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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Looking for Nellie Heron.......October 8th.(Northumberland)
In December 1863 Nellie Heron, aged fifty, had been treating a poorly shepherd in Alnham. Against advice she set out to walk home across the moors to her home at Hartside about five miles away. It was a cold day, snowing and drifting and sadly Nellie didn't make it home. Stopping to rest, presumably, about halfway into her journey she was overcome by the conditions. Her body was found next day, still in a sitting position and still with her basket. She is buried in Whittingham Churchyard.
In 1962 two shepherds returning from Rothbury were also caught out by the weather, they abandoned their tractor but perished near Ewarty Shank.
Today Dave and I are out to find the memorial stone to Nellie. We are walking from Alnham, a tiny Northumbrian Village tucked away near Whittingham. To get there, A1 north, A697 north of Morpeth and watch out for signs on the left for Whittingham. After that go through Whittingam village and follow the road signs for Alnham. Park off the road by St. Michael's Church. (NT991109) This church has origins dating back to about 1200 although it was ruined for a long time, being restored in 1870. Next door is the Tower House or vicar's pele, built originally in 1541 and redecorated on several occasions since. The whole of the walk is covered b y OS OL 16 The Cheviot Hills.
The weather forecast, for October in the north of England, was promising; no snow.
On the way we stopped in Whittingham to look at Nellie's gravestone in St Bartholomew's Church:
                                                 Heron family grave, Whittingham.
                                               The tower on St. Bartholomew's.  The church has Saxon origins
like many in Northumberland. Some of the stonework on the tower is Saxon. Another interesting fact is that the vicar was ejected at the time of the Civil War and replaced by Abraham Hume, a Presbyterian minister. The Vicar was reinstated in 1662 after the restoration. He was reinstated on St. Bartholomew's Day.
Onward to Alnham.  We parked on the grass outside the church, St. Michael and all Angels, also with Saxon origins but largely restored in the 19th century. In the churchyard are three Saxon Cross Stumps which were brought here at some time.
                                                  Car park outside the church.


                                                       St Michael's Alnham
                                                Saxon Cross Stump and a tree 
Leaving the church we walked along the road past the Tower House which started life as a vicar's pele tower about 1542 but now is privately owned and greatly extended.
Just beyond the tower house a hard to see sign points the way across a shallow stream and uphill by way of several fields until we reached the open moorland, pausing to look at the earth mounds that are all that is left of an ancient settlement. We continued following the fence line rather than the Salters' Road Track until we came to the White Gate. From here we headed north, carefully watching the Grid Reference on my mobile phone until we had reached NT978134, the point given for the memorial stone for Nellie. After a while we found it, low and surrounded by stones for protection.
                                       Memorial to Eleanor "Nellie" Heron. Simple but effective.
                                                     The memorial stone
Having found the stone, objective number one, we started a wander, as you can see from the map. Initially we walked  south east to Hart Law, a mistake, we thought we were heading for Leafield Edge. Hart Law has little to recommend it except the views.


                                                 Hart Law has  a trig point, and views!
Having realised our mistake we returned almost to Nellie's stone and found shelter from the breeze behind a sheep stell on Leafield Edge. Leafield is an abandoned village, the last inhabitants left in the 17th century. All that remains are the outlines of houses and gardens. As we ate we watched a Hen Harrier fly across the moors, hunting for lunch probably.
Lunch over we headed back to the White Gate, crossed the stile and looked for another settlement, it was not too clear exactly where but we headed uphill to look at the one High Knowes. We also visited the memorial to the two shepherds who died trying to get home in the snow in November 1962. Sadly they perished not too far from safety. The winter of 1962/63 was a cold one, I remember it well, the snow lasted until Easter in much of the country.
                                          Memorial to two shepherds lost in a storm
From the cairn we headed to the road below and headed back to the car, pausing for a good look at the fort and settlement on Castle Hill. This one is an excellent example of a bronze age fortification and settlement. The surrounding banks are well preserved and the outlines of several dwelling houses are clearly visible.


                       Views of the fort and settlement at Castle Hill above Alnham.
Back at the car we changed and headed home, calling at the Anglers Arms for beer or tea. Old Speckled Hen or English tea, can't go wrong there.

The Matrix MMXV TT
                                                               steps                           miles
LIDL 3D                                               26077                          7.86
Dave's LIDL3D                                    21884                          9.41
Dave's USB                                           20557                         8.76
etrex                                                                                            8.95
OUTDOOR GPS (edited)                                                       8.3