Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Bellingham Walk and Memories From 1988

Despite the rain and a dreary wet forecast we decided on a walk from the campsite at Boe Rigg to the village of Bellingham and then up to Hareshaw Linn, returning to Boe Rigg via footpaths to the north of the village. Don't expect many pics mind, it was too grey and miserable most of the time.

The first mile took us along the main road, before branching off and heading alongside the north Tyne to the centre of the village. The last time I was in Bellingham was 25 years ago and Pan Am flight 103 had just been blown up over Lockerbie. Ten days of searching Kielder Forest and the hills west towards Lockerbie for wreckage was tempered by the friendly welcome and hospitality we received from the locals.

01M-6885 Pan Am 103 Incident Room Bellingham Copyright David Forster
Bags of labelled aircraft wreckage and personal effects from Pan Am 103. Bellingham village hall

01M-6891 Pan Am 103 Incident Room Bellingham Copyright David Forster.
Incident room with Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue Team members taking a break.

Just like before people were friendly and everyone we met today either nodded, or spoke. On the Sunday when Graham's campervan alarm kept sounding in the middle of the village, there was even some good natured if rather merciless pi$$ taking from a few old blokes that I can only describe as Northumberland's version of "Last of the Summer Wine".

"Oy look everyone that lot is trying to nick yon van, arrest them". And "What's tha playin at we're a sleepy village, am gannin home I canna hear mesell think". All shouted at the tops of voices from one side of the street to the other. When we apologised and said at least it's after eleven, one old fella said, "aye but thall wake all the teenagers".

After a very civilised cafe stop we headed along to the start of Hareshaw Dene and noticed that there has been some emergency repairs to the bank sides of the burn to try and protect the houses. This area was hit by the thunderstorms of June 2012 which also caused some serious flooding throughout the Pennines.

01M-6812 Emergency repairs to alleviate damage caused by Harshaw Burn flooding

I have since found out, that residents blame repairs carried out to the opposite side of the burn and the removal of material from their side for their gardens subsiding. It's really is sad to see the homes of these folk under threat.

Children told to keep out of gardens as landslip fears grow

The 2012 storm was not as bad as the 14th May 1911 thunderstorm that hit the village. This storm was very localised and only affected the watershed above Bellingham. The flooding badly damaged a number of houses and businesses in the village and caused some buildings to partially collapse. In those days few people if any had anything resembling insurance and it is said that both village grocery businesses were ruined, along with the local Blacksmith who lost all of his tools. Fortunately it happened during the day, rather than at night and no lives were lost.

The 1911 Flood

Video of the 2012 Flood

Accompanied by rain and the slop of boots in mud we headed up towards Hareshaw Linn. Even in winter with trees bare of leaves this ancient woodland has the atmosphere of a dripping rain forest and it must be a wