between 1752 and 1818.

The Hopper Mausoleum is a grand and ornate tomb thought to have been built in 1752 by Humfrey Hopper in memory of his wife Jane Hodgson. Humfrey himself and later generations were also subsequently buried and commemorated here. The elaborate structure, which is a Grade 1 listed monument, stands in the corner of the cemetery of St. Andrew’s Church at Kiln Pit Hill close to the Northumberland/County Durham border. The mausoleum is described as neo-classical in style with a dome and cupola, a number of pyramidal finials and a family crest.

The church and mausoleum stand on a lonely and bleak hill, set well back from the road and can only be reached by a three minute walk on a footpath alongside a farmer’s field. The elevated site gives a fine view of the surrounding countryside, shown here in the fading light of an autumn afternoon.

A plaque on the mausoleum reads:

Erected by Humfrey Hopper of Blackhedley, in memory of his wife Jane Hodgson, who died February 29th, 1752, aged 77. Humfrey Hopper, died [date blank] 1760, aged 83. John, his son, died December 16th, 1776, aged 76. Joseph, his son, died October 18th, 1795, aged 86. Mary Walton, wife of Joseph Hopper, died [date blank] Humfrey, captain 32 Regement [sic] Foot died at St. Vincent, August 10th, 1765, aged 43. Nicholas, son of Joseph Hopper, died February 22nd, 1807. George son of Joseph Hopper, died January 24th 1818. Joseph Hopper, captain of the ship Formosa.

One of the statues on the mausoleum appears to be wearing a mitre and, according to The Churches Conservation Trust, is believed to be the martyred Bishop Hooper (presumably no relation to Humfrey?) while another statue has been decapitated and another is missing.

St. Andrew’s Church itself is a simple building more typical of the style you would expect to find in this part of the world. It was built in 1769 replacing a much older church on the same site. The church was declared redundant in 1973 – not surprising given its remote rural location. While it is no longer in regular use it is looked after by The Churches Conservation Trust who put on occasional services and events. There are even plans to place a stargazing pod in the churchyard to take advantage of the area’s dark skies due to lack of light pollution. Unfortunately the church was closed and locked on the day of my visit so was I was unable to peek inside.


The Hopper Mausoleum is well worth a visit if you are in the vicinity. The location is shown on this map.

The Hopper Mausoleum, Greymare Hill,
Kiln Pit Hill, Consett DH8 9SJ

GPS: 54°53’29.9″N 1°55’50.9″W
54.891636, -1.930804


There is just about space to park one car on the verge opposite the entrance to the footpath without blocking the farmer’s field. Otherwise you will have to find a parking spot elsewhere and walk.

Wallington House and Gardens, Cambo, Northumberland

At Wallington House and Gardens you can enjoy a pleasant few hours admiring the interior of this historic stately home and exploring the extensive grounds with woods, ponds, walled garden and conservatory.

Wallington was the home of the Trevelyan family from 1777 until it was gifted to the National Trust in 1942.

Here are some of the highlights:


The central hall is decorated with a series of eight murals by Newcastle-based Scottish artist William Bell Scott (1811-1890) telling the history of Northumberland. Here are a couple of them:

“The Romans Cause A Wall To Be Built For The Protection Of The South.”
“In The Nineteenth Century, The Northumbrians Show The World What Can Be Done With Iron And Coal.”
Some fine crockery is on display in the dining room.
Lady Trevelyan’s parlour with William Morris wallpaper.
Dolls houses and model soldiers.
Cosy library.
Caroline Trevelyan’s sketches, watercolours and other paintings.


Walled Garden.
Dragon Head Sculptures.

Other outdoor attractions include a wildlife hide from where you might be lucky enough to spot red squirrels, an adventure playground, a play train and a play fort

Visiting Wallington

Walllington is a National Trust property with all the facilities you would expect including a café and refreshment kiosk, parking, toilets etc.

You can find details of opening times, ticket prices etc. on National Trust’s website.

Where is Wallington?

You can find the location on this map:

National Trust Wallington
B6342, Cambo, Morpeth, Northumberland NE61 4A

Tel: 01670 773600

Prudhoe Castle

Prudhoe Castle dates from the 12th century, originally a stronghold for two leading northern families, the Umfravilles and later the Percy family, Dukes of Northumberland. It has a turbulent history and is famous as the only castle in the north never to have been captured by the Scots, having survived two sieges during the 1170s.

The chapel above the gateway contains England’s earliest example of an oriel window, built around 1300.

This fine Georgian manor house was built within the walls of the castle by the Duke of Northumberland in 1816, during the Napoleonic Wars. Major repairs of the ancient castle, which was in a ruinous state, were also carried out at this time. The manor house now contains exhibits on the 900 year old history of the castle.

Prudhoe has many of the features we associate with a traditional medieval English castle such as a moat, fortified gatehouse, a bridge, surrounding curtain wall, cross-shaped window slits, crenellated walls etc

This outer courtyard, or outer bailey, was the site of the kitchen, brewhouse, stores, workshops, latrines and accommodation block.

