Welcome to the first section of my 2015/18 walk down the river River Coquet in Northumberland, from the source on a bleak Cheviot hillside down to Alwinton.  Section 2 will take us from Alwinton to Thropton and Section 3 will be right down to the icy North Sea at Amble.

Come with me in spirit as we pass through some fascinating history; from the brooding Roman and medieval remains at Chew Green down to the ancient possessions of the De Umfravilles, Clennells and Selbys at Alwinton.

We’ll drive up to Alwinton, then on through upper Coquetdale, passing farms and hamlets with names like Linbriggs, Barrowburn, Windyhaugh, Blindburn and Makendon, all places that were well-known to the Reivers and smugglers that used the old hill tracks to cross the Scottish border.

Our route skirts the firing ranges of Otterburn Camp, so we’ll pay attention to the red warning flags (check here for the latest firing information) and then drive on to the end of the public road at the Chew Green carpark.


At this point, the Coquet is little more than a stream as it flows down a typical Cheviot glacial valley on the journey to the sea.  (if you are on a big screen, click the image to see the full effect).

Finding the ‘official’ source is easy, because ‘Coquet Head’ is marked on the OS map – but I prefer the end of the small burn shown by the red flag in the bottom left-hand corner of the next map.  For map buffs and purists out there, the flag is at grid reference NT778073 or thereabouts, and I went to both places just to be sure that I had covered the start correctly.

map extract copyright © Ordnance Survey


Either ‘source’ is very close to Chew Green, a very extensive area of Roman marching camps and other fortifications which enclose the remains of building platforms and a medieval chapel associated with the ancient village of Kemylpethe  (which means ‘old path’ in ancient english).

The earthworks are typical of settlement remains in Northumberland; including in this case the outline of a Christian chapel which was excavated in 1889, revealing artefacts including a small sandstone cross, which may have been a gable cross from the chapel or a boundary cross of Kelso Abbey.  An inn near Kemylpethe is known to have been used as a trysting place for settling cross-border disputes as early as 1249.

Click the map (extract copyright © Ordnance Survey) to see an enlarged view of the area
FullSizeRender (1)

This view down one of the earth ramparts shows the appearance of the site at eye level, including a background view of Dere Street, the Roman road from York to Perth built in the period 71-81 AD by Governor Julius Agricola.

There were no red flags on the firing range when I was there, so I strolled down the road, looking for this intriguingly named stone at ‘Outer Golden Pot’ (grid ref NT803073).


A similar stone is at ‘Middle Golden Pot’ and both were thought to be of Roman origin, however, a modern view is that they are probably bases for ancient crosses representing boundary markers between the parishes of Elsdon and Holystone.

Many forces have shaped this land and the countless generations of people who have made their lives in this upland valley.  We can only guess at some of the earliest events that affected how folk lived, but we can find out more about recent events via recorded history and by simply looking around as we walk.

During my visit, the only sounds on that ancient road were the wind riffling the long grass, the songs of skylarks hovering in the blue and the bleating of sheep – but as David Dippie Dixon tells us in his seminal book ‘Upper Coquetdale, its history, traditions, folk-lore and scenery’

“There was a time when this lonely spot resounded to the clang of weapons and the tramp of armed men; when the trained legions of Rome marched along the newly-made Dere Street and garrisoned the camp below; when the moor around was the scene of many a sanguinary struggle, where now the bent and purple heath hides the stain of ancient battle”

Damn right, and it wasn’t just the Romans.

Murder, rape, kidnap, extortion, theft, arson and revenge, these stark words describe the dreadful forces that affected the lives of Coquetdale folk from medieval times to the 17th century, because during that extended period, the entire Border area was plagued by raiders from both Scottish and English clans.

In the early days, most of the trouble arose as a side effect of innumerable cross-border invasions and skirmishes by the  ‘official’ armies of both England and Scotland.  Both sides used a mixture of mercenaries and irregular troops, and during their campaigns these fierce and hardy soldiers foraged for food and routinely pillaged friend and foe alike, leaving behind a burning wasteland of homeless people and stolen or destroyed crops.

