Rothbury - the heart of Northumberland
PUBLISHED: 21:22 13 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013
The town that thinks it's a village has a growing army of admirers, as Chris Titley reports
Lets get one thing straight. Rothbury is officially a town. Check any authoritative source, the Encyclopedia Britannica, say, or Wikipedia if youre feeling lucky, and its there in black and white: the market town of Rothbury
Its important to clear this up because the townsfolk themselves clearly view themselves as villagers. Ask them to describe the place they call home and more often than not theyll say Rothburys a beautiful little village
Thats understandable because Rothbury is both small and beautiful. But its not a village. At least not according to the people who decide these things.
We like to call it a village because it has that flavour about it, says Neil Milburn, information assitant at the award-winning Northumberland National Park visitor centre in Rothbury.
It has well-kept gardens. Everybody who arrives here on holiday seems to absorb the very relaxed atmosphere which is really nice.
People flock to the town from all over, he says. I had visitors from Tasmania this morning we get a lot from Australia. We had people in from America last week, I had a chap in from Taiwan on Saturday.
They come for two reasons: the scenery and the people. Its location on the edge of the Northumberland National Park and next to the Simonside Hills makes it a beacon for hill walkers. Neil and his colleagues can supply walking itineraries, from the easy to the challenging.
As the capital of Coquetdale, Rothbury also has a wonderful position on the River Coquet, a sparkling stretch of water teeming with fish and, come summer, teeming with picnickers on the haugh, the broad riverside meadow.
Its very popular with folks down here, theres stepping stones, a lovely curved bridge over the river, said Neil. In summer we get loads of people eating packed lunches and having a grand time.
And what about the people? Among the friendliest around so much so that youd better not be in a hurry to get anywhere. Its a standing joke here, Neil added. If you set off to one of our local bakers, what ought to be a ten-minute trip is more likely to be a 20 or a 40-minute trip, because people stop and talk to you, pass the time of day, ask how you are. Its that sort of place.
One of Rothburys most famous sons is the comedian Alexander Armstrong. Now among Londons showbiz set, he recently described his childhood there as idyllic: If you grow up somewhere where the pace of life is very slow you enjoy the gaps between the pulses.
These days its not that quiet. In fact, theres a fair bit to do, if you go looking. One of the must-visit destinations is Cragside, an extraordinary Victorian house built by Geordie genius Lord Armstrong.
He was an inventor and industrialist who was always striving to create something new. His house was the first in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity and was crammed with ingenious gadgets, and the gardens are something to behold.
A good way to explore Rothbury is to take the Heritage Trail, found at rothbury.co.uk. This guides you round the key landmarks. The stone bridge, now undergoing improvements, dates from the 15th century, and still bears the masons marks, left by the men who built it.
More impressive stonework is to be found at All Saints Church which includes a font with a carved Anglo-Saxon pedestal.
Moving on to the High Street youll find West End, reputed to be the oldest house in Rothbury. Some years ago the interior was renovated, disclosing enormous curved wooden beams of black oak and a beautiful inglenook fireplace that had lain hidden for many years, the Heritage Trail authors note.
Local lore claims it was once the local lock-up and iron bars in the attic appear to substantiate this story.
The High Street, merging into Front Street and Town Foot, is where you will find Rothburys impressive roster of independent retailers: bakers, fruiterers, delicatessens. Among them is Rothbury Family Butchers, a multi-award winning shop and sausage supplier to the royals.
It was set up by Morris Adamson 11 years ago. Originally from Berwick hed never set foot in Rothbury before his former employer, the Co-op, offered him a position in the shop there.
I moved down, I didnt have a car, I didnt have a flat, I didnt have anywhere to stay within a week I had all of those and everybody made me feel very welcome, he said. I knew after a few months that it was the place where I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
My feelings havent changed. The community spirits there. Its an amazing place to live.
His shop is famous for one particular product. People come from all over the North East for the sausage. We also send it all over the country, Morris said.
The bestseller is the Cragside Cracker pork, rosemary and red onion. But other bangers are even more exotic. Weve done kangaroo, springbok and wildebeest sausage as well.
When Prince Charles and Camilla re-opened the Jubilee Hall in Rothbury a few years back, they popped in to have a butchers themselves.
That was one of the best days of our business life. To have the future king and his wife in the shop, genuinely interested in what youre doing, was surreal it was fantastic.
He went away with a nice little basket of meat from us, including some of our Cragside Crackers, so it was pleasing.
Morris is a natural enthusiast, particularly about his adopted home town. Its full of lovely people and lovely independent shops, he said.
Youve got the river, the hills, Cragside and fantastic sporting facilities for the size of the place weve got a five-a-side pitch, tennis courts, bowling green, golf club, swimming pool, gym.
For a little village like ours its magnificent, it really is. Beautiful place.
Newcastle-based Graeme Peacock is one of the regions most respected photographers
and has a huge library of shots from across the North East. He supplied many of the pictures which accompany this feature and to see more of his pictures, log on to www.graeme-peacock.com. His latest book, North East England, is available from Mayfield Books and Gifts, on 0114 889522.
Rothbury has long been an important market town and was the scene of many raids by Border Reivers. These days its a beautiful place to live and great place to visit, expecially popular with walkers who can explore the hills and Northumberland National Park. The scenery also makes it a winning spot for photographers and if youve taken brilliant pictures there, wed love to see them. Upload them to our website, northeast.greatbritishlife.co.uk.