Prudhoe Castle from the south by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, 1728.

Painting (print) on display at the castle. Possibly by, or in style of, Thomas Miles Richardson (1784-1848).

The castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public. You can find details of opening times and ticket prices on their website. The castle is closed during the winter months (4 November – 31 March).

Location of Prudhoe Castle

If you get in a taxi and ask for the castle and pronounce it as ‘prood-ho’ the driver will know you’re not from the area. The locals pronounce it as ‘prudda’.

The location is shown on this map.

Walk from Lambley Viaduct to Featherstone Castle – River Tyne Trail

This walk from Lambley Viaduct to Featherstone Castle is one of the most scenic and interesting sections of the Daft As A Brush trail.lambley-viaduct-to-featherstone-castle-walk

You can do it either as a one-way trip along the east bank of the River South Tyne or, as I did, as a circular 4.5 mile route by coming back to the start point via the trackbed of the former Haltwhistle to Alston Branch Railway.


Start Point

I parked at the small Coanwood Car Park.

End Point

Featherstone Castle (unless you walk back to Coanwood Car Park).



The trackbed of the Haltwhistle to Alston Branch Railway from Coanwood Car Park towards Lambley Viaduct now forms part of the South Tyne Trail.


Lambley Viaduct is a massive and spectacular piece of engineering for a relatively minor railway. It was built by the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Company and opened in 1852 to complete the Haltwhistle to Alston branch line. Its main purpose was to transport lead, coal and limestone which were mined in the area but it also provided a passenger service until it closed down in 1976.


The viaduct’s architect was railway engineer Sir George Barclay-Bruce. It was built of sandstone and its 9 main arches and 7 smaller spans supported trains 105 feet above the River South Tyne. After some years of neglect, the viaduct was restored during 1995 and 1996.


You can walk across the viaduct and admire the far reaching views before descending a steep slope to cross back over the Tyne using this pedestrian bridge pictured here from the top of the viaduct looking down.


If you are lucky with the weather you can enjoy a lovely walk close to the river bank.


You will pass the site of Camp 18 where thousands of German Officer Prisoners of War were held from 1945-1948. The foundations of nissen hut blocks and a few brick buildings are all that remain. The POWs underwent a programme of denazification before being released and returned to Germany. The POWs produced their own newspaper, Die Zeit am Tyne.


The origins of Featherstone Castle go back a thousand years with many extensions and alterations over the centuries. It is not open to the public but parts of the property can apparently be rented out for weddings and functions. Given the castle’s great age it is not surprising to hear stories of it being haunted, especially on 17th January each year when a ghostly wedding party is said to make an appearance.

Please note I am not providing detailed maps or instructions of the route. You will find all that in Daft As A Brush’s book. You can buy a copy here with proceeds going to support the charity’s good works.


Walk the River Tyne Trail, Sources to Sea and Support the Daft as a Brush Cancer Charity

The River Tyne Trail is a wonderful 135 mile hike tracing the River Tyne from its two sources, north and south, to Tynemouth and South Shields where it flows into the North Sea.

The Trail is the brainchild of Brian Burnie, founder of a cancer charity called Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care. Together with his mates, Peter Donaghy and John Laidler, he conceived the trail as a way of raising awareness and funds for his charity which provides transportation for cancer patients to get to and from hospital.

“It’s a long walk for my little legs!”

I first became aware of the trail when I saw a stone monument marking the end of the walk near the north pier at Tynemouth. I had earlier wondered whether it would be possible to walk along the banks of the River Tyne all the way from Tynemouth to its source so when I found out that it had already been done I straight away sent away for the Daft as A Brush guide book to learn more.

Being a bit daft as a brush myself I decided I would have a go at walking the trail, or the majority of it at least. The scenery is great and varied and there is a lot to see along the way. I would urge you to give it a go.

The authors of the guide book (Donaghy and Laidler) divided the 135 mile trail into 12 stages, averaging about 11 miles per stage. I have divided it into shorter stages, partly because I find 11 miles a bit long but mainly because my practice is to park at one end, walk for a few miles, and then walk back again to my car. This means I will have to walk twice as far – 270 miles – to complete the whole trail. Now that really is Daft!

Listed below are the stages I have completed so far which have been spread over several months in all kinds of weather. I’ll write about some of the highlights in future blog posts.

Please note I am not providing detailed maps or instructions of the route. You will find all that in Daft As A Brush’s book. You can buy a copy here with proceeds going to support the charity’s good works.

Stages of the Trail completed so far:

River South Tyne

Source of South Tyne to Hole House
Garigill to Alston
Lambley Viaduct to Featherstone
Bardon Mill to Haydon Bridge
Haydon Bridge to Allerwash Mill
Allerwash Mill to Warden

River North Tyne

Chesters to Warden
Chollerton to Chollerford

River Tyne

Warden to Hexham
Hexham to Dilston
Dilston to Corbridge
Corbridge to Riding Mill
Broomley to Stocksfield
Stocksfield to Cherryburn
Cherryburn to Ovingham
Ovingham to Wylam
Wylam to Newburn
Newburn to Scotswood

I’ll add new sections as I complete the remaining stages. I can’t promise I’ll cover every single inch of the trail but I’ll try to include the most scenic parts.

