Category: Hadrian’s Wall Area Attractions

A Northumberland must see ……Wallington Hall!

One of the best parts of running our holiday cottage is undoubtedly getting to meet our guests, hearing why they’ve come to Northumberland and what they hope their visit will hold for them.

Part of the charm of Northumberland is undoubtedly the sparse and often remote countryside which can mean that towns and the picturesque villages and the visitor attractions are relatively spread out.

We know first hand that some guests are uncertain where to begin to ensure they make the most of their stay and with so much to see and do in our lovely County and with such a huge offer of places to visit it really is no wonder that choosing can be difficult.

One of our all time favourite days out has to be Wallington Hall, a National Trust beauty that we quite simply love to visit. This elegant 17th century mansion is built around the core of an earlier medieval house and pele tower and is set in acres of beautiful gardens, woodland, nature trails, ponds and even a hidden walled garden and restored Edwardian greenhouse.

alt="Hadrians Wall Area Days out in Northumberland National Trust Wallington Hall"
Wallington Hall South Drive (c) Raymond Purvis

Wallington Hall is just a 30 minute drive from St Oswald’s Farm, leaving you time to indulge with a lie-in before setting off to enjoy a relaxing day out. Heading north-east on the B6342 will take you on a scenic route through some lovely rural countryside and small hamlets.

Twenty minutes into the journey you’ll spot Kirkharle Courtyard, and with a small number of craft shops, galleries, a lakeside walk and a cafe it’s the perfect stop for coffee or a late breakfast, they open at 10am and serve a delicious brunch menu.

alt="Kirkharle coffee house Wallington Hall days out"

Kirkharle is in fact the birthplace of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, an English Landscape Architect born in the early 18th century and once described as the Shakespeare of Gardening and as England’s Greatest Gardener! The courtyard at Kirkharle holds an exhibition of his life and work and you can even admire a recently created piece of Capability Brown’s design which has now been made a reality.

Following the discovery of long forgotten plan by Brown, the past 10 years have seen the creation of a serpentine lake surrounded by swathes of new planting. The project began in 2009 and visitors can now enjoy the 1km walk around the lake and there are several benches and viewpoints to sit and take in the design and landscape as once envisaged by Lancelot Brown himself.

alt="Kirkharle on route to Wallington Hall"

A further 10 minute car journey takes you to Wallington Hall itself, and as the Mansion comes into view with its Ha-Ha and Griffin Heads it’s unmistakable. A visit to this impressive and once home of Sir Charles Trevelyan gives insight into this remarkable man and his unconventional family.  You can explore the history of Northumberland in huge pre-Raphaelite paintings around the Central Hall or take time to admire the furniture and occasional quirky curiosities in every room.

alt="Hadrians Wall Area Days out in Northumberland National Trust Wallington Hall Griffin Heads"

The Trevelyan family loved being outdoors and close to nature, and the house and grounds are testament to that. The natural yet landscaped gardens are in the style of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who schooled just around in the corner in the village of Cambo, and the gardens compliment the rural Northumberland setting. There are plenty walks to enjoy, lakes, farmland and woodlands to admire, with lots of places to sit quietly and take in the abundant beauty. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for wildlife hides, as you never know what you might spot!

The path through the East Wood is a mass of towering trees, colourful shrubs and huge ponds, and is also home to red squirrels, otters, bats and great spotted woodpeckers. Whichever path you take through the East Wood, whether it’s the Serpentine Path, the Centenary Walk with views over to Paine’s Bridge or the longer path that loops around the China Pond and past the impressive Portico House, you can revel in the nature and soak up the tranquility of the landscape.

alt="Hadrians Wall Area Days out in Northumberland National Trust Wallington Hall Pond"

When you reach Garden Pond, a mini-lake often covered in waterlilies and home to a family of geese, you will catch a glimpse of the jewel in this very large crown, the enchanting Walled Garden.  Hidden beyond Neptune’s Gate at edge of the wood, the Walled Garden is an unexpected treat. Although originally built to grow fruit and vegetables, this irregular shaped Walled Garden is now filled with colourful planting & decorative shrubs. Stone steps runs down either side of the Mary Pool, a pond of clear water which feeds the stream that continues down through the garden.  Further on yew hedges hide a small nuttery with spring bulbs and ornamental trees, while the cut flower borders erupt with colour through the summer months.

alt="Hadrians Wall Area Days out in Northumberland National Trust Wallington Hall Walled Garden Steps"

As with most National Trust properties there are toilets, a cafe and gift shop. There are plenty of walks to choose from and all signed so you can pick the one suitable for you, a gentle 1 mile stroll or even a 6 mile hike if you need to burn off that indulgent brunch! With the house and grounds to explore it would be easy to spend 3 to 4 hours at Wallington Hall or you may need slightly longer if you’re going on a longer walk or looking to soak up the atmosphere with coffee and a piece of cake!

alt="Hadrians Wall Area Days out in Northumberland National Trust Wallington Hall Walled Garden"
Walled Garden Lower Terrace (c) Raymond Purvis

Wallington Hall is truly a joy to explore, you’ll find picnic benches and areas to pop down a rug to soak up the summer sun, the colours are something to behold during autumn but yet the displays of snowdrops and crocuses in the Spring ensure a visit to Wallington Hall is a great day out all year round. We hope you love it as much as we do!

