Years of research in the Cheviots are uncovering mysteries and shedding new light on the way people once lived and worked in the uplands.
Coquetdale Community Archaeology (CCA) was founded in 2008 as result of a National Park project. With over 100 members, the group rapidly made a name for itself. In 2010 they rediscovered the long-lost remains of a medieval fulling mill on the River Coquet near Barrowburn; four seasons of careful excavation uncovered structures both in the river and on the bank, confirming that it had been built nearly 800 years ago by monks from Morpeth.
At a nearby site, they have uncovered a high-quality medieval flagstone floor that was probably built at the same time as the mill and was part of the wool industry in the Coquet valley.
Now they have expanded their horizons. With grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Park, they have been studying archaeology along the Border Roads — the ancient tracks that cross the Cheviots, joining England and Scotland.
With their origins lost in antiquity, these roads pass by prehistoric camps and farms, Roman forts, medieval field systems and the remains of droving, smuggling and raiding.
By blending archaeology with local history and material culled from archives, the group has produced a fascinating picture of ancient upland life. The result is a fully illustrated book called The Old Tracks through the Cheviots, hich is out now and published by Northern Heritage of Blagdon.
“The book’s major aim”, says Chris Butterworth, who chairs the group, “is to help people understand the landscape that surrounds them”. David Jones, CCA’s secretary who has managed the project, expands on this: “Very often, people see shapes and structures in the hills – mounds, earthworks, and ruins – but know little about them. Sometimes they just walk straight past them. We explain what they are, provide some of their history and describe how they fitted into contemporary society”.
The book is priced at £14.99 and is available from all good bookshops, tourist information centres and heritage sites, or direct from www.northern-heritage.co.uk or call 01670 789940