A burned-out dwelling can be rebuilt, but a burned subsistence crop leads to starvation, so deprived of shelter and the means of feeding their starving kinfolk, the border clans were not slow in adopting a raiding lifestyle as a response to the new realities.

“Scottish if forced, English at will and a Reiver by grace of blood”

Driven in on themselves, border folk soon found that family loyalty was much more effective at putting food on the table than loyalty to King or country; something that led to the growth of the big raiding ‘names’ – families with surnames that crackle and spit down the centuries like the sounds of thatch burning.  (See appendix 1)

In 1237, the Treaty of York between Henry III of England and Alexander II of Scotland effectively recognised the line of the border from the Solway to Berwick.   Over time, the new line was divided into East, Middle, and West ‘Marches’, three on each side of the border and each with a Warden and Deputy Warden responsible to their King.  A sensible idea, but in practice some of the Wardens were little better than the raiders that they were intended to control, so cronyism, lies, and deceit became standardised behaviour and the raid/counter-raid cycle became embedded in Border life for the next three hundred years.

In later years, and encouraged by authors such as Sir Walter Scott (himself descended from a reiving family), a popular mythology developed that the reivers were in some sense ‘Robin Hood’ types, and that their murderous raids had manly and adventurous aspects that somehow excused their crimes.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

During the last years of the raiding families (1500 – 1603), the situation had deteriorated so much that reivers from both sides blatantly robbed everyone they could reach, rich and poor alike.  No quarter was asked or given and most raids resulted in the kidnap, injury, or death of anyone opposing them.  Before leaving with their spoils, the reivers final spiteful act was to burn and destroy the cottages and byres of the victims – the only real defence against them was through fortifications like bastle houses and pele towers, the ruins of which still stand as gaunt reminders of those awful times.

Ordinary folk were largely defenceless against the dreaded ‘hoofbeats by moonlight’ and watched helplessly from the heather while their possessions were looted and their stock driven off.  Prompt reprisal raids often took place, producing a raid/counter-raid sequence with resultant long-running blood feuds, which from 1560 onwards enmeshed virtually all of the important reiving families and made ordinary travel and commerce impossible without armed guard.

The highest levels of reiving activity seem to have taken place during the period 1570 to 1595, coinciding with a lengthy spell of extreme weather, with constant rain and sunless summers following long and very cold winters. During this inclement period, stock animals would have been kept ‘in-bye’ instead of dispersal out on the summer grazing, so a combination of hunger and the easy accessibility of food ‘on the hoof’ may well have been contributory factors in the increased levels of reiving.

Theft by raiding was always a crime, but it was perhaps less of an outrage when seen as the only option open to a starving family.  The poet Walter Scott of Satchells evidently thought so;

I would have none think that I call them thieves
For if I did it would be arrant lies
The freebooter ventures both life and limb
Good wife and bairn, and every other thing;
He must do so, or else must starve and die,
For all his livelihood comes of the enemy

Finally, after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, the accession of the Scots King James VI to the English Throne as James I brought a fresh approach to controlling the border area (basically, the new King rounded up as many reiver ‘heidsmen’ as he could and hanged or drowned them) – but old habits die hard and even after the reivers were subdued and ‘Border Law’ revoked the rapine continued (albeit on a lesser scale) by bands of ‘moss-troopers’, who were generally deserters or disbanded soldiers from the third civil war.

Summing up, quite apart from the peaceful passage of drovers and peasants going to market, so many groups of armed and dangerous men have passed this way that for hundreds of years only a fool would venture along Dere Street unless armed with sword and pistol, and preferably with a ‘tail’ of armed followers.

Leaving Chew Green behind, I followed the north bank of the river down as far as the farm at Makendon, for so many generations a quiet hill farm, but now used as a troop shelter – not a luxurious billet, but a welcome shelter in wild Cheviot weather.



In 1943, Makendon was a site of much activity as the RAF recovered the fatal crash wreckage of a Beaufort bomber from the border ridge at Brownhart Law. The story is in CHRIS DAVIES BOOK.

Further down the valley, I passed Fulhope (seen here in Russel Wills’ photo), where local legend tells of a fierce battle in 1400 between ‘two large bands of Scotch and English marchmen’ after the Scots destroyed Wark Castle on the River Tweed and brought terror into Northumberland.

