Whisky Stills of Coquetdale - Rothbury Walking Festival
On the drive up to the start of the walk Sundance’s spirits were at a low ebb. Coming over Garleigh Moor down into Rothbury a rain shower was going over Cragside, another shower was running down the coast, the Cheviot was totally lost in cloud and the view up the valley was no better, although a spectacular horizontal sheet-like low level rainbow could be seen.
All the group had arrived at Shilmoor before Mike, his excuse being was that he was waiting till the last minute at Barrow Scar as that is the last place he can receive a mobile signal!! The wittering started before we had even started walking as Mike gave a potted history of the how and why whisky was produced in Coquetdale.
Eventually we started to walk past Shilmoor and on to the track up Copper Snout (copper has this some thing to do with Whisky stills?) Just after passing through a gate we came to a metal star on a post Mike said this was the MOD way to indicate that this was a site of ancient remains. A little further on we again stopped at a metal star and Mike looked at us (most off putting) and asked what could we see? Grass? Sheep? Yellow flowers? No we gave in, Mike then pointed out nettles usually a sign of human influence Apparently they like soil with high nitrogen levels usually found from human and animal waste! But he then pointed to a couple of humps, OK what about them, they were straight and we had a ninety degree corner therefore man made. With this information our task was to see if we could identify the site of the stills.
From here we left the track and contoured round so that we would reach the valley floor about a kilometre along all the time keeping an eye out for any indications of a still.
As we contoured round the hill Mike pointed out the tail end of a mortar shell which we carefully walked around. Eventually we arrived in the valley bottom and walking along the heugh just above the stream we all saw instantly some nettles straight lines and as we looked the outline of several buildings could be seen, we had found Wholehope still. This was celebrated by having a late-ish lunch.
After lunch a short climb brought us once more on to the Copper Snout track which we now followed on to Clennell St. On the way Mike picked up a couple of walkers new to the area and gave them a quick whiter on all that could be seen as we walked to Clennell St. Here we turned north while Mike’s new found ears turned south back to Alwinton.
After only a couple of hundred metres we left Clennel St. and Mike took us off roading again through bogs and over Bulls snouts! On the way pointing out possible old peat workings, a lot of straight lines and right angles and the surface being lower than the surrounding area. As we progressed down Mid Hope burn Mike lagged behind using the excuse that he was allowing us to find the next still. Which we did first hint was nettles and mound of stones and tucked away in the side of the hill a section of wall forming a corner of a building. This site was less impressive than the previous one but a couple of building outlines could be seen. Another lunch break and then it was back to contouring round the hill so that we could pick up the path to Batailshiel Haugh and then down on to the farm track which followed the Usway Burn back to Shillmoor.
We arrived back at the cars DRY, rather than the efforts of the Sundance Kid we put this down to one of the group wearing shorts all day.
History Walk - Rothbury Walking Festival
History was never my forte at school, but a history walk around Rothbury was an opportunity I was keen to stand up to the mark for.
We all met at the Tourist Information Centre and our first stop was the original door of the famous ‘Three Half Moons’ public house which had been a focal point of the village for many years used for meetings, courts, excise sittings and parish business. The mail coach also started here for its daily run to Morpeth.
Further down the street we visited William Armstrongs grave before crossing the footbridge to the Haugh and the site of the old racecourse. The first official meeting was held on April 28th, 1762 and the final one was on April 10th, 1965.
We then passed Donkin’s Well, the first source of fresh water in the area before continuing up the 15th century road bridge, which originally had 3 arches. The 4th arch was added in 1759.
The old railway station was our next stop. The railway opened in October 1870 and the service closed to passengers in Sept 1952.
After descending steeply we stopped at the mart, next to the river. The mart started in 1871 and was located right next to the station so livestock could be transported away quickly.
The twenty stepping stones where crossed next and we made ourselves past Armstrong Cottages to the old Rothbury Garage. This was built by John Lee in 1904, who eventually became a motor bus operator. The interior was so authentic it was used to model the inside of the garage at Beamish open air museum. L C Wright bought John Lee out and set up Rothbury Motors (coach company), which eventually left Rothbury in 2001.
We continued up the main street looking at varies buildings including the old cottage hospital. The building was a gift to the village from the Dawson family to Doctor Fredrick Barrow. He made the former border house into a hospital.
The County Hotel was next on our journey before we passed down to the river, so we could see the gardens of this fine building.
A lovely walk back along the river was a great way to end this short walk looking at the history of Rothbury.