Norham Tweed walk

A beautiful sunny spring day last week – and we were off for a walk.  One of our favourite walks, this one is bookended by Norham’s fine church and it’s equally magnificent castle.  Sometimes we start with the castle, sometimes with the church. You can see in the map below how the route runs in a circle – first along a loop in the Tweed and then inland to complete the of walkThis day, we decided to start with the church.Norham St Cuthbert's churchThe Church of St Cuthbert at Norham is one of the churches we like best in the locality, and on this day it was looking particularly fine, garlanded with early spring blossom.gravestones amid ramsonsJust inside the churchyard, in the damp and dark gloom of the churchyard wall, there are ramsons – wild garlic.  They were everywhere on this day’s walk  – a pungent smell when crushed underfoot. Norham ChurchThis church is a distinguished building historically and architecturally.  It dates from 1165 (the same age as the nearby castle). Kings have met here (Edward I and John Bailliol of Scotland in 1292).  1320 saw it fortified by Robert the Bruce as he attacked Norham Castle.  You can read more of its fascinating history on the church’s own website.Norman arches on Norham churchJust look at those Norman arches – what patterns!Ancient faces on Norham churchThis small face on the east end looks down on us from the past.  I think that’s a grimace: Enjoy yourself – or else!Grave of Grace Friar NicholsonThe graves stand as solemn markers to those who went before.  Was Grace Friar Nicholson a book-lover, I wonder, with those two open volumes above her tombstone?Doggy flowers on graveNo doubt that this person loved dogs – what a fine way to be remembered!Path leads down to the TweedTime to leave the churchyard with its moving mementos, and set out on the walk proper. A narrow path leads down, through the fields, to the Tweed.swans on the TweedOh – the magnificent Tweed! Such a glorious river, flowing down from the Scottish Borders, and marking on its eastern course the border between Scotland and England.  That’s Scotland on the far bank where the swans are sailing by.

What really strikes me as I look on this view is how deceptive were the green and blossom we had been enjoying in Norham church graveyard.  It is still early in the year – the trees on the far bank are dun-coloured without their new leaves out.

Our path continues along the Tweed, well-managed by the good folk of Norham. It is a truly inviting walk.Walk along the TweedBefore long we approach Ladykirk and Norham bridge, and this gentle path ends.Approaching Ladykirk bridgeLadykirk and Norham bridge – as the name says – runs between the Scottish village of Ladykirk and the English parish of Norham.  A fine late nineteenth century bridge.  Just look at the detritus on the other side! Detritus under bridgeOver the winter the country experienced heavy heavy rainfall, particularly in the west of the UK, where the River Tweed rises. As we walked along the Tweed, we were increasingly reminded of the floods, and damage, and basic mess this land had experienced thanks to the heavy rain.Rubbish under bridgeHere, at the foot of the steps leading up to the bridge crossing, you can see more rubbish – including plastics, bottles and other man-made undesirables. All swept down by the torrent of the Tweed.Ramsons and celandines under Ladykirk bridgeNature is fighting back – with hosts of wild garlic and celandine flowers.fishers' paradiseThis is fishing country – paradise, I would guess, if you have a deep pocket. small boat and fishing sheilAn old fishing shiel, a little boat, grazing sheep … Time for coffeeWhat better place to stop for a bun and a flask of coffee? But also note the detritus, caught in the branches of the tree. We reckoned this to be some 15 feet above the current height of the Tweed  – there’s been serious flooding here.small boat on TweedIt is such a beautiful river.  The stories of ancient bitter Scots and English fighting are all around, and particularly marked in the histories of Norham Castle, Ladykirk church (built at James IVth of Scotland’s command entirely of stone so that it could survive being put to the torch) and nearby Flodden field.  As for the Tweed, well “Men may come, and men may go, but I go on forever.”  Thank you, Tennyson. It’s deeply reassuring.swirls and eddies in the TweedJust before we turn up from the Tweed, we find these scummy eddies. One’s instinct is to assume this is man-made pollution, but Stephen (most conveniently) is reading Tristran Gooley’s How to Read Water and he informs me that it may be warm temperatures acting on natural ingredients that produce this effect. It might, of course, be the result of chemicals running of the fields. Best not to speculate.

