Berwick Artists

A while ago I wrote a post about artist L S Lowry‘s association with Berwick-upon-Tweed. He was not the only artist to have connections with Berwick, a picturesque town which has inspired more than its share of painters over the centuries.

I have researched a few of them and here is a small sample.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851)

Turner visited Berwick at least twice and created some of his famous landscapes in the area including Norham Castle, Dunstanburgh Castle, Berwick Harbour and this one, Berwick Castle, painted in 1831.

It is thought that Turner sketched this scene from a vacant lot at what is now 21 Castle Terrace. Turner did not know it, but he was sitting on the site of a missing medieval church and graveyard which was only rediscovered in 1988 when building work on the plot exposed human remains and stones. The site is now fenced off but I took this photo at the foot of the hill below Turner’s vantage point in order to get a similar perspective.

The old bridge in Turner’s painting is now hard to see from this point, partially obscured behind two more bridges constructed since Turner’s time – the Royal Border Bridge (in the foreground), finished in 1850 and the Royal Tweed Bridge, opened in 1928.

Berwick Castle is much diminished since Turner’s painting. The route of the railway line and the siting of the Royal Border Bridge necessitated the demolition of much of what remained of Berwick Castle to make way for Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station. The Victorians were so confident that their progress was superior to whatever came before, it seems they had no qualms about flattening a historic castle to accommodate a railway station.

Sir Frank Brangwyn (1867 – 1956)

The Royal Border Bridge is a Grade 1 listed railway viaduct with 28 arches and has become a tourist attraction in its own right. It too has been featured in many artworks such as this 1924 London & North Eastern Railway poster by Sir Frank Brangwyn. He was born in Bruges and lived in England from the age of seven. He was a prolific artist producing as many as 12,000 artworks during his career.

Seen up close you cannot fail to be impressed by the skill and ambition of the Victorian engineers. When work started on the bridge it was longer and higher than any bridge built before.

John Blair (1870 – 1920)

I am not familiar with this artist but he painted a series of Scottish and Northumberland scenes which were turned into ‘oilette’ postcards by Raphael Tuck and Sons. (I have written about oilette postcards before – see here). Blair was born in Paxton, just over the border from Berwick. The scene on this 1923 postcard features an octagonal Bell Tower, built in 1577, replacing one of 19 towers which acted as look out points on the medieval town walls of Berwick. The earthen mound to the left of the tower was excavated in the 1970’s to reveal Lord’s Mount, a powerful gun tower built by King Henry VIII to strengthen Berwick’s defences.

As you can see, little has changed since Blair’s painting.

Thomas Sword Good (1789 – 1872)

This artist was born in Berwick and he lived in this house at 21 Quay Walls from 1846 – 1872. He was skilled at portraits of ordinary people going about their daily tasks.

Good, Thomas Sword; Coastal Scene with Figures Mending Nets; The Fleming Collection;

He often painted the cliffs around Berwick as backgrounds to his genre paintings.

There are many more artists with links to Berwick and, if you are interested, you can find out more in this book: Artists in Berwick: Inspiration and Celebration by Edwin Bowes.

Alnwick Garden

I took the family to Alnwick Garden earlier this week, hoping to see their magnificent Taihaku Cherry Orchard in full blossom. Unfortunately the sakura were slightly past their best (a week earlier would have been perfect) but that is the problem with having to book tickets well in advance.

Even so, there was still plenty of pretty blossom left and the cold wind was blowing petals in the wind. This place would be packed if it was in Japan. There are dozens of wooden two-seater swings where couples can relax and enjoy the fleeting spring blooms.

The 329 cherry trees at Alnwick are of the Taihaku variety with large white blossom petals. This is said to be the largest collection of this species in the world. This tree had been extinct in Japan until 1932 when a British ornithologist and plant collector called Collingwood “Cherry” Ingram took cuttings from a tree in Sussex (which had been earlier imported from Japan) and reintroduced the Lost Taihaku to Japan. All Alnwick Garden’s Taihaku trees are descended from the same Sussex tree.