According to the story, Sir Robert de Umfraville of Harbottle Castle harried and finally routed the Scots amongst the peaceful streams which tumble down into the Fulhope burn and thence into the Coquet.

Although it seems likely that an affray did in fact take place around that date, major difficulties in pinpointing the exact location arise because of a lack of contemporaneous accounts and possible confusion between ‘Philhope’ and ‘Fulhope’ – there is a Philip Law and a Phillip Shank just over the border at Hownam, also a Phillipshaugh near Selkirk.   This ancient photo (courtesy of Jean Foreman) identifies the place as Philhope.

philhope - 1


The next farm is this very fine house at Blindburn. The locality was one of the haunts of ‘Black Rory’ one of the most notorious distillers and smugglers of ‘whisky that is innocent of duty’.  Rory had stills on the Usway burn, and at Rowhope, Carlcroft, Saugh Rig, Kitty’s Walls, and Blindburn.

Local legend has it that the Blindburn still was so well concealed, that on four occasions the excise men passed within a few yards of the spot, but failed to find it.

My guess is that bribery was involved here, either with moonshine or a percentage of the takings, because business was so good for Rory and his helpers that they apparently operated a delivery service right along the Coquet Valley and over to Redesdale, supplying ‘innocent whisky’ in small kegs and in stoneware bottles known as ‘grey hens’.

   Adieu to thee, Blindburn, sae lone upon thy braes sae green
 Thy sheep now bask the livelong day aneath the brent hill-side
 And pleasant is the e'enin' hour, and pleasant is the scene
 To watch the herd wend owre the sward at gloamin' eventide


Then on to Carlcroft, following the river as it flows in a series of sinuous loops that lead down to the  confluence of the Coquet and the Rowhope burn and the site of the evocatively named ‘Slymefoot Inn’, (near the ‘CG’ symbol on the map) at the foot of the ancient track known as ‘The Street’.

map extract copyright © Ordnance SurveyIMG_0489


Geoff Holland took this high-level photo of the Slymefoot site from Barrow Law.

‘Slymefoot’ has earned a reputation for licentious behaviour that seems quite extraordinary given the remoteness of the location – although things did get so bad that “Dr Sharp, then Rector of Rothbury and Archdeacon of Northumberland, threatened the offenders with ecclesiastical punishment if they did not desist and attend their respective places of worship.  His injunctions had the desired effect; and since that time no such riotous assemblies have been held, while the superior knowledge and correct conduct of the present sheep farmers have operated to produce a correspondent change in the character of their servants”.

Perhaps the reputation of Coquetdale as a haven for smugglers and illicit whisky distillers of the ‘Black Rory’ ilk has magnified the tales of debauchery and drunken behaviour that the ‘slyme’ part of the name implies?

The late Roger Allen wrote an intriguing little tale about the Slymefoot, click this link to read his story

Walking on, I reflected on the changes that time has wrought on the patterns of life in these remote regions.  I first visited the Cheviots in 1956, (youthful first impressions here), at a time when most hill farms were still occupied and the sight of a shepherd (always with his border collie at heel) was a common event.   Now, the shepherds have largely disappeared and the few that remain use quad bikes to cover greatly enlarged acreages and have responsibility for much larger flocks.

I’m sure that this is much more efficient from a business viewpoint, but the mental image that I hold is the bucolic notion of the hill shepherd, wearing hobnailed ‘fell boots’ with turned-up soles and working his dogs with piercing whistle signals.

The weather was on my mind as I walked – the sunshine of Chew Green had been replaced by low cloud, threatening rain for the next section down to Alwinton.  I appreciate a sunny hill day as much as anyone, but bad weather is so usual on my jaunts that this extract from Elinor Wylie’s poem ‘Wild Peaches’ touches my mind.

I love the look, austere, immaculate,
Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones.
There's something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water, churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.

In any case, protective equipment for the outdoors has significantly changed  since the start of my time on the hills, imagewhen many of the older shepherds looked like the lad in this old photo, wearing Harris tweed caps and jackets and in inclement weather carrying a ‘shepherd’s plaid’ – 3 or 4 yards of woven oiled wool in a black and white check pattern.

