Where

While not remote in an absolute way, north Northumberland is a sparsely-populated rural area with few towns. Farmland mostly, between the coast to the east and the moors on the rising ground to the west, with a few relict heathy ridges between. The main routes run with the coast, though a little way inland, north to Edinburgh and Scotland, south to Newcastle and the rest of England. It runs with the Border to the west to meet the coast at Berwick-upon-Tweed at its northern tip. The disputed town. Borderlands. As far as you can get from the seat of power in England, and government.

Cheviots

There are some large, hereditary estates in the area as well as independent farms. A scattering of small towns from Rothbury and Alnwick up to Wooler, Belford and Seahouses. And some imposing castles that sharpen the landscape and supply ambience for the film industry, those along the coast especially iconic. Borderlands again.

Dunstanburgh

Farm work, estate work, some forestry, the various service trades and latterly tourism enterprises provide for most of the economic activity. There are people here who have lived in the area for the whole of their lives. More or less. But there are many people who have moved into here as adults, some to raise a family, but many in middle age or retirement, seeking a quieter context, a different quality to life.

Across this patchwork of habitats, landscapes and small settlements are scattered, eroded signs of over 5,000 years of human history. Rock art, hill-forts, Lindisfarne Priory, various castles and Peel towers, the battlefields of Flodden and Homildon Hill, rig and furrow, flood dykes along the rivers, pheasants and rhododendrons, structures from the two wars of the twentieth century. So many signs of struggle, shaping the land – much like many other places in Britain, but now with less people, and what is an ‘ageing population’. An aged landscape, well-worked but still alive and delivering the intimate wisdom of experience for those that might slow down and listen.

 WoodCuts09_thePromisedLand

 

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