If your day out in this breathtaking part of Northumberland has left you in need of refreshment and you’re looking for a pub, real ales, log fire and great food, make your way back but take a quick detour at Chollerton and on to Barrasford and head to the Barrasford Arms where you will find a warm welcome and superb food.

alt="Hadrians Wall Area Days out in Northumberland National Trust Wallington Hall Barrasford Arms"

There really is no end of wonderful days out to be enjoyed in Northumberland, whether you’re planning your first visit, you’re visiting for the second or the hundredth time you’ll be sure to leave with fond memories of your time here. If you’d like to enjoy all that’s on offer in Northumberland and stay in an award winning 5* cottage here on top of Hadrian’s Wall itself you can find all prices & availability here. We look forward welcoming you to Northumberland and to St Oswald’s Farm!

A Canopy of Stars

I was somewhat shocked to discover that 85% of the UK population have never seen a truly dark sky or had the chance to experience the sense of wonder a dark sky can bring, so imagine how guilty I felt that I had always taken our starry Northumberland skies for granted!

In December 2013 Northumberland International Dark Sky Park was unveiled, it has a gold tier designation and at 572 square miles is the largest Dark Sky Park in Europe.  The recognition by the International Dark Skies Association means Northumberland is officially and without doubt the best place in the UK to star gaze.

alt="Northumberland's International Dark Skies Park logo"

The stars in the Northumberland night sky are brighter and bigger and it is astounding to think that stars and objects 2.5 million light years away can be seen with the naked eye.
The best time for stargazing is during the autumn and winter months, when the nights draw in and are longer and darker. On a clear night up to 2000 stars can be seen, an experience which is quite literally out of this world.

The best place to go? Well you can just step outside and look up or there are several designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites perfect for viewing the stars. They offer good sightlines of the sky and have good public access, including firm ground for wheelchairs. Twenty Dark sky Discovery Sites are dotted throughout Northumberland, in village halls, car parks and picnic sites!  If you prefer a little more guidance on what to look for, then book onto one of the guided evenings offered at Kielder Observatory or The Battlesteads Observatory, both offering the perfect compromise between the beautiful majestic dark skies and state of the art facilities.  Both venues are accessible, and the evenings suit anyone from the absolute beginner to the professional.  However, you will need to book beforehand and all details can be found on their websites.

alt="Northumberland's International Dark Skies and Kielder Observatory"
Kielder Observatory (c) Hugh Williamson

One of the most spectacular sights has to be The Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, which are a natural phenomenon caused by charged particles colliding in the Earth’s atmosphere and are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemisphere.

They appear as large areas of colour including green, pink, shades of red, yellow, blue and violet in the direction due north. During a weak aurora, the colours are very faint and spread out whereas an intense aurora features greater numbers of and brighter colours which can be seen higher in the sky with a distinct arc. It’s nothing short of an extraordinary spectacle!

alt="Northumberland's International Dark Skies Park showing the Northern Lights"
Northern Lights (c)Ian Wylie

Of course a visit to the dark skies park isn’t just about looking up as the park is abundant with a variety of wildlife with the dark skies and reduced light pollution enhancing the habitat for many of the woodland species such as birds, bats, moths and insects.  The Northumberland Dark Sky Park truly is a remarkable place both day and night.

The nature and dark skies at Kielder inspired a local celebrity architect to bring his TV series Amazing Spaces to Northumberland.  George Clarke together with William Hardie Designs created a unique and inspirational treehouse.  The installation allows budding astronomers to lie back and look up at the stars with its spectacular opening roof.  Set amongst the woodland, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to be as darkness falls!

alt="Northumberland's International Dark Skies & Kielder Sky Den"
Kielder Sky Den

The International Dark Sky Park status brings a wealth of benefits to what is the most sparsely populated County in England and has in itself brought thousands of visitors to this remote, yet undeniably beautiful part of the Country. The dark skies are just one part of a whole host of gems Northumberland has to offer, all just waiting to be discovered and to be remembered fondly.