At this point, the path moves away from the Tweed, and we enter wooded country.  Part of the pleasure of this walk to me is, indeed, the variety of landscapes we pass through. There are primroses ..primrose pathand celandines …celandines amid the stepsand ramsons again! Just look at those banks of wild garlic on both sides of the path!woody path with ramsonsIt’s not long before we see our next “marker”.  There, glimpsed through the trees, is one of the viaducts of the old Kelso to Tweedmouth railway line.first glimpse of railway bridgeIt’s quite a job to scramble up to the top …struggling up to top of bridgeand you have to go carefully …trees growing in stoneworkbecause trees are growing into the masonry …metal rails on bridge collapsingand the old iron railings are falling to pieces.glimpse of the Tweed from the topBut it is wonderful to be at the top – you can see the Tweed snaking away where we left it.Old Kelso lineThere are few things to my mind as poignant as a dismantled railway line.  All that effort put into the building, all the excitement of travel, all those ordinary everyday journeys!  This line took holiday makers from the mills in the Border towns to our home village of Spittal on the north sea coast.  You can just imagine the trains chugging along this track.studying the stoneworkSuch a fine piece of engineering.

The next piece of the walk took us along the road.walk hits the roadRoads are not favourite walking, but it’s sunny, there’s almost no traffic so we have the world to ourselves – and look at that burgeoning rape crop about to break into heady yellow flower on the field on the right!rape coming into bloomThere’s another “marker” along this part of the journey and it’s this that makes the road walk worthwhile.  This is Norham railway station.  And it’s for sale – it went up for sale in 2013 for a cool £420,000.Norham railway station - for saleIt was a railway museum for many years, but was closed, alas, by the time we discovered it.  More of its history here.Norham railway stationAnd – yes – that is a letter box in the wall, a Victoria Regina too! How amazing must it be to have your own private letter box!!Victorian post boxBefore long we leave the road and the route took us into a watery world again – over a bridge …walk over small bridgeand alongside a stream.walk along little streamIt’s cool and dappled after the hot road walk.  Once more we’re walking through banks of wild garlic.walk through woods and ransomsNow time for our final “marker” – our pièce de résistance, you might say.  Here we turn in to Norham castle.arrive at Norham castleIt’s such a fine castle, with all the attributes that one associates with castles – moat, drawbridge, slit windows for arrows to pass through.  And it has a fine history to boot.  It was built in the 12th century by the Bishops of Durham as a defence against the Scots. Again and again it was besieged by the Scots – nine times in all – and captured four of those times. One of those times of Scottish ownership was just before the battle of Flodden.  James IVth besieged the castle for several days, battering the walls with his powerful artillery.Norham castleIt sits in a magnificently commanding position right up on high above the River Tweed, looking straight over to Scotland.Norham castle high above TweedFrom the castle you look down on those small folk in the village.Norham castle above villageAnd that’s where we’re heading now for the very final leg of our journey back to Norham church. Norham village is a pleasure to walk through, looking sunny and simple in the 21st century compared to those bitter fighting times of earlier centuries. Daffodils, village green, war memorial. Village perfection (but who knows what lies below this well-behaved surface …)sunny Norham village greenBack to the church …Walk back to Norham church– and that heavenly blossom where we started.Blossom at Norham church


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18 thoughts on “Norham Tweed walk”

  1. I no longer recall how or when I first happened upon your blog (I dislike this word!) but I’ve so enjoyed following your rambles about the countryside and reading up on the historical references you kindly provide! Also the lovely photos, the gardens and plants, the sewing projects . . . Wondering what tensions may lurk beneath the surface of a peaceful English village 😎 . . . Here in Minnesota, just south of the Canadian border, it is a very different landscape from yours, so thank you for the glimpse into your corner of England!