Alnwick Garden was the inspiration of the Duchess of Northumberland. It opened in 2001 utilising a 12 acre site in the grounds of Alnwick Castle and it has been enhanced and expanded in the years since.

The centrepiece is the Grand Cascade featuring 120 water jets and fountains. The Pavilion and Visitor Centre seen behind contains a gift shop and food outlets.

The walled Ornamental Garden contains beautifully arranged flower beds and borders. The way their gardeners have trained the apple and other trees into neat horizontal branches is very impressive.

The Poison Garden is a popular feature. It contains around 100 seemingly innocuous and ordinary looking plants but it turns out they are toxic or narcotic and potentially deadly. Useful if you are planning to bump off your husband but I preferred the Ornamental Garden.

Other attractions include a Rose Garden, a Bamboo Labyrinth and Serpent Garden.

Closed at the moment due to Covid-19 restrictions is this fantastic treehouse, the largest wooden treehouse in the world, built around 16 mature lime trees.It serves as a restaurant and wedding venue.

Overall I would say that Alnwick Garden is an excellent attraction and hopefully it will continue to improve. You can find details of opening hours and ticket prices on their official website.

How to Get to Alnwick Garden

You can find the location on this map:


Alnwick Castle
Barter Books
Edlingham Castle

See other Northeast Places of Interest here.

Maelmin Henge

Maelmin Henge and Heritage Trail is an outdoor attraction near the Northumberland village of Milfield. There is not a huge amount to see but it is worth a visit if you are in the area. It would also be a good place for a school trip. It comprises a wooden henge and a Dark Age house (both modern reconstructions) and a short trail through a copse and field with a couple of dozen interpretation boards detailing 10,000 years of history from the Palaeolithic era onwards.

This wooden henge is a recreation of the Milfield North Henge which was excavated nearby in the 1970s and carbon-dated to around 2300BC. The original henge would have been used for burials.

An information sign tells us that the Milfield Plain is drier, cooler and sunnier than the rest of UK because it is sheltered somewhat from rain-bearing westerly winds by the Cheviot Hills. They are right about it being cooler, with July mean temperatures of just 14°C. Apparently our Mesolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors used to enjoy temperatures around 2°C higher than today. It seems the current climate change crisis is just taking temperatures back to how they used to be!

This wooden structure is a full-scale reconstruction of a Dark Age (AD 410-550) house excavated at a nearby quarry. The walls would have been coated in mud and straw to protect against the elements.

You can read more about this place on the official Maelmin Heritage Trail website.

RAF Milfield

There is a memorial and information relating to RAF Milfield in the Maelmin Henge car park.

Maelmin occupies the corner of a former Royal Air Force airfield used by Fighter Command during WWII.

After the war, the hangars were dismantled and the landing strips were removed during subsequent quarrying activity. Taking advantage of the flat terrain, the Borders Gliding Club operates from here.

How to Get to Maelmin Henge

Entrance and parking is free.

You can find the location on this map:

If you zoom out slightly you will be able to make out the remnants of a runway belonging to RAF Milfield.


Borders Gliding Club
Ford & Etal

See other Northeast Places of Interest here.

Routin Lynn Waterfall and Rock Carvings

Not far from the village of Ford in Northumberland is a pretty waterfall located in a tucked-away ravine called Routin Lynn.

Actually there is some confusion about the name with various permutations of spelling including Roughting, Roughtin, Lynn and Linn. Google Maps spells it Roughtin Linn but Ordnance Survey (probably the most authoritative source) calls it Routin Lynn. The confusion is not helped by a second waterfall with an almost identical name (Roughting Linn) located 13 miles away near Chatton.

The fall drops about 20 feet into a clear brown pool. I suppose some might be brave enough to take a dip and experience a power shower but seeing as it was mid-winter when I visited I wasn’t tempted.

A small cave might have been used by stone age visitors to the waterfall.

Routin Lynn Rock Art

A short walk away is an outcrop of grey sandstone bearing dozens of cup and ring markings.

Examples of these ancient rock carvings, some thought to date back 4,000 years to the Neolithic period, can be found scattered all over the British Isles and in Europe but their purpose or meaning remains shrouded in mystery. Petroglyph experts have theorised some kind of mystic, ritual or spiritual significance while others suggest they could have served as maps or been connected with astronomy.

