Cragside, Northumberland


On our way back up from our trip to the English Midlands in August we stopped off at Cragside in Northumberland again, it’s a National Trust property. The first time we went there we didn’t have time to visit the formal gardens, so we rectified that this time. It was a gorgeous day and there were loads of visitors there, but it was still possible to enjoy the beauty of the place. If you want to see my previous post on Cragside have a look here, here and here.


The houses in the photo above are estate houses which seem to be available for holiday rentals.


This display of sedums is very Victorian and labour intensive but very effective.

Cragside  clocktower

There’s a cute wee clocktower above the sedum display. You can see more images of Cragside here.


And the photo above is of the surrounding countryside, looking over to the small town of Rothbury, which was also very busy with tourists and is definitely worth a look as it has some nice independent shops. We didn’t manage to get past the old fashioned sweetie shop, all those sweetie jars just yelled at us to come in and buy, and the door was propped wide open too, we had no chance of eschewing them, we just had to chew!

Back Home

We went on another British road trip last week and I managed to be organised enough to schedule some posts to be published while I was away, just in case I didn’t have access to the internet. It turned out that I didn’t feel much like being online anyway, I was too tired as usual, what with running around during the day.

We visited mainly places which we hadn’t visited before. It’s sad but true that I enjoy visiting places in the UK which I’ve heard about, mainly on the TV or radio – often just on road traffic reports, and I wonder what they’re like if I’ve not visited them.

So now I can envisage Wigan, Haydock, Biddulph Gardens, Buxton, Alcester, Blenheim Palace (Woodstock and Bladon) Geddington, Market Harborough, Geoff Hamilton’s Garden at Barnsdale (Rutland), Uppingham, Oakham, Wetherby, Northallerton, Mount Grace Priory, Sedgefield, Washington Village, Morpeth, Rothbury, Cragside and Wooler. The only places we had visited before were Alcester, Blenheim/Woodstock, Morpeth, Cragside and Wooler.

This time we started off driving down south via Moffat in the Scottish Borders. The bookshop was open and I bought two books –
1. Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
2. Crazy Pavements by Beverley Nichols

It was a bookish beginning to our break, we were heading for Wigan, an unlikely place to visit but as I had just read George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier I was intrigued to find out what it was like now. It has a newish shopping mall but you can tell from the older buildings that Wigan was indeed down at heel in the 1930s. Unlike many places, mainly down south, there was virtually nothing in the way of art deco/1930s buildings. From which I assume that nobody was doing any building at that time, it was a very depressed area. It’s not exactly vibrant at the moment but it’s still an awful lot better than Kirkcaldy, my nearest large town, which seems to have yet another empty shop each time I visit it.

We stopped off at Buxton, mainly because it was a Georgian spa town and has associations with Jane Austen.

Sedgefield was chosen as an overnight visit mainly because it was Tony Blair’s constituency when he was an MP and I wanted to compare it with Kirkcaldy. In the end I didn’t even take any photos there as it was such a wee place with just a few shops, a village really. I feel quite unreasonably aggrieved with the inhabitants of Sedgefield for voting in Tony Blair as their MP and allowing Blair to set off on his egomaniacal merry power binge which has put us in the horrendous position we are in now.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to over the last week or so and I plan to show you some photos of the various places which I hope you might be quite interested to see.

What did I buy when I was away? Not a lot really, apart from some more books, but that’s another blogpost.

A Thatched Roof by Beverley Nichols

This is the second book in the Beverley Nichols Allways trilogy, the first one is Down the Garden Path which as you would expect is mainly about the making of his first garden in his first house, a thatched Tudor cottage in a village which he calls Allways, in Huntingdonshire.

I had to laugh as the beginning is about how he hadn’t taken possession of his house for a few years after he bought it but had rented it out to an American couple. They kept writing to him telling him of improvements they had made to the property so when they departed and he eventually moved in himself he was horrified to discover that the improvements included painting everything with lemon coloured distemper, which was a cheap sort of paint which came off on your hands and clothes if you brushed against it. Even the original Tudor beams had been covered by it.

His tenants had also left a lot of furniture and ornaments behind, for which they expected him to stump up payment, but he was appalled by their taste in furniture. What really amused me though was that his description is almost a copy of the decor in Cragside, Northumberland, even down to a Welsh dresser which had the words East, West – Hame’s Best carved into it! The mock warming pans, samplers, pewter and even mock patchwork quilts (it was printed patchwork fabric) were just not to his taste, although I can imagine that nowadays a lot of people would be keen to give house space to those possessions.

Inevitably his garden does play a part in the book from time to time, as do his neighbours Mrs M and Undine and at times he is really quite catty, if he had been a friend of mine I would have offered him a saucer of cream. He was of course ‘gay’ in the modern sense of the word – and how I wish we could recapture that word for its original use now, as in ‘don’t those flowers look gay’ but it was a time when homosexuality was still illegal, for men, and I suppose the usual description in the 1930s would have been ‘flamboyant’. His name was actually John Beverley Nichols and as an adult he opted to be known as Beverley, he seems to have been comfortable in his own skin, rather than suppressing his character as so many did in those times.