Nowadays, the clothing that hill people wear is adequate even for major expeditions, so I had no real concerns as the clouds crept down the green hillsides and the rain held off while I looked at the Wedder Leap just below Barrowburn.wedderloup

This footbridge marks the site of a tale involving a dim-witted sheep thief who tried to leap across the river at this point while carrying a fully grown sheep (a ‘wedder)’ tied onto his back.  The river was in full spate, so sheep and thief were both drowned – proving yet again that Darwin was right (shame about the sheep though).


Nearby is Windyhaugh Hall (with car park behind), once a place of great merriment at Barn Dances and other communal activities, now a sad casualty of the depopulation of upper Coquetdale and last used for the original function about fifteen years ago.   Clive Dalton and Donald Clegg really got the measure of the glory days in this piece, Windyhaugh Dancin’ Haal


During the period 2011/14 the Coquetdale Community Archaeology Group carried out substantial excavations on the site of a medieval fulling mill at Barrowburn.  Looking at the dale now, it’s hard to imagine any form of manufacturing industry in this remote valley, but documentary evidence shows that Cistercian monks built the mill between 1226 and 1244 as a means of adding value to locally-woven woollen cloth.

Click The Barrowburn Mill to see a very interesting update on this local archeological initiative, and here to read more about the excellent work of the Coquetdale Community Archaeology Group.

Leaving Barrowburn, I kept to the west side of the river, following the path that runs below Shillhope Law, rejoining the road near Bygate Hall cottages, then heading down past Shillmoor farm.  As at Makendon, the farmhouse at Shillmoor is now a troop shelter.


The lambs they are feeding on lonely Shilmore,   
And the breezes blow softly o'er dark Simondside;   
The birds they are lilting in ev'ry green bower,    
And the streams of the Coquet now merrily glide

As mentioned earlier, for several hundred years the Borders area suffered from the depredations of the reiving ‘families’, but during periods of nominal peace, the custom and practice of resolving disputes evolved into ‘Border Law’, and under this law a person who had been raided had a six-day window in which to mount a ‘Hot Trod’ or counter-raid to recover his goods.

Each Hot Trod had to proceed with ‘hound and horne, hew and cry’, making a lot of noise and carrying a piece of burning turf on the point of a lance to openly announce the purpose of the trod.  Any person meeting the riders was required to join the trod and offer assistance, on pain of assumed complicity with the original raiders.   After six days a ‘Cold Trod’ was required, but this required official sanction and the Deputy Warden of the March then had the specific duty of ”following the trodd and ensuring that ‘Every man do rise and follow the fray upon the Blowing the Horn, Shout or Outcry, upon Pain of Death’. Englishmen joining a trod were entitled to one shilling in the pound for goods recovered on English soil, and two shillings in the pound on Scottish ground.

The ‘hounds’ referred to were probably specially bred trail hounds and were otherwise known as ‘slew dogges’ or ‘sleuth dogges’.  Clearly, sounds of pursuit would alert those being chased, thereby increasing the risk of ambush – so these animals were trained to do their work without barking and were much coveted by raiders on both sides of the border.  The descendants of these hounds may be admired each year at the Alwinton Show, where they follow a ‘hound trail’, an aniseed lure which is dragged around the hills for them to follow.

In an attempt to counter the constant raiding, a string of ‘watch’ points was set up along the border, with named ‘setters’ and ‘searchers’ responsible for supervising the attendance and diligence of the watchers.


This map extract (copyright © Ordnance Survey) shows the area around Linbriggs, near which passes the ancient pathway known as ‘Pass Peth’.  On the summit of this path was one of the Border Watch points, with duties as set out below;

The Day Watch of Cookdaill  (coquetdale) beginning at Passpethe Allenton (Alwinton) to watch at Passpethe with two men every day : Setters and Searchers of this Watch, John Wylkinson, the Laird of Donesgrene, John Wylkinson otherwise called Gordies John.

The map also indicates the remains of a ‘medieval village’, although there is little to be seen on the ground except for grassy outlines of buildings.   An archaeological dig revealed that the buildings had been abandoned in the 16th century – perhaps as a result of constant raiding?