I have an alternative theory. Perhaps they were for entertainment to help pass away those long evenings in the days before television. We Britons have always been fond of games. Could these grooves and circles have been used to play an early form of marbles or tiddlywinks?

A thin dusting of snow helps to highlight the patterns and they remind me of targets, perfect for rolling marbles or flicking pellets of sheep dung. Just an idea!

How to Get to Routin Lynn Waterfall and Rock Carvings

The locations marked on this Google map are accurate. The name of the river is Broomridgedean Burn. You can leave your car by the side of the no-through road opposite. For the waterfall, you will see this worn signpost for Routin Linn Farm (different spelling again!). Walk along this farm track for 100 metres until you hear the sound of gushing water off to the left, then follow the rough path through the woods.

Alternatively you could walk to the waterfall from the village of Ford. You can find the route here.

You can read about more Northumberland attractions here.

Hexham Abbey

Hexham Abbey, with its 1300 years of history, is an interesting place to visit. It stands in the heart of the Northumberland town of Hexham, voted in 2019 as the happiest place to live in Britain. It hasn’t always been so happy as the long chronology of the abbey shows.

The first church and monastery on this site was completed in 678 by Bishop (later Saint) Wilfrid who trained as a monk and missionary on the island of Lindisfarne to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons.

Viking raiders destroyed part of the church in 875 and it was rebuilt and expanded in the 1100s. Scottish raiders attacked, burnt and ransacked the church on four occasions during the 1200-1300s, including by William Wallace ‘Braveheart’. (Mel Gibson didn’t mention that dastardly deed in his film did he!)

Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries saw Hexham’s priory closed and assets seized in 1537. The King gave the priory’s land and monastic buildings to his agent Sir Reynold Carnaby. The church itself was allowed to continue as the Church of England parish church for Hexham.

In 1725 a builder working on the Abbey fell into a sinkhole and rediscovered the Saxon crypt which had been forgotten for hundreds of years.

The crypt, which is is now open to the public, has a Roman feel to it, having been influenced by the catacombs of Rome and being built entirely from recycled Roman stones.

This huge stone was hidden face down as part of the Abbey’s foundation for hundreds of years until it was unearthed in 1881. It was identified as a tombstone of a young Roman legionnaire called Flavinus and dates from the Roman conquest of Britain. It shows a Roman cavalryman trampling on a cowering Briton.

The abbey was restored in 1908 to how it looks today.

The streets around Hexham Abbey have an old world feel. This photo was taken before lockdown – hopefully they’ll still be in business when this thing is over!

This short film tells more about Hexham Abbey’s history and the top things to see.

Alnmouth – Wicked & Haunted?

Alnmouth is one of the most attractive villages on the Northumberland coast.

View of Northumberland Street, the main drag in Alnmouth.

As the name suggests, it is situated at the mouth of the River Aln. The bigger town of Alnwick, famous for its castle and gardens, is situated about four miles inland.

The village was founded in 1150 and for centuries it was an active port for fishing and the shipment of grain to London and elsewhere. It may have also harboured smugglers and, with ten pubs in the village in the 18th century, visiting preacher John Wesley described it as ‘a small seaport town famous for all kinds of wickedness’.

The Serviceman, an ex-servicemens club with ‘a great atmosphere, cheap drink and friendly faces’.

Alnmouth does not appear to be a den of vice anymore but it is still well served by pubs. I counted at least five which is not bad for a village with only 500 or so permanent residents.

Wesley may have gained his poor impression of Alnmouth from the 17th century Schooner Hotel which has an interesting past and a spooky reputation.. Notable guests, apart from John Wesley, have included King George III, Charles Dickens and actor Basil Rathbone, most famed for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. In the 1600s some of the aforementioned smugglers and other dodgy characters found shelter at the inn and murders, suicides and family massacres took place within its walls. The hotel’s website explains ‘ Spirits of withered and demented souls haunt the whole hotel frequently. Apparently, the spirits don’t care about being seen.’ With over 3000 sightings of 60 individual ghosts, the Paranormal Society has named the Schooner the Most Haunted Hotel in Britain.

