With only two Footloose members available, we decided to catch up on the remaining Church Walks series. This meant a long trip to the furthest most part of Northumberland, and it was almost 11 a.m. when we arrived outside the church of St. Cuthbert in Norham. We donned our boots using a handily placed bench against the churchyard wall, and went to explore.
The graveyard was huge and reasonably well tended – the church too was of considerable size, as befitting the northernmost outpost of the Prince Bishops of Durham in the 12th century. It had an engraving of St. Cuthbert’s Cross in the glass panel over the entrance door, and there were massive pillars down the long nave separating the north and south aisles from this central space. Two skylights in the shallow pitched roof allow additional light into the building, which houses some beautiful 12th century furniture acquired from Durham Cathedral in the mid-19th century. Altogether a very impressive church, in which we enjoyed an impromptu organ recital, before leaving via a footpath through the churchyard down towards the river.
We turned left at the bottom to follow the riverside path, up and over the road bridge, and then followed a good track which merged onto a minor road before opening out via a gate onto the grass pastures adjacent to the river. The path hugged the river as we entered the wooded banks, and we stopped for a chat with a couple of ladies who were having an early lunch. They hadn’t walked far during the morning, and wished us good speed for our next 7 miles or so.
A kindly fisherman advised us of an easier route towards Groat Haugh and Dreeper Island, and there was now a longish stretch through trees, up and down, over wooden bridges, with steps in some places, before we eventually emerged into the open again near Twizel Boathouse. It was past lunchtime by now, so we stopped for sustenance on a grassy bank before fighting our way through more Himalayan balsam strewn paths to the confluence of the Tweed and the Till. The path turned east as we followed this new river, and we spied St. Cuthbert’s chapel on the south bank before eventually passing under the very tall viaduct of the dismantled railway to emerge at Twizel Bridge. http://flodden1513.com/images/uploads/Twizel%20Bridge%20leaflet.pdf .
The path climbed slightly to a farm gate, at which we turned left to cross a very overgrown field to look at Twizell Castle, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twizell_Castle a poorly maintained ruin of what should have been a fine 18th century Gothic Revival mansion. A soaring buzzard gave us a wonderful moment, and was also saw a heron here.
Leaving the Castle grounds, we joined a minor road which merged onto the main A698 at Twizel Smithy. From here we walked for a few hundred yards before turning off down towards Tillmouth Farm, past some bungalows and through the farm steading to join a farm track which crossed the old railway line. The path was unclear through stubble fields from this point on, but we eventually came to open grass fields, only to find them occupied by cows with calves, and a bull ! We were not far from the outward path that we’d taken alongside the Tweed, so attempted to make for that. After a few wrong turnings, we managed to find the correct route and then it was easy navigation back past Boathouse Cottage!
We followed the footpath alongside the minor road before joining the B6470, and finally into Norham village, with St. Ceolwulf’s First School on the right and some new housing in Glebe Field on the left. Turning left towards Church Lane, we finished our walk in good spirits, and in the glorious sunshine that had been with us all day. A real sense of history pervaded this now peaceful area, though it had been an area which had seen a much more turbulent and bloody past. Once more we had experienced a superb day’s walking and good company.