The winter had dragged on and the stormy Spring vanished in a blink. With hottest of summers upon us it was time to check that everything in our campervan (’The Blue Lady’) was in order. It was so we headed for the Cheviot Hills and a favourite spot in remote rough moorland. It was beside a ford over Kale Water near Pennymuir. If we been there a couple of thousand years ago we might have had company from the old Roman Camp.
Nowadays no soldiers march up Dere Street and with only a couple of crows watching we were able to picnic and immerse ourselves in the cooling water. It was a bit too shallow to swim in, but pleasant enough. When the time came to drive south we marvelled at the effort it must have taken for the Romans to march in such desolate and hilly countryside. Later we drove south and joining the busy traffic on A68 found the road to be really steep. Early motorists would have had a challenging climb. More than a few vehicles would have had their steaming radiators topped up with water when they reached the English Border at the top at Carter Bar. Even if you don’t have that trouble today it is worth stopping there to take in the view.
Northumberland is a big county and driving on down through Redesdale we found signs for small roads that lead west to the Keilder Water and Forest Park. The forest is massive and being far from any city it has truly dark nights. It is one of the best places in the country to view the night sky. If you want to capture the stars great things can be done with today’s digital cameras and some simple software.
We motored on and leaving the A68 and took the B6320 over the barren moorland towards Bellingham. Again we marvelled at the scale of the emptiness in this part of England. By contrast when we arrived at Bellingham it felt as though we were entering a frontier town. Agala was in progress and with its small shops and friendly pubs it seemed to be buzzing with activity.
Close to the centre of we found the entrance to Demesene Farm Campsite where we found a perfect pitch with views of sheep beyond a thistle covered fence.
We parked beside friendly neighbours who were busy bitching their tents, Ooops that should have been ‘pitching their tents.’ Although, come to think of it, the springing poles they had to do battle with made us appreciate the simplicity of a campervan. However having been through the experience, we pitched in and helped them pitch! Our reward came the next morning in the shape of a unexpected bacon butty. (They had a very large gas barbecue.)
The next day we were at Bellingham Station sitting in a train being served a large coffee by a young lady called Beth Nichol.
The train was not going any where. The carriage, hemmed in by plants and flowers was frozen in time and adjacent to the Bellingham Heritage Centre.
The place is well worth a visit and is the local museum of the North Tyne and Redesdale areas of Northumberland. There are exhibits on, mining and farming and the fascinating collection of photographs recording the history of the area between the two world wars. The whole thing was enlivened by 'Chatterboxes' with which you could dial-up 'Voices from the Past' I found the information about the Border Counties Railway intriguing and was rather surprised to find how much track the had been laid in such a mountainous area
You can travel from Bellingham station, but not by train. I decided to take a day off from driving and use the local bus (680) to go to the town of Hexham.
It turned out to be a state of the art vehicle with the stops indicated on a digital display board. This changed along the route and gave us the names of the villages we meandered through. Even the names for stops at farm road ends scrolled across the display. From my high seat I watched the rolling countryside and took inspiration for future explorations with the campervan.
There was even a Roman connection. We passed through the village of ‘Wall’ obviously named after Hadrian’s Wall. The wall has an 84 mile path along its length butwe were not feeling quite so energetic so we stayed on the bus to Hexham and added the walk to our 'To Do list".
Report by Allan Rogers
The Blue Lady
Lunch in the forest.