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Out and about in Elsdon

Out and about in Elsdon

Mon 14th February 2011

Guided Walk date - 29th January 2011

Elsdon is regarded as the most complete example of a medieval settlement in Northumberland National Park. This long history was certainly evident during a recent walk on a frosty and sunny day.

The name Elsdon comes from the Old English for Elli’s Valley and the location of Elsdon in a valley or bowl was certainly apparent during the walk, which was initially along the southern ‘rim’ of the bowl, before returning along the northern ‘rim’. Elsdon3

After introductions we walked through the village, noting the 11th Century Motte and Bailey castle (considered to be the best preserved example in the county), the 12th Century parish church, the 15th Century pele tower (a fortified house reflecting that the medieval period was one of the Border Reivers and England/Scotland warfare) and of course the lovely village green.

The 18th Century was more peaceful – the Jedburgh to Newcastle turnpike opened in 1776 and a number of inns were built in Elsdon to serve the needs of travellers – although only one remains, the buildings in which others were situated can still be identified around the village green – while in the countryside farming developed and farmsteads were built.

After crossing Elsdon Bridge we followed the Elsdon Burn to one of these farmsteads – The Haining. This has recently been refurbished and is now a very attractive house. We then started to climb up through some recently planted trees to Castle Hill and Gallow Hill (further evidence of the Border Reivers!), where a coffee break was taken to enjoy the lovely views over Elsdon to the snow-covered Cheviot Hills in the distance. Elsdon19

Continuing along the southern rim of the bowl we passed by Hillhead Cottage, where we briefly stopped to admire the owner working hard to put in some fence posts. In the distance from this point could be seen Winter’s Gibbet at Steng Cross, which is where William Winter was suspended in chains in 1791 after being hung in Newcastle following the robbery and murder of a local resident.

We continued downhill and then past West and East Todholes, but did not see any foxes – tod is a local name for a fox. After this we entered Harwood Forest, which was planted during the 1950s with spruce and pine trees. The Forest is very dense and so the path was very muddy, but we reached an opening where the path crosses the Mill Burn. Here the sun was able to reach the ground – melting the frost on the grass and creating a cloud of steam – and we stopped here for lunch, enjoying the sun and the sound of the bubbling stream.

The Mill Burn is part of a small nature reserve - as the stream flows through limestone it is very clear, and there are a number of rare plants. Elsdon6

The name Mill Burn is further evidence of the more peaceful life during the 18th Century – the development of industries. In the case of Elsdon this was millstone quarrying, lime quarrying and burning and corn milling. The next farm that we passed, Whiskershiel Farm, was a centre for corn milling in the 18th Century, although it is now a sheep farm.

After passing Penman’s Leap, we walked uphill across sometimes boggy ground to the northern rim of the walk and started the journey back to Elsdon. This gave the group good views of the route taken earlier in the day.

Walking across the lower slopes of Landshot Hill, we had to cross a number of stiles, which gave the group the time to take a breather and enjoy the view. It also gave the two dogs on the walk, the opportunity to entertain the group with a game of ‘chase’ – as the larger dog was losing he decided to sit on the smaller dog, which was a very effective way of bringing the ‘hostilities’ to an end!

We then descended to Landshot and followed the road back to Elsdon. A number of the group took the opportunity to relax over a ‘cuppa’ and a piece of cake at one of the cafes in the village, before the journey home, which was a great way to end the day.

Overall, a lovely walk on a lovely day, with some superb views and a great group – a good time was had by all!

Martin Laidler - 6th February 2011

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