Hope this inspires you to do the walk and maybe raise funds for Daft As A Brush at the same time.

What’s Eating The Toads?

Spring is in the air here in Northumberland.

In my garden it seems to be mating season for toads.

They could be frogs – I’m not an expert in telling the difference – but they seem to have warty skin and they crawl rather than hop so they’re probably toads.

This amorous couple is locked in a tender embrace.

Another pair doing their thing.

There seems to some kind of toad orgy happening here.

Not all the toads have been so lucky. In our pond I saw a number of mangled toad remains.

It appears that some predator has skilfully eaten the choice morsels and left behind the skin, attached to the head, turned inside out, perhaps to avoid the poisonous or distasteful glands found around a toad’s neck and skin.

Which creature could have carried out this clever butchery? The chief suspects are cormorants or herons, or an owl or even an otter, all of which are known to frequent our pond.

Nature can be harsh but there should be plenty of toads to go round. As common toads can lay up to 6,000 eggs in one go we should be overrun with toadlets in a couple of weeks time.

Aydon Castle

Aydon Castle is a well preserved 13th century manor house which was lived in and used as a farmhouse right up until 1966. It is now owned and managed by English Heritage.

Sometimes called Aydon Hall, it is a fortified manor house at Aydon near to the town of Corbridge, Northumberland.

History of Aydon Castle

Entrance Gates

Construction of the original timber hall is believed to have begun in 1296 by Robert de Reymes.

Outer Wall

The house was later fortified and surrounded by a curtain wall around 1305 to protect it from Scottish raiders but could still not avoid capture by the Scots in 1315 and again in 1346.

In the more peaceful 17th century it was converted into a farm with an orchard within the castle walls and additional farm buildings added later.

Carnaby Coat of Arms
Collinson family marks

The Reymes family owned Aydon for several centuries. Later owners and occupants included the Carnaby family whose coat of arms can be seen carved above a fireplace and the Collinson family who left initials in stone on a door lintel.

This carving at Aydon Castle reminds me of the Davy Jones character in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Location of Aydon Castle

Opening Hours & Ticket Prices

Nice spot for a picnic.

If you want to visit (closed currently due to Coronavirus) you can find all the details you need on English Heritage’s website. Like many attractions in Northumberland it is closed during the winter months.

As with all English Heritage places, it is best to become a member for free unlimited visits. No only is it good value for money but it is a charity and you are helping to preserve the nation’s history and heritage.

Northumberland Traveller

Since leaving Malaysia in April 2019 I have been living in Northumberland, a scenic and historic county in the far northeast of England. During this time I have been doing lots of walks and exploring the county’s many attractions, some of which I have written about here.

You can take a look and get some ideas for places to visit .

What’s So Great About Northumberland?

It’s Spacious. It’s the least crowded county in England. Northumberland is big with an area around 5,014 sq. km (the 6th biggest) while its population is low, only 319,000 in 2018, meaning a population density of just 63 people per sq. km. Less people means less traffic on the roads, less stress, less pollution, etc.

It’s Scenic. Northumberland is geographically diverse with the Northumberland National Park taking up over a fifth of the county, a long and spectacular coastline, large forests, lakes, rolling farmland, majestic rivers and the windswept Cheviot Hills. And Northumberland has a great location surrounded by scenic places such as the Lake District in Cumbria, the North York Moors, County Durham, and the Borders of Scotland.

It’s Historic. There are a lot of historical remains here ranging from Hadrian’s Wall, castles and peles to mining and industrial sites. The City of Newcastle upon Tyne (once part of Northumberland but now administered as part of Tyne and Wear) is a wonderful city, packed full of historical places of interest and heritage sites.

It’s Friendly. The people of Northumberland are welcoming, hardy, salt-of-the-earth types, with the most attractive of all the northern English accents.

What Will I Be Blogging About?

Here are some of the walks and sights I have written about so far.

Long Distance Walks such as:

City Trails & Art Trails:

  • Lowry Trail
  • Bewick Trail
  • John Martin Trail
  • Norman Cornish Trail
  • Newcastle City Trail

Other Walks:


Roman Sites

  • Corbridge Roman Town
  • Chesters Roman Fort
  • Housesteads Roman Fort


  • Laing Art Gallery
  • The Clayton Museum
  • Wylam Railway Museum
  • Stephenson Railway Museum
  • North East Land Sea & Air Museum
  • Bowes Railway Museum
  • Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House and Museum
  • Woodhorn Museum

Historical Homes and Gardens

Churches and Abbeys


  • Souter Lighthouse
  • St Mary’s Lighthouse
  • Tynemouth Pier Lighthouse

Monuments & Statues

Railway Related Sites

Towns & Villages

Other Attractions

Attractions in Neighbouring Counties

I will add to this list over the coming months.