The views from the road above Linbriggs are worth the trip.

above linbriggsR

The landlords were robbers too, as a document from 1818 shows, when a lease was drawn up for Wilkwood Farm, south of Linbriggs and up the valley from Linshiels Lake (then called ‘Selby’s Lake’).   The lease between tenant Daniel Wood and owner Walter Selby stipulated ”that he shall and will make use of one of the corn mills belonging to the said Walter Selby for the grinding of all such corn as the said Daniel Wood, his servants and cottagers shall have occasion for.”   Poor Daniel had also to walk a game cock, feed a spaniel dog, and spin four pounds of lint yearly for the squire of Biddlestone.

Just a mile or two now to Alwinton, time to stop and gaze back up the valley, lifting my eyes to the hills and pondering on some of the names given to local geographical features.

Names like ‘Gallow Edge’ and ‘Murder Cleugh’ are easy enough, although hard facts about the actual skulduggery may be difficult to discover; but how about ‘The Slime’ or ‘Plea Knowe’, or ‘Split the Deil’?  ‘Watch Knowe’ and ‘Foulplay Head’ are very likely connected with the reivers, and ‘Beefstand Hill’ may be where stolen cattle were rested before the uphill pull to the border ridge.

Still on the road, the next photo is of ‘Barrow Scar’, an interesting geological feature showing the ‘cementstone’ layers which were formed about 350 million years ago.  This is just upstream from the point where the Coquet breaks free from the surrounding hills and begins a more meandering progress across the flatter ground towards Alwinton.


This photo was taken at the same spot as the one above. The Coquet can be seen below, with a flat alluvial floodplain on the northern side and the purple heather-clad hills behind.


Moving on down the river, the next photo is by Andrew Curtis and is centred on the ford between Barrow Mill and Barrow on opposite sides of the River Coquet, as seen from the col near Castle Hill fort, just off Clennell Street and due north of Alwinton.


Compare Andrew’s pic with this one from John Tribe, showing the Castle Hill Fort (grid ref NT920071), with the same landmarks clearly shown in the background.

Alwinton Show an d Hill Forts 293

The ‘Rose and Thistle’ in Alwinton has been the ‘local’ for a very long time, as the next (undated) photo from the tenure of ‘T Mather’ shows.  The detail shows a gravel road with a delivery cart parked outside the pub, but we will never know the identity of the ghostly figure  coming out of the front door.

mather - 1


One of the few bits of advice my father gave me was that churches are best viewed from the outside, whereas pubs should always be viewed from the inside.  This is particularly true of the Rose and Thistle in Alwinton, a pub that has been owned and run by successive generations of the Foreman family since 1907,  as this extract from the 1911 census proves:

Address: Rose and Thistle Inn, Alwinton, Rothbury. County: Northumberland

  1. FOREMAN, George Head Married M 45 1866 Inn Keeper
  2. FOREMAN, Mary Jane Wife Married 19 years F 43 1868 Inn Keeper
  3. FOREMAN, George Edwin Son Single M 15 1896
  4. FOREMAN, William Alexander Son M 13 1898
  5. FOREMAN, Andrew Crozier Son M 7 1904
  6. FOREMAN, Geoffrey Turnbull Son M 6 1905

RT2 - 1

This photo probably dates from around 1912 and shows the Foreman family, with Mary standing in the doorway and husband George (wearing a cap) behind their boys Edwin (known as Ted), Alec, (in striped top), Andy (extreme right), with the youngest boy Geoff in front.

The next photo shows the bar area when the Foreman family took over in 1907.

RandT1 - 1 finished copy

Compare the photo with the following 1956 engraving of the same room.  Use the small window on the right as a reference point, also the orientation of the ceiling beams.


The artist was John Tribe and he was seated to the left of the fireplace as he made the sketches which formed the basis of the wood engraving.

The piper is the famous Joe Hutton from Harbottle and the two lads leaning over the back of the settle are Tug Wilson (then a shepherd at Uswayford) and John Tribe himself.  Until about 1958, the pub was very traditional and remained as seen in the above images – click here to read what John Tribe remembers about the pub.