The Schooner displays a ‘Haunted Hotel’ sign outside. Clearly they consider that its creepy reputation attracts more people than it puts off.

There are plenty of tea rooms and gift shop in Alnmouth.

By the end of the 19th century shifting sands had caused the estuary to silt up. The opening of the railway in the 1840s brought tourism and today Alnmouth continues to be a pleasant and picturesque tourist and holiday home resort.

The taller building here is Hindmarsh Hall, a community run village hall, original built as a granary about 250 years ago.
St John the Baptist Parish Church, opened in 1876. It replaced an earlier Anglican Church on Church Hill on the other side of the estuary which was washed away by a great storm in 1806.

Until the 1960s a ferryman used to row people across the mouth of the River Aln. The ferryman’s old hut has been refurbished and now contains a heritage centre with memorabilia related to the ferryman. It is thought to be the smallest museum in England.

The beautiful golden sand beach at Alnmouth is very popular. These photos were taken in September 2020 (between lockdowns) and it was quite busy by Northumberland standards. Like many of the beaches on this coastline, it is lined with concrete anti-tank blocks, left over from the Second World War where they were intended to slow down any possible German invasion.

A nine-hole links golf course occupies a prime beach front position. Founded in 1869 it is said to be one of the oldest courses of its kind in England.

On the slopes of Bracken Hill, formerly known as Battery Hill, stands a coastal battery built in 1861 to house the Percy Artillery Volunteers. It was modernised during WWII as an anti-invasion measure. The hill is now a mini nature reserve and provides great views of the beach and golf course.

How to Get to Alnmouth

The location is marked on this map.

Nearby Attractions

Warkworth Castle
Alnwick Castle & Gardens
Edlingham Castle

Find more Northumberland attractions here.


Seahouses is a small holiday town (or large village) on the scenic Northumberland coast about half way between Bamburgh and Beadnell. A former fishing village, it is now best known as the embarkation point for tourist boat trips to the Farne Islands, famous for puffins and other seabirds.

Boat trips to Farne Islands are available all year round if you don’t mind the cold and choppy seas. I’m waiting for a Covid-free summer for my trip.

Seahouses’ fishermen used to join the Scottish fishing fleet to hunt enormous shoals of herring during their annual migration down the North Sea coastline. By the time the fishing fleet reached Seahouses it could number 300 boats and in the 1890s the harbour was constructed to provide shelter for the visiting boats. Cargo vessels used to pick up barrels of salted herrings packed by the village’s ‘herring lassies’ for sale in places like Russia and Germany. The industry declined from the 1930s onwards.

Seahouses has long lured wealthy naturalist, birdwatcher and artistic types but it was not until the 1920s that the village started to attract the bucket-and-spade brigade, thanks to a branch railway line which was in existence until 1951. Although the permanent population is around 1,800 it swells to around three times that number during the summer high season. They are accommodated in numerous B&Bs, self catering apartments, guest-houses, Airbnbs, hotels and a couple of sprawling caravan parks. Thankfully the pristine beaches which stretch for miles either side of Seahouses are vast enough to make the area seem uncrowded.

To be honest Seahouses is not the quaintest fishing village in the country and it has a somewhat workaday look to it but there are a few highlights:

The Swallow Fish Traditional Smokehouse. Like nearby Craster, Seahouses is famed for its smoked fish and this business, established in 1843, is possibly where the modern kipper was invented. Homemade kipper pate is one of their specialties.

The Olde Ship is one of several pubs in the village. There are also three fish and chip shops and a number of other restaurants and cafes.

A couple of tourist boats with late 18th century lime kilns standing on the left.

You can even learn to scuba dive here. Apparently Farne Islands are one of the best places to dive in the UK but personally I’d prefer somewhere a little warmer – Lombok perhaps.

RNLI lifeboat named Grace Darling.

A safe distance away is the Powder House built in 1886 for storing gunpowder used in blasting for the construction of the harbour walls.

