Falstone : 20th Century
In the 20th Century saw the pace of social and economic change in North Tynedale continue to accelerate as previously described. Not all the changes were welcome and in the second half of the century Falstone experienced the closure of some the facilities it acquired in the 19th Century.
Thus the railway station closed to passengers in 1956 and to freight services two years later in 1958, when the entire line above Bellingham and below Redesmouth was lifted (access to Bellingham was maintained via the Wansbeck line from Morpeth via Scotsgap and West Woodburn until 1963). The station buildings were taken over as offices by the Forestry Commission. In the later 20th century a new school building was added alongside the 1870 school, but after a life of only ten years it closed in 1981 due to falling pupil rolls.
Despite such regrettable losses, the village has continued to grow, however, with more housing being added on the north-west side of the settlement in the 1950s to accommodate the Kielder Forest workforce. Further expansion was planned, but aborted because of unexpected problems encountered in managing the maturing forest, which resulted in substantial reduction in the workforce required.
Experience in the 1950s and 60s had revealed that if the Kielder conifer forests were thinned to allow the remaining trees to grow taller, in line with normal forestry practice, this left the standing trees acutely vulnerable to windblow (see Wilson & Leathart (eds.) 1982, 15-16). In response, the labour intensive thinning operations were drastically scaled back, resulting in a high-yielding harvest, composed predominantly of small trees - work which could readily be mechanised. As a consequence, Falstone and the newly-built forestry villages of Kielder, Stonehaugh and Byrness were never to reach their anticipated size.
The appearance of the surrounding landscape which had first has been dramatically altered by the creation of the Kielder Forest from the 1920s, was transformed for a second time during the 20th century by the construction of the mighty dam for Kielder Water in the 1970s and early 80s. The creation of the vast reservoir has opened up opportunities in the fields of leisure activities and tourism for the local economy, and as Falstone confronts a new century it is largely with in growth of these sectors that the village's future prospects for prosperity would appear to lie.
In contrast, more recent changes in the organisation of work in the forests, involving the employment of outside contractors, have further reduced the requirement for forestry housing. Today many of Falstone's inhabitants commute to work outside the valley, whilst those working in the forests travel in the opposite direction into the valley. Nevertheless, despite all the changes Falstone experienced during the last century, the village retains the feel of a vibrant living community, with the requisite critical mass to adapt in the face of change, and it is possible to view Falstone's future with a fair measure of optimism.
Picture: Blackcock Inn Falstone