During the period 1949 – 1962 the weekend clientele was increased by the opening of a primitive YHA hostel at Wholehope on Clennel Street (grid reference NT901093) and many of the hostellers became friendly with the publican and with shepherds from the surrounding hill farms.   The landlord during that period was Geoff Foreman (shown below), for decades a prominent Coquetdale personality and a genuine friend to locals and travellers alike.

geoff1 - 1 finished copy

The kindness and hospitality that Geoff showed to hostellers was legendary throughout the YHA community.   From arranging the transport of coal and barrels of paraffin up to Wholehope; to the storage of bikes and other gear in the barn and allowing passing travellers to sleep there in inclement weather (the barn was also a refuge for hostellers who had overindulged a little during one of the famously festive evening sessions) – Geoff was there, the very epitome of the country pub landlord and a man held in great respect by all who knew him.

Des Hully (one of the regulars during those halcyon days of youth) comments;

‘There were so many characters – Bob Thornton could pull out the most fish from the burns and Tug Wilson’s spirited rendering of the “Wild Colonial Boy” made for a pleasant start to many a convivial sing-song and night out at the Rose and Thistle – while Charlie McGonnigal, under a form in the bar, would demonstrate the art of shovelling coal from an 18 inch coal seam.  Very occasionally, these nights were so convivial that we did not make it back to Wholehope, and only made it as far as the hay shed next to the pub.’

(Trevor comments) As a personal anecdote, I recall a Wholehope Skiing weekend when late on Sunday afternoon we skied down Clennel street right to the pub door.  The snow was still falling, so it looked as if we might have to spend the night amongst the hay bales, thereby losing a days pay if we didn’t show up at work on Monday.

Regrouping in the bar, we heard clanking noises outside and Geoff shot out of the door to investigate, returning a couple of minutes later with the crew of a large snowplough who were soon enjoying ‘one on the house’ while we piled outside and loaded our skis and rucksacks onto the back of the machine for a free ride to Thropton – no ‘Health and Safety’ regulations then!

From 1970 until 2001 the management of this Coquetdale gem passed to Geoff’s son Angus (below) and his wife Jean, a couple who ensured that the pub moved along with the modern trend towards dining, and today their daughter Jane Latcham and husband Gareth  continue the proud tradition of 109 years of hospitality and service to the community.    Click here to make contact.

Angus - 1


This house on Alwinton village green was at one time ‘The Red Lion’ pub.   Rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century as a Temperance Hotel (no booze), it finally closed as a hotel and reopened for a few years as the village post office and general store.   In the 1950’s, I bought Tilley lamp mantles and primus stove spares there to take up to Wholehope.


Still on the green, the little footbridge leads on to Clennell Street, a moorland track that was one of the great drove roads over the Cheviots, and in Anglo-Saxon times linked the markets of Morpeth and Kelso, crossing the border at Outer Cock Law.  The track was earlier named ‘Ermspeth’, which meant ‘track of the eagles’.  Clennell Street was the route up to the YHA bothy/hostel at Wholehope (pronounced ‘Woollup’)

Alwin burn and Clennell Hill

Oliver Dixon’s photo shows the Alwin Burn and Clennell Hill, just above the Grade II listed Clennell Hall, nowadays a hotel and events centre – but once a border stronghold with a very interesting history.

‘Angryhaugh’ is the rather dramatic name of a house and pasture which stands on the south bank of the Coquet near the Coquet/Alwin confluence.  A probable derivation is from the ancient word ‘anger’ meaning a meadow or pasture, so the modern translation of ‘Angryhaugh’ would be pasture/pasture!

Andrew Curtis took this photo of Angryhaugh Farm, one of the locations used in the 2004 ITV programme ‘The Last Shepherds’.



Richard Webb’s pic is from the bridge at Alwinton, looking back over Angryhaugh towards the village. The low brown building right of centre is the tea hut for the famous Alwinton Show, traditionally the last of the Border shows and marking the last opportunity for country people to get together before the nights close in.  The Show is scheduled each year for the second Saturday in October and is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of Coquetdale ‘en fête’.

Alwinton Church

Chris Tweedy and Oliver Dixon took these  views of St Michael and All Angels  Church in Alwinton.