The small light house on the jetty flies the Northumberland flag. It started to rain heavily soon after this photo was taken.

How to Get to Seahouses

The location is marked on this map:

Nearby Attractions

Find more Northumberland attractions here.

Flodden Field

The Battle of Flodden Field took place near the village of Branxton in Northumberland on 9th September 1513. It was the largest battle ever waged between armies from England and Scotland and, after a day of mass slaughter, ended in a decisive victory for England and the death of Scottish King James IV, the last reigning monarch to die in battle.

The Flodden Monument sits on a ridge and marks the centre of English battle lines. The plaque reads To the Brave of Both Nations – Erected 1910.

A trail extends around the edge of the battlefield, from the Monument down to the mid ground which, in 1513, was an undrained boggy morass where most of the killing took place and then up to Branxton Hill where the Scottish forces were assembled at the start of the battle. All around the battlefield are information boards explaining the different stages of the battle, the tactics employed, the different weaponry and so on.

This was where the fighting took place. Branxton village is on the right and you may just be able to make out the monument cross on the left.

The course of the battle has been written about extensively and if you are interested you can read about it on the Remembering Flodden website. At the risk of over-simplification my understanding of the battle was that the Scots were brave and ardent as usual but their main weapon was an 18 foot pike which proved to be unwieldy in the boggy terrain compared to the English 8 foot billhook. Similarly the English artillery was lighter and more manoeuvrable than the Scottish heavy guns which were hard to reposition when unexpectedly outflanked by the Earl of Surrey’s army. English longbows also played a decisive role.

St. Paul’s Church in Branxton where the slain of both sides were received after the Battle of Flodden. The Flodden Monument can be seen on the hilltop behind the church. For three hundred years the engagement was known as the Battle of Branxton Moor and was only romanticised as the ‘Battle of Flodden Field’ by Victorian authors and historians during the 19th Century.

A public phone booth in Branxton village was purchased from British Telecom for £1 and repurposed into a Battle of Flodden tourist information kiosk complete with maps, brochures, a three minute recorded audio guide and a donation box. It is said to be the The World’s Smallest Visitor Centre. So while Scotland commemorates its famous victory over England at Bannockburn with a multi-million pound visitor centre, England’s equivalent fits in a phone booth.

The classic British design icon has been put to creative uses all over the world since they ceased to be used as call boxes, for example as a coffee shop, a salad bar, a micro library, an ATM booth, a colour therapy retreat, a cake shop, an art gallery, a bar, a defibrillator booth and even a beach shower. I passed one in Edinburgh recently which was being used by a street-sleeper for keeping his cardboard boxes dry during the day. And they have always been used as urinals by drunks, even when they still had phones in them!

How to Get to Flodden Field

The location is marked on this map.

Nearby Attractions

Ford & Etal
Heatherslaw Light Railway
Heatherslaw Cornmill
Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre
Cheviot Brewery

Find more Northumberland attractions here.

Ford and Etal

Ford and Etal are a pair of picturesque villages a couple of miles apart in the valley of the River Till in north Northumberland.

Each village has its own castle and they were once bitter rivals but since 1908 they have been united as part of the same estate under the ownership of the Joicey family.

Thought to be the among the prettiest villages in the county Ford & Etal is marketed as a popular tourist destination. Here are some of the attractions.

Ford Village

Ford Castle dates from around 1340. It was frequently attacked by Scottish invaders and was seized by King James IV of Scotland in 1513 in the build-up to the Battle of Flodden which took place a few miles from here. It now serves as an adventure activity centre for school and youth groups and is not open to the general public.

The medieval St. Michael & All Angels church is even older than the castle, though it was partially rebuilt in the 19th century.

The ruin in the field next to the church was once the vicar’s fortified pele tower.

This building, the Lady Waterford Gallery, used to be the village school and now contains a number of murals by Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford who came to live at Ford Castle in 1859. I have not been able to view inside yet due to lockdown restrictions and now it is closed for the winter. Next year perhaps.

