Berwick upon Tweed-Sights of Sounds

Berwick upon Tweed- Sights and Sounds

The train ride from London to Berwick is as heroic as it is moving. As the train pulls out of  beautifully renovated Kings Cross one soon sees the Arsenal Emirates stadium, then its  the glass magnificence of Alexander Palace. Rushing though the  dull home  counties one  comes to Peterborough Cathedral where poor Catherine of Aragon lies.  Past the great power stations of South Yorkshire and one is  looking at York Minster and now the great thoroughbred, the  Flying Scotsman. This iron horse is stabled in the Railway Museum  next to the main line.

Next its that greatest of cathedrals Durham, and  then over the Tyne at Newcastle with its  triumphant row of bridges. The Northumberland coast with its wide beaches soon gives up Lindisfarne and Holy Island and then you cross the Tweed on the  magnificent Coronation Bridge built by Stephenson in the 1840s. To  stand beneath and watch a train go over this Royal Border Bridge brings out the train set boy.

The cycle ride from Berwick to Holy Island is about 15 miles. The causeway to the island is only open around four hours a day.  The cycle track is no more than a bog in places so it was hard  going. But in parts the views are  equal to those on the West Coast of  Scotland and Ireland. Broad wind swept beaches with nothing but  the haunting  seagulls, the sea on that day was on its best  behaviour, the sky ice blue and  bitterly cold. To the East  the Cheviots wearing their winter bonnets of white lace.

St Marys has been a pilgrim destination for  nearly 2000 years. It was one of the springboards  for Celtic Christianity when it brought a torch to the Dark Ages . On the day I was there a party came,lit  candles and prostrated themselves. Whatever turns you on. Me? I support the pagan Arsenal. I couldn’t stay long, the tide was turning. The  fierce wind on my return exhausted me.

The River Tweed is one of Europe’s many blood stained border streams. The blood that has polluted this water has been spilled to the  mournful cry of bagpipes and the steady beat of fife and drum.  Saxon and Celt., Pict and Roman have all  in their turn failed to swim this salmon rich  river. Berwick( barley farm) and its rich hinterland has been fought over so often that the town has  been taken and retaken 13 times. Its proudest buildings are a rare church built by Cromwell,(no idolatrous tower or steeple!) the  Elizabethan city walls and the barracks(Hawksmoor) of the Kings Own Loyal Borderers. Away the Jocks!

It was along the Tweed  I walked one day  to Paxton House   which declares itself “a Georgian gem”.  Sorry  closed. Once again there was bog, in places the riverside path is almost impassable because of driftwood. But then there were wide stretches  where the only companions were the tragic herons and the always busy ducks. But pride of place went to the lapwings/plovers or better named pewits. I disturbed a flock feeding on a sodden meadow and off they went. Flying  a foot above the Tweed for half a mile singing their sad but distinctive tune.

My birdbook tells me that “prostitutes and deceitful women were known in the  seventeenth century as Plovers, while betrayal was added to the lapwings  list of vices  by the Protestant Covenanters of Scotland who claimed the bird’s call gave them away to their  pursuers.” Aye, none like us.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s