Thursday, 2 February 2012

Ancient and Modern - Tuesday February 1st
An archaeological outing.

This walk is a repeat of Alnham- gateway to the north  January 13th so I will not repeat the directions. The purpose of the day's walk was to make a greater effort to find Nellie Heron's memorial stone and also to look at various archaeological sites on the way. There are just the two of us out, me and vogel/archaeologistmeister Dave.
  We parked at Alnham church and had a look round the churchyard. Close to the gate are three Cross-bases, removed from roads and tracks in the parish, their actual original sites unknown, but one is a Grade II listed building. There is also a medieval earthwork in the churchyard, possibly the remains of a greater one that surrounded the church and neighbouring peel tower.
  The next stop was at Northfield Hill Iron Age settlement, almost 60 metres in diameter, surrounded by a turf covered earth bank and containing at least fifteen round houses, each about 8 metres in diameter.
 By now we were high enough to be walking on snow covered ground, the pools on the track were frozen, fortunately there was no wind so we were not too cold.
 Dave had got some information from a friend about the exact whereabouts of Nellie Heron's memorial stone and using this and the remains of a fence line the site proved quite easy to find, some hundred metres from the plot we had searched on the previous walk.

Eleanor (Nellie) Heron's memorial stone.  She died from exposure on 3rd December 1863. Walking home between Rothbury and Hartside in the Breamish Valley she was caught out in wintry conditions. She was not too far from Cobden which presumably had been a farm then, although now it is a ruin in a plantation.

              Dave standing at Nellie's stone. A lonely place to end one's life. A tragedy for Nellie, and her family. She and her husband John are buried in Whittingham Churchyard.

  The wonderful "Outdoors" App (£4.99 from Apple, national park maps included) told us that the site is at GRNT9789113429 and the map is OS 16 The Cheviot Hills) The information board at Alnham gives GRNT979136, quite a way out.
  Walking in an easterly direction we found the next site, Leafield Edge Deserted Village. Dating
from the 12th century the site is roughly 400 by 150 metres. There are three main groups of buildings, mostly rectangular foundations and banks surrounding gardens or small fields.  The village is on the edge of roughly 5 hectares of fields, ridges and furrows plainly visible. This site was finally abandoned in the 17th century and is a Scheduled Monument protected by law. A point in the centre is at GRNT9870113498. The magic of GPS!
 I have a soft spot for "Cobden Corner" our next stop. It is a familiar point on walks in this area. But being a romantic at heart I like it for the silly reason that I spent the first three years of married life on Cobden Road with my hardy annual (see Holy Island Jan 29th) But today we are looking for Cobden Syke Cairn. Originally discovered from an aeriel photograph it is 35 metres in diameter but only 1 metre high. There is a small cairn within the larger and both are edged with kerb stones. They are burial cairns, the smaller being older and they probably date from the Iron Age or Bronze age.  Forgot to take a Grid Reference reading!
  The next stop was Alnhamoor Farm, a favourite Herbiespot.     Sitting behind the wall for some protection from the cold we could plainly see Alnhamoor ruined farmstead next to the stream, building foundations and stone walled enclosures.  However the wall became shelter from another danger. As the first gunshots rang out a few grouse flew low over the wall and dived for cover although I do not think they were the targets as it is not grouse season. And I am sure a pellet hit the strand of wire above the wall.  Had I brought a walking pole I would have tied my handkerchief to it and waved it above the wall as a sign of surrender. The shooting eventually subsided and we stopped a passing mole catcher to ask what was meant to be caught in the traps placed on logs that were laid across the stream.
 "Nothing to do wi' me," he told us in a beautiful Scottish accent, "I'm here to catch the moles. The traps are set by gamekeepers to catch vermin, mainly stoats and weasels which take eggs and young grouse."
 Off he went on his quadbike, molehunting. How do you tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel? Weasels are easily identified and stoats are totally different.
  Lunch and shooting over we walked on. The next site was the deserted Medieval Settlement on Rowhope Burn   (GRNT9655415373)  The earthworks are scattered on either side of the burn and the site is probably the medieval village of Alnhamsheles. There are rectangular houses and walled gardens. Excavations carried out in 1983 on one of the houses found stone and clay walls, the 20 by 5 metre building was divided into three rooms, one of them probably a byre or barn. Pottery and coins  found at the time of excavation suggest the stone house was 14th or 15th century. The excavation of banks on the nearby field system found they were paved with large stones. The name Alnhamsheles suggests the settlement could have originally been a seasonal upland settlement for shepherds, which became a more permanent settlement. Another Scheduled Monument it fell out of use in the 16th century probably.
  And finally, for today, a Romano-British settlement. A large circular enclosure containing a smaller, roughly rectangular enclosure. Both enclosures have earth banks and two entrances and nearby is a circular house, 5 metres in diameter. This small settlement could have been home to a large family, with shelter for animals in bad weather. No direct dating has been made but similar sites belong to the Roman period.

Hillside in evening sunlight on a cold day.

 After this we walked back to the car, past Ewartly Shank and the delightfully named  Grey Yade of Coppath, a more romantic name than the rather dull building deserves.. We passed the Shepherd's Cairn and Castle Hill, saving them for another day.

And another, worthy of sending to Hannah Beyman at the BBC!

Back at the car we checked pedometers. Outdoor App said 10.28 miles, which included some wanderings on sites, but on at least one occasion I switched it off. Higear gave a generous 11.2 miles and Twoped Daves ASDA peds said 9.35 and 9.30 miles. The walk was measured at 10.3 so well done Outdoors.                                                                                                                      
A different sort of walk  but very enjoyable. I learned a lot and would shyly admit to being pretty good at spotting things. And thanks to Dave for supplying the notes.