I learned a lot about ‘the hills of home’ during this extended stroll from a rather muddy Coquet Head; new facts and extensions of knowledge gleaned during youthful escapades dating back almost sixty years, when young people had freedoms that the current generation can only yearn for.

This was a walk through time in two quite distinct dimensions; through history from the legions of Rome and the dark centuries of the reivers to the recent and very tragic depopulation of the hills – but also time to reflect on my own life, with each step a growing realisation that time is not chronological in the Cheviot valleys, and that the people remain tough, self-reliant and community spirited, with long memories and a respect for the past – qualities that are perhaps diminished amongst more urban societies.

Appendix 1 – This list covers only the principal reiving family surnames.

  • Armstrong
  • Bell
  • Burn
  • Charlton
  • Crozier
  • Dacre
  • Dodds
  • Douglas
  • Elliot
  • Fenwick
  • Forster
  • Graham
  • Hall
  • Harden
  • Irvine
  • Johnstone
  • Kerr
  • Maxwell
  • Milburn
  • Noble
  • Reed
  • Robson
  • Scott
  • Turnbull


Map extracts are courtesy of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown Copyright.  All rights reserved.

I gratefully acknowledge my principal written references;

1 ‘Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland:  Its History, Traditions, Folk Lore and Scenery’ – By the gloriously named David Dippie Dixon

2 ‘The Steel Bonnets’ – By George MacDonald Fraser

3 ‘The Reivers’ – By Alistair Moffat

Thanks to David Jones of the Coquetdale Community Archeology Group for advice and to Jean Foreman and Nancy Moscrop for the loan of precious family photographs.

I use my own photos wherever I can, otherwise I use ‘Creative Commons’ images from geograph.org. Thanks also to Russell Wills, Andrew Curtis, Oliver Dixon, Geoff Holland and Chris Tweedy for the ‘Creative Commons’ permission to use their images.

If you can help with photos, information or factual corrections to improve this article, or if I have inadvertently ignored your copyright, then please click here to email me.

See Part 2 of this article

Back to index


13 thoughts on “Walking the Coquet from Source to sea Part One – Chew Green to Alwinton

  1. What a fascinat5ing read, with some great links thrown in. Excellent and thanks for sharing.

  2. Very well done Trevor, I was with you all the way. Please publish in book form.

  3. Great article. If it is ever published please let me know. I would love a copy. My uncles took over Blindburn & Makendon land in about 1947. I walked the boundaries with them. I was age 12. My cousin lives at Blindburn now. She does not have a computer, but I know she would love a copy of this.

  4. Glad you enjoyed it Anne, I was a regular at Wholehope YHA from 1956 to 1961 and wandered about all over Coquetdale, so the Coquet walk is actually a walk down memory lane for me. I’m almost finished the project now (Part Three coming soon) and I’ll think about a printed version thereafter.

  5. Great article, I look forward to reading the Book. Also tracing the source of the Coquet. This summer.With the help of your article .

  6. Really happy that you enjoyed it Allan, hope to have Section 3 finished soon. Still not sure about the book though…….

  7. I know Jean and Angus from my days on Otterburn Ranges with the army, always had an excuse to get down to The Rose and Thistle whenever we could. Had some cracking nights in there !

  8. A very good read Trevor, just shame you never finished the article, I noticed there’s a new book out by Deborah Hughes The Coquet Way, The 43 mile source of the Coquet to Amble

  9. Thanks Trevor. You have brought back so many very happy memories and filled in fascinating gaps in my knowledge.
    A great piece of work.
    All the best

  10. Thanks John, good to hear from you and I hope to see you again in the Coquetdale of our dreams.

  11. I really enjoyed reading parts 1 -3. Thanks for putting all this together! During this lockdown it is great to imagine getting away to such places as Coquetdale!

  12. Amazing Trevor, I first visited the Coquet Valley in 1973 with my Auntie and Uncle who then had a caravan in Rothbury. I know all of these places well as I still go to them with my family now, my 2 kids in their late 20’s. The history of this area is amazing and you described it brilliantly. However you stated that Linshiels Lake was once called Selby’s Lake. I would be grateful if you could let me know more of the history of the lake. Thanks & well done.

Comment on this article?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.