North Tynedale and Redesdale
Bellingham is a wonderful base for visitors to the North Tynedale and Redesdale area of Northumberland with its great natural beauty, vibrant communities and lively villages, as well as to Kielder Water and Forest Park, and Hadrian's Wall. Bellingham (local pronunciation: Bellinjum) is a small market town at the edge of the Northumberland National Park in the north east of England, and twelve miles from Hadrian's Wall. Located on the north bank of the North Tyne river, it is surrounded by beautiful wild fells. The town took its name from the De Bellingham family who lived locally. Bellingham is on the Pennine Way.
The town has a full complement of modern amenities from banks to free parking, as well as a golf course, a fitness centre, caravan and camping sites, a tourist information centre and the Heritage Centre (but please note that the petrol station is closed evenings and part of the weekend). The town has three churches (Anglican, Roman Catholic and Methodist/United Reform). A produce and crafts fair is held in the town hall on the second Saturday of each month. A short guide to the town's historical landmarks is available from the tourist office and local shops. Concerts, plays and other entertainments are a regular part of local life. Two local shows, Falstone and Bellingham, held in August celebrate farming life and country ways. The latter, subject of Philip Larkin's poem 'Show Saturday', also has an annual Northumbrian piping competition.
Among the many attractions in Bellingham is the eleventh-century St Cuthbert's church which is built in the early Norman style. Almost unique in England, it has a massive stone roof. Tradition claims that the parish settled on a stone roof because of raids during the Border wars. Other defensive measures include the unusually narrow windows in the nave. The churchyard contains a number of incised and sculptured grave-covers as well as the 'Lang Pack'. Outside the grounds is St Cuthbert's or Cuddy's Well which was once a place of veneration. The church is open every day.
There are many other interesting landmarks. If you want to leave the historical trail try one of the beautiful walks starting in the town: perhaps you will be tempted to meander along the banks of the North Tyne or go up to Dunterley Fell for its panoramic views of the area. One walk definitely not to be missed is the one-and-a-half miles to the Hareshaw Linn waterfall. Look out for plants such as woodruff, golden saxifrage, oak fern, beech fern as you go as well as the remains of old ironworks. Red squirrels are often seen at the waterfall.
Photograph of Bellingham (copyright Neil Denham)