Corbridge - a village with plenty of surprises
PUBLISHED: 16:14 12 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:54 20 February 2013
There's more to the historic village of Corbridge than first meets the eye, as Chris Titley found out
A traveller who chanced upon Corbridge would surely be delighted. It has so much to charm a visitor, from the lovely old stone cottages to the independent shops to the riverside walks and rare countryside.
So they probably wouldnt associate the village with Premiership football or murder most foul.
For a place its size, Corbridge has remarkable links to our national game. No fewer than three post-war Sunderland managers hail from these charming streets, including Steve Bruce, who was relieved of his duties at the Stadium of Light a month-or-so ago.
Corbridge even has its own WAG. Fiona Barratt married former England footballer Sol Campbell in St Andrews Church in July 2010. But she is much more than a soccer stars wife, being heiress to the Barratt property empire.
So what about these murders then? Well thankfully they are all in the mind of resident Mari Hannah. The probation officer-turned-crime writer has lived in the village for more than 15 years and decided to make it home for her fictional detective, Kate Daniels.
Mari has struck a three-book deal with publisher Pan Macmillan, and the first, The Murder Wall, is out in April.
Obviously all my dastardly deeds will not happen in Corbridge, but certainly in the first book Corbridge does figure, Mari said.
It opens in prologue in Corbridge, then spreads out. My DCI Kate Daniels is a murder squad detective in Northumberland and she comes across a rather nasty deed.
So theres something dark in the heart of her version of Corbridge And because of that, you have to be a bit sensitive to places and people. Ive played with the geography a little.
When I began writing this novel there was a pub off the Market Square that isnt there any more, but I saw no need to change that in the book because it fitted in with the story. I certainly changed the names of other key buildings in Corbridge because I had to!
Despite this, Maris readers the book has already been launched in Germany have commented on the novels strong sense of place, which owes a lot to her passion for the area.
This is where Im best placed to write my books. Its a brilliant place for writers in general, said Mari, who is following in the footsteps of another novelist who lived in Corbridge, Catherine Cookson.
It really is a nice community. I felt welcomed here straight away.
Its one of those places where you go for a walk and everyone says hello to you. Im very proud to live here. Corbridge is home. This is where theyll carry me out in a box, I reckon.
Former Consett steelworker Maurice Hodgson has lived in Corbridge for 14 years and is now vice-chairman of the towns parish council.
Its a nice part of the world, he said. Corbridge has got everything you would want on your doorstep.
Apart from the lovely scenery, youve got the shops, the transport, and a lot going on.
This includes an impressive showing from the Corbridge In Bloom group, which started from scratch three years ago and this summer carried off a gold award in the Northumbria In Bloom awards.
Similarly, the parish hall has come back to life. Not so long ago it was a little unloved and unused, but today it is busy all the time with bookings from community groups. Next on the list is a new youth centre, which villagers hope will be open by Easter on the top floor of the library building.
Corbridge is best known, of course, for its rich history. Once the most northerly outpost in the Roman Empire, visitors can still walk along the excavated main street of what was a garrison town built in the first century AD. The parish council is looking to further develop this tourist appeal with a series of heritage trails.
Corbridges place in history goes back to Roman times. There are a lot of heritage sites in and around the village, said Maurice.
Weve already opened one heritage trail and were in the process of creating another two which will involve improving access to various places, signposts, information boards and leaflets we can give out to tourists.
We want to make it more of an attraction for people to come and stay for a few days.
The first trail goes around the village; leaflets are available from the tourist information centre. The second, almost complete, is called the Fortifications Trail and will take visitors via Aydon and Halton Castles to Hadrians Wall and back. A third trail will involve a route to Dilston Castle.
Corbridge is a great place to stay for anyone interested in history. Not only is it close to all these amazing locations, it has everything a visitor could wish for on the doorstep.
There are speciality shops in Corbridge, Maurice added. Its the sort of place people come to when theyre looking for somewhere nice to relax and de-stress.
The village has its own independent bookshop, the Forum, which has recently changed hands, art galleries, fashion boutiques, jewellers and gift shops, as well as traditional shops such as bakers, greengrocers and general stores.
And it is forever picking up national acclaim. In the Sun newspaper, former editor Kelvin MacKenzie described it as the delightful Northumbrian village of Corbridge. The Times crowned Brocksbushes Farm as one of the 50 best places to eat in the countryside, while the Northumberland County Show, held at Tynedale Park, Corbridge in June, was named by the Daily Telegraph as one of the fantastic festivals of the year.
Theres lots of things going on within the community rather than just for tourists, Maurice said. Its always been a popular place but its particularly vibrant at the moment.
Three things to do
Join the weekly healthy walks group for a stroll around Corbridge. They meet every Wednesday morning at 10am. Call Maurice Hodgson for details on 01434 634024.
Explore Corbridges fascinating Roman and Saxon links.
Tour the villages wonderful independent boutiques and sample the range of restaurants, cafes and tea rooms.
For more information contact Corbridge Tourist Information Centre, on Hill Street, on 01434 632815 or visit the parish council website, corbridge.ukpc.net.