Although the history of Ford goes back a thousand years or more, most of the village that we see today was built during Lady Waterford’s time. She was a philanthropist and keen to improve the living conditions of the estate’s workers. Also perhaps, a model village where all the buildings were neat and tidy with no sign of squalor or poverty was the ultimate accessory for the aristocratic estate owner who had everything.

Horseshoe Forge Antiques is housed in the former blacksmith’s forge with its wonderful Hobbit-like horseshoe door.

Ford Village Shop & Tea Room & Post Office.

Etal Village

Etal is even smaller than Ford, comprising one handsome street of whitewashed cottages, a ruined castle, a manor house, a chapel and a few other buildings.

Etal Castle is a similar age to Ford Castle and it too fell to King James IV prior to the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and lapsed into ruin thereafter. It is now managed by English Heritage.

A road fords the River Till at the edge of Etal. The current looked too strong for a safe crossing when I visited.

The Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Etal Manor in the background.

The Black Bull at Etal is the only thatched pub in Northumberland. It is managed by the Cheviot Brewery, a real ale microbrewery also located on the Ford & Etal Estate.

The quaint Lavender Tearooms, Village Shop & Post Office at Etal.

How to Get to Ford and Etal

You can find details on the Ford & Etal Estate’s official website.

Nearby Attractions

Flodden Battlefield
Heatherslaw Light Railway
Heatherslaw Cornmill
Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre
Cheviot Brewery

Find more Northumberland attractions here.

Craster – Kippers, Captains and Castles

Craster is a tiny village (population 305 in 2011 census) and popular tourist destination within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Craster, Northumberland by Susan Homer

It started life as a fishing village, taking advantage of a natural harbour sheltered by two offshore rock outcrops called Little Carr and Muckle Carr.

JR Bagshawe – Cobles at Staithes

Local fisherman would launch their traditional boats called cobles and brave the dangerous seas in pursuit of herring shoals which were abundant in these waters.

The Jolly Fisherman at Craster

By the 1880s most people in the village were engaged in fishing and the fish curing trade.

Plaque on the harbour wall at Craster

Concrete piers were constructed around 1906 to facilitate the export of whinstone chippings which were quarried from where the village’s car park now stands. The new harbour was funded from the estate of Captain John Charles Pulleine Craster who was killed in Tibet during the 1904 Younghusband Expedition. You can read an interesting account of Captain Craster’s background on this blog.

The unusual concrete bunker structure on the end of the pier was the base for three tall bins which were used for storing crushed stone transported from the quarry by means of an aerial ropeway.

Craster Kippers

Returning to herrings, there used to be four smokehouses in Craster but only one remains, L Robson & Sons, who describe themselves as world famous traditional fish smokers and producers of the legendary Craster Kippers. The smokehouse dates from 1856. It used to be owned by the Craster family but they sold it to the Robsons in 1906 who are now in their fourth generation of ownership.

A smokey fish aroma fills the air

The procedure for making Craster Kippers is to select plump oily herrings and split them lengthways down the middle. This was previously the job of the village’s womenfolk but nowadays is done by machine. The fish are then soaked in brine before hanging on tenter hooks and placing them in the smokehouse where they absorb the fumes of smouldering whitewood shavings and oak sawdust for 14 -16 hours. The result is a succulent, smoky flavoured delicacy with a golden colour.

I am now on tenterhooks to try this Craster Kipper for my tea.

The herrings used to be landed in the village by local fishermen but are now mostly sourced from Norway, a reflection on the diminished state of Britain’s fishing industry.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Craster’s other main attraction, apart from its kippers, is Dunstanburgh Castle, which is a pleasant three mile walk (round trip) from Craster Quarry Car Park. It is one of Northumberland’s most popular walks.

This dramatic ruined castle stands on a rocky outcrop called the Great Whinn and is operated by English Heritage. Construction was begun in 1313 by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. It was strengthened in the 1380s by John of Gaunt and later played a strategic part in the War of the Roses. It fell into disrepair at the end of the Middle Ages.

We were lucky with the weather considering it was November.
Lilburn Tower at Dunstanburgh Castle.

Artist J.M.W Turner made a painting of this tower.

Craster’s War Memorial all decked out for Remembrance Day 2020.

Find more Northumberland attractions here.