    1. So nice to hear from you, Robin – and so glad you like the blog (yes, I agree, terrible word). One of the things I love most about blogs is making contact with folk all over the world – we share so much, but we all live in such different places! I’ve been checking out Minnesota – and of course Minneapolis is in our thoughts following Prince’s sad early death. It does indeed look like your world is very different from this English one I know. 🙂


      1. Yes, different, but with its own beauty nonetheless! Much of western Minnesota was scoured flat by glacial activity and the resulting oak savannah and prairie is now a vast flat landscape of cultivated farmland. I remember, when I first moved here to attend college, driving west into a sea of ripe sunflowers stretching to the horizon. It took my breath away! We have Lake Superior in the northeast with its spectacular rocky shoreline, icy waters and dense forests along the Canadian border — a favorite place to take our grandchildren summer and winter. And in the southeast along the Mississippi River is the “driftless” area where the glaciers began to retreat leaving piles of debris in their wake — green, hilly farmland and valleys carved by glacial run off. This is Amish country and it is common to see horse drawn carriages clopping along the side roads just off the high speed motorways! This is called “fly-over” country, but those of us who live here do not miss the frantic pace of life on the east and west coasts 😎. On the downside, the distances here are vast and motor traffic dominates our daily routines. I so appreciate that in the UK you have preserved the old walking paths, keeping them so accessible and well marked. My husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed walking in Scotland and Wales and hope to return one day.


        1. You do live in truly amazing country – I am so envious of those sunflowers! We struggle to grow even the odd one or two – before they get blown over!


  2. I loved this blog Kathy. Particularly refreshing to be immersed in your photos and descriptions of green river banks and empty roads framed by navy blue skies as a contrast to Tottenham Court road where I shopped today..
    I remember coming upon Norham castle and being thrilled after a gruelling uphill climb on a cycling trip ‘Castles to castles’ !


    1. Yes – it is a far cry from London, Gilly. We walked along the Sustrans route you must have taken very briefly (it’s part of the road walk I describe here) – never see anyone cycling there, such a pity. Glad to hear that despite hard bike ride you have happy memories of Norham castle – and that you enjoyed the blog 🙂 xx


  3. What a brilliant day for a walk with that wonderful sky and the smell of ransoms as you walk through them. If only we knew the stories behind some of the gravestones; it’s sad that within a couple of generations all that we know of them are what’s written on the stone. I wish there was a hidden cubby hole in the headstone where we could find out something more personal.


    1. I love what you say about gravestone cubby holes – what a nice idea! What makes me saddest is those gravestones where the stone has deteriorated so much that you can no longer read the details – story completely lost then 😦


  4. Just so lovely to read this. I hope you have a sense of how much vicarious pleasure we get from reading of your walks! From the US, it is hard to imagine places like this still exist. I am planning a trip to Scotland next year and will work your area into my itinerary if it is at all possible! Thanks for an introduction to a lovely part of the world.


    1. I am so pleased to hear how much you enjoyed this post – thank you! This is indeed wonderful and fascinating country to walk in so I hope you do have a bit of time to explore it for yourself one day.


  5. Thank you so much for this walk! I enjoyed every step of it! I can almost smell the fresh grass and hear the birds chirping. Such beautiful and peaceful places… I would love to grab a book, a project bag and walk there with my dog…


    1. Thank you, Alina – it is so fascinatingly different from the walk you recently posted in San Miguel de Allende – all the gorgeous dark purple bougainvillea, those doors … but both very beautiful places in their own way. And it is certainly true that we live in a great place for dog walkers!


  6. Very much enjoyed our walk today following your circular route and taking in all of the information in your blog. Met a very nice couple on top of the railway viaduct who seemed to know the circuit extremely well.
    Now realise that it was you two that we met !
    Thanks for picking up all of that roadside litter, and nice to meet you 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Graham – very good to have met you both and especially to hear that you enjoyed the walk! We chuckled when we read your message – of course we never guessed you were walking the route I described on my blog! We still love it – though it has got a lot muddier over lockdown. Just hope we find it less muddy and pristine as far as the litter is concerned next time we walk it 😉


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