So apart from this being a funny account of the sort of dreadful staff which he had to put up with in the beginning (you can’t get the servants you know!) – it’s also a peek into a way of life which was only 80 years ago, but – my – how things have come on in that time.

To begin with his thatched cottage didn’t have a proper water supply, he relied on a well in the garden and the water was brown, but lovely and soft! He did get central heating, almost unheard of in those days and electricity pylons began to stalk across the countryside, marring the landscape but still not bringing electricity to the village. What they would have thought about life as we live it now, I don’t know. But I suspect that Beverley Nichols would have been one of the first to try out any new technology. Anyway, I enjoyed the book and intend to read the last one of the trilogy, A Village in a Valley, whenever I can get a hold of it.

We happen to have friends who own a thatched cottage in an English village and so I know that as soon as it starts to get chilly of an evening – the local wildlife move into their winter quarters AKA the thatched roof and walls of the cottage, and they can be heard moving about and galloping across ceilings all winter, then there are the creepy crawlies too which find the thatch very cosy.

So, whenever you see a thatched cottage, bear that in mind. Beverley Nichols doesn’t mention mice but he does mention rats – quite a lot!

Cragside, Northumberland again

This is the lake at the entrance road which leads to Cragside in Northumberland. I think it’s called Tumbleton Lake and is man-made but it’s very pretty anyway.

a lake at entrance road

And this one was taken on the terrace leading to the woodland walk which leads down to the power house which made the hydro-electricity for the house.

Cragside gardens 1

This part of the garden is just below the house, you walk through a rockery which leads down to the woodland walk. It’s a great place for kids to scramble around in, and bigger people too.

Cragside garden

This was just a fallen tree but as you can see, part of it has been carved into an image of a Green Man. I think it looks fantastic and really quite scary. I wish I had been able to see the artist at work on it.

a wood carving

I think that’s just about all of the photos I took at Cragside. We’ll definitely be going back again because we want to see the gardens at their best, well I do and I don’t suppose Jack will complain. As it was October when we were there and we were actually on our way back home to Scotland and a bit pushed for time we didn’t even bother going to see the formal gardens, deciding that it would be best to see the plants in the spring or summer. So we plan to go there again next year. Meanwhile I’ll be popping the vitamins and keeping to my walking regime to be in optimum shape for it, you have to be quite fit to tackle the grounds, especially when it’s muddy underfoot which just about everywhere has been this year!

Cragside, Northumberland – again

I just managed to get this photo of the kitchen at Cragside with nobody in it, there must have been 40 people milling about the place, and there’s certainly plenty to see in the way of Victorian gadgets jelly moulds and copper. As you can see there are two kitchen ranges to deal with all the entertaining that they had to cope with, not to mention all the servants who would have been getting fed there too.

a Cragside house kitchen

I can’t remember what this room was called but I would call it the living-room, the inscription above the fireplace is EAST OR WEST HAME’S BEST – which is fair enough I suppose. The fire is in a lovely comfy alcove with stained glass panels either side of it, as you can see, all very Arts and Crafts design.

Cragside stained glass 2

And here is the other side of it, there are wooden settees either side of the fireplace too and I imagine that the place would have been full of dogs when the house was a home.

Cragside glass

Another bedroom, this time with some of the clothes which would have been worn in the house’s Victorian heyday. On the table there were bits and pieces of sewing, just as if the original owner had left the room for a short time and was going to be coming back and taking it up where she left off.

Cragside interior bedroom 3

Yet more stained glass, this time it was situated on a wide landing.
You can just see the very Victorian heavily embossed wallpaper, the bottom of the walls are covered with tiles.

Cragside interior glass 3

And just as a wee taster, here’s a bit of the beautiful gardens, the burn running through it is quite a torrent and I can see why Armstrong decided to harness all that energy and use it to light the house. You can read about Lord Armstrong here.
Cragside gardens 6 + old bridge

Cragside, Northumberland

On our way back up to Scotland, after our short break in Yorkshire a few weeks ago, we stopped off at Cragside in Northumberland, another National Trust property. It was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. Thanks again to Margaret @ Booksplease for pointing us in its direction. We were lucky with the weather, although it had been raining most of the week which meant it was a bit muddy underfoot in the gardens. We got a great day for viewing it all, it’s a very popular destination so it was fairly crowded in parts but most people stayed close to the house. I think it’s best described as quirky, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about all those roof angles but the inside is full of Arts and Crafts details.

Cragside house from gardens

It’s a very homely place though, despite being huge, as it’s Victorian, the furniture isn’t too precious, lots of us own bits and pieces of Victorian furniture and knick knacks, so most of it doesn’t seem grand, especially the bedrooms. I’d love to own a patchwork quilt like this though.

A bedroom in Cragside.

I love this quilt too, as you can see, this room has William Morris wallpaper, one of his brighter designs, they can be a bit dark sometimes. I have absolutely no idea what the boxes on the floor at the bottom of the bed are, I don’t even recall seeing them!

Cragside interior bedroom 1

I took lots of photos of the interior as it was such a nice change to be able to, for some reason the National Trust for Scotland still don’t allow photos inside. So I’ll probably show more of Cragside again soon, it’s a real delight for anyone interested in Arts and Crafts design.