We’re delighted that St Oswald’s Farm has a Dark Sky Friendly status, which means we are dedicated to helping preserve our dark skies and minimising light pollution.  We encourage and help our guests to get the most from the skies above.  The holiday cottage is equipped with the basics for guests to enjoy all that’s overhead with red torches, binoculars, star gazing charts and books and guides on what to look out for.  In addition to this we provide rugs in case the nights are chilly and even flasks and hot chocolate, all the ingredients for a perfect night under the stars.

The Northumberland skies are quite honestly a sight to behold, but don’t just take my word for it, come and experience the darkness and the wonder for yourself.  Book your stay with us here at St Oswald’s Farm and we’ll be delighted to share our star-studded show with you!  

As for me, I won’t look up and take our starry skies for granted ever again!

alt="Northumberland's Dark skies with 2000 stars"

What is Heavenfield?

As a local you would probably know, but as a visitor you’d be forgiven for wondering where the name of Heavenfield Cottage came from.  However, when we converted our old building into a luxury self-catering cottage, the name choice for us was obvious.

Heavenfield sits adjacent to our farm steading and is in fact our hay field.  Not only does it have a lovely name but it is also special to us as we got married there!  However, this pretty little field is immersed in history and was one of the most important sites in early northern Christianity. 

alt="kissing gate into heavenfield"
Heavenfield

The site is believed to be the location where King Oswald (604-642) raised a large wooden cross before the Battle of Heavenfield in AD635.  The battle defeated King Cadwallon ap Cadfon of Gwynedd and Oswald took a Northumbrian victory. A walled churchyard stands within the field and is home to St Oswald’s Church.

alt="large timber cross at heavenfield"

The church itself is a haven of peace and tranquillity and, with no electricity, the church services held there a few times a year are lit by candles.  The remains of a roman alter stone can be found inside the church and a large timber cross stands at the nearby roadside on the presumed site of the original cross erected by Oswald himself.  Even today the church is a destination for pilgrims and there is an annual pilgrimage service from Hexham Abbey on St Oswald’s Day.

alt="inside the church"

St Oswald’s Church is without doubt a special place and although the church we see now is primarily 19th century, the sense of age and history is palpable.

The rich history continues as the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail runs across the field and therefore the church is a very popular stop for walkers.

Heavenfield also marks the end of St Oswald’s Way which is a long-distance walking route, exploring some of the finest landscapes and fascinating history of Northumberland. The route links some of the places associated with St Oswald.  From Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in the north, St Oswald’s Way follows the stunning Northumberland coast, before heading inland across beautiful countryside to Heavenfield and Hadrian’s Wall in the south, a distance of 97 miles. The route links castles, the coastline, islands, scenic river valleys, hills, attractive villages, forest and farmland.

alt="the churchyard with snowdrops"
Walled Churchyard

To the rear of churchyard are the most breath-taking panoramic views looking towards the North Tyne and over to the Cheviot and Simonside Hills.  There is a helpful visitor panel to ensure visitors enjoy each part of this amazing landscape.

alt="view from the back of the church"
From the rear of the Church the view is outstanding

If the history isn’t enough, Heavenfield is now also a preserved hay meadow and, with a rare mix of wildflowers and grasses, we are delighted that St Oswald’s Farm is now within a higher level stewardship scheme to ensure these species are preserved.  Upland hay meadows are one of the rarest grassland habitats in the country, rich in wildlife and steeped in cultural traditions. The best time of year to see the meadow in all its glory is late May to late June.

alt="heavenfield at night"

Heavenfield is always a popular spot for photographers and with dark skies overhead there is often a tripod set up as darkness falls.  On a clear night it is nothing short of stunning and certainly worth staying up for.

Heavenfield featured in Robson Green’s Further Tales of Northumberland as he followed St Oswald’s Way to its final destination and paid homage to the site and the history of this remote spot.  

alt="armchair with Heavenfield book"

More recently, LJ Ross the author of the international No1 best-selling series of DCI Ryan mystery novels, which have sold nearly three million copies worldwide in the last three years, based one of her DCI Ryan books at the church and named it Heavenfield.  It is therefore fitting that this series of books can be enjoyed by our guests here at St Oswald’s Farm….we’re just hoping there’s a TV detective series to follow!

Heavenfield is so much more than just a field and so much more than just a name we thought up.  We hope that visitors to the church, to Heavenfield and to St Oswald’s Farm enjoy it as much as we do and feel the sense of peace and tranquillity that can be found here. 

If you’d like to stay in Heavenfield Cottage you can check prices, availability and book here

We’d absolutely love to welcome you to St Oswald’s Farm