Garden Group - Northumberland Visit

4 day trip to the Northumberland Gardens 4/7th July

Introduction by Jan

I asked various members on the trip to give me their view on the various houses, so it may read a little disjointed, but gives you an idea of our most enjoyable tour.

Bowen's Coach

Bowen's Coach
All photographs taken by Jean Cuthbert

Having never before visited Northumberland, this 4 day trip to visit Gardens and the Homes attached to them, was a chance not to be missed. And was this a disappointment? No fear. It may have seemed ambitious to attempt to visit 7 gardens in only 4 days, including the travel there and back, and I won’t say that we couldn’t have lingered longer in some, given the chance, but what we got was a great break, in great company, and a great looksee.

Report by Annette Porte

We visited the Angel of the North, a structure, which I had only seen from extreme distance before, and thought rather ugly. How wrong I was. Close to, this is an amazing and beautiful architectural creation, with a wonderful body shape and huge wings, stretching out the size of a jumbo jet, and is built of corton steel, which never needs to be cleaned, or coated, and gives a reddish browny colour. It stands on the site of a former mine and is symbolic as the angel stretching to heaven from the pits which made Newcastle and Gateshead and where so many toiled, and lost their lives.

Angel of the North

Angel of the North

Wallington Hall at Cambo, was originally late 17th century, but not unlike Belsay Hall, in being built around a central courtyard, once open to the sky, but later roofed in to create an art gallery area for some huge pre Raphaelite paintings, of local fables, and around this many rooms, housing fascinating collections. The most wonderful dolls houses, one with 36 rooms, found in a loft, in 1960, and in another room a real treasure of ancient toys. This house was fascinating, and we had a real treat when the lady of the house, Lady Trevellyan, aged 90 came into the courtyard area and played tunes on the Northumbrian pipes and spoke to us, all unplanned I might add. But then, someone must have tipped her off that We were there! The gardens here also included a very attractive walled garden, reached after a walk through woods and around a very peaceful lake, housing many young, in fact baby, moorhens and ducklings etc.

With the rain now sheeting down, we skipped the third garden on this day, to drive around Newcastle instead, showing us the very attractive and very clean buildings, and streets, and the lovely bridges over the river, next to the beautiful Sage complex, housing three concert halls. Our blue badge guide, Jan, with us for the 2 days, gave us lots of interesting info. about both the towns and the places we visited, and both she and driver Phil, kept us amused with many little anecdotes about ‘Geordies’ and other people and things.


Fish in Alnwick Gardens

We stayed each night at the Holiday Inn at Washington, the original home of some of the Washington forbears (not the Inn, just the place!) and enjoyed our time there. Rooms and food were fine, and we were able to change places at meals so gradually came to meet a few more people than we knew before, but please, don’t ask me to name names, my memory ain’t what it used to be, not through age, you understand? but simply because of the hectic life I now lead!!!! Being a U3A member does that to you, have you noticed???

Several of us, too, were introduced to the joys of Rummykub, a really good fun game, which I recommend. (No, please don’t start a new group for it. I can’t fit any more things into my busy life.)

My thanks to Jean, and Jan and everyone concerned with the organising, and to all the good friends, who helped to make it such a fun trip.

Report by Sheila Epps

Water Fountain Water Fountain

Sheila in the Water Fountain

Crook Hall Garden is almost in Durham City - and a magical haven to stop at after some hours travelling up to the northeast of England. It is tucked away and has an air of secrecy as you move from one tiny enclosed garden room to the next. Niches of half hidden statues, worn with age and weather, sit amongst flowers and shrubs jostling for space. A 300 year old pear climbs the old wall of the house - and you can see that magnificent Cathedral from the hillside.

Report by Joyce Cotterill

Alnwick Gardens with the dramatic fountains to greet us was a great start to Tuesday morning. Nearby the new poisonous garden, fascinating and the incredible delphiniums in wonderful blues and purples of all shades.


Alwick Garden - Poison Garden

The rose garden at its peak with prolific flowering and perfume. The sculptures and water features exciting and interesting as was the tree house. This garden is a terrific project still progressing.


Alwick Garden

Delphiniums in Upper Garden

Delphiniums in the Upper Garden

Beyond the gardens lay the stark 13C Castle in its perfectly preserved state with its defensive walls and keep within. Its interior rooms were furnished ornately but the vista from the castle walls was of the quiet waters of the River Aln below and the green landscape parklands beyond.


Knight in Alnwick Castle courtyard

A memorable reminder of the turbulent years and still the residence of Dukes of Northumberland, described quite rightly as the ‘Jewel of the North’

Report by Gill Stone

Cragside is the creation of the 1st Lord Armstrong (1810 - 1900) inventor, engineer and gunmaker. The first private house to have electric light, it symbolises the greatest achievements and contrasts of the Victorian age.
As one walks from the coach park, that first spectacular sight of the house rising, as if from the rock face, intimates that this is going to be a visit to remember.

After marvelling at the interior of the house, full of Victorian memorabilia we moved outside. The tumbling effect of the rock gardens and the glorious vistas which came into view as we walked through the woodland were breathtaking. Some of our party walked to the Formal Gardens, which were a joy to behold, especially the fern houses.

As we were leaving, the rain came, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm. Thank you, Jean, for including this wonderful example of the Victorian way of life into our itinerary.

Report by Linda Lister

On a wet Wednesday morning we arrived at Belsay Hall and Gardens. A Greek Revival Hall built in 1807 from sandstone. The outside, although rather plain, was surrounded by magnificent grounds.


The Flag was one of the entries in the Quilting exhibition

Inside there was a treat in store as there was a Quilters Exhibition throughout the downstairs rooms which were displaying many Quilts of different designs and colours.

Glass Horse

The Glass Horse

Hanging in the central hall was a large very impressive 3D horse made of crystal beads on wires by Stella McCartney.

Upstairs, although the rooms were unfurnished they had the original fireplaces and wallpapers.

Out into the wet grounds, past a colourful terrace, then alongside the crocket lawn and into the wood which led to an amazing quarry. Its high walls gave it a cathedral like atmosphere. The microclimate here allows many plants and ferns to grow from its crevices. Walking through the ravines the damp weather seemed to enhance the eerie feel there. Suddenly out of the trees and into the meadow there stood a very impressive castle.

No time to look around as the coach is waiting so back through the quarry and on to the next garden.

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© Maldon U3A 2005.
Last revised: 3rd August, 2005.