Thursday, October 12, 2006

Walk 147 -- An historical day in Berwick-upon-Tweed

Ages: Colin was 64 years and 157 days. Rosemary was 61 years and 299 days.
Weather: Very sunny — the sun really hurt our eyes and made photography difficult.
Location: An historical day in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Distance: 0 miles.
Total distance: 1212½ miles.
Terrain: Along the ramparts, through the town and alongside the river.
Tide: Out.
Rivers: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: ‘The Pilot’ where we enjoyed Caledonian ‘Deuchars IPA’. (We intended having a pub lunch there, but his chef had taken the day off due to ‘family troubles’.)
‘English Heritage’ properties: No.43, the castle and ramparts. No. 44, the barracks and ‘Main Guard’.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday flat in Longhoughton. We drove to Berwick-upon Tweed where we parked for free near a caravan site and the locked public toilets. We explored the town from there.
At the end we drove to Alnwick to buy some supplies before returning to the flat.

As I have said before, Berwick-upon-Tweed is a town which oozes history! This is because it is situated on the English / Scottish border and has changed sides at least fourteen times. The town is surrounded by imposing walls and ramparts which were built on the orders of Elizabeth I to protect Protestant England from the Scots who were allied to the Catholic French. Most of these Elizabethan defences are still in place, and there is many a vertical drop in the neat gardens. It is not a place to take small children!The town was first fortified in 1296 by Edward I who wanted to protect it from the Scots, but this was only after it had been fought over and changed hands several times. The Scots once gave it to the English as part of a ransom, only for King Richard to sell it back to the Scots to pay for a Crusade. Later his brother, King John, sacked the town and took it back. And so it continued, back and forth, back and forth, but it has been English since 1482 — the Elizabethan ramparts seem to have done the trick.Several of the old gates are still in place making narrow archways for the traffic in this modern day.The town is situated on the banks of the River Tweed. There are magnificent views from high places and lovely walks along the river bank.Several bridges span the river. The one we walked over yesterday is the oldest. It was built between 1610 and 1624 out of sandstone, and has fifteen arches. This was built on the orders of James VI of Scotland when he became James I of England. It still carries traffic, but in one direction only as it is so narrow.The Royal Tweed Bridge was constructed in 1925, and at the time it boasted the longest concrete span in the country — 361 feet. It was built to carry the main A1 road across the Tweed. Although it is still in use, the bulk of the traffic now skirts the town on a bypass which goes over a modern bridge.The Royal Border Bridge, built in 1847, is a railway viaduct with 28 arches. It carries the main east-coast line into Scotland at a height of 126 feet above the river. It is still in use today — we watched several trains go across it whilst we were standing underneath admiring it.We were also watching a heron trying to catch its dinner in the river.Perhaps the oldest surviving structure in Berwick is the castle. This was built on a rocky outcrop with steep valleys either side, in a position where it would overshadow the main crossing point of the Tweed.It was probably first built on the orders of David I of Scotland in the early twelfth century, but was much improved in later years with walls up to fifty feet high and twelve feet thick.It endured many a siege as it changed hands between the Scots and the English, and is now a complete ruin.We visited the Main Guard, a Georgian barrack building, because it was ‘English Heritage’ and therefore free to us as members.It houses three museums, but we are not really museum people — we prefer the great outdoors. We whizzed round two of them thinking, “What a load of rubbish!” so we didn’t bother with the third.We went back into town and sought out more modern sculpture and architecture. We found a perfect toll house,a Victorian clock tower,two drinking fountainsand various statues.We also came across the final painting — or was it the first? — on the Lowry Trail.Getting right up to date, we espied well-tended allotments over a wall.Finally, we walked some more of the ramparts and looked at the views, especially towards the north pier where we shall begin the Walk which will take us into Scotland.We ended up, of course, in a CAMRA pub, The Pilot, where Colin was really happy!
That ended Walk no.147, we shall pick up Walk no.148 next time at the ‘Kipper Gate’ in Berwick-upon-Tweed. We drove to Alnwick, the nearest town to our digs in Longhoughton, to buy some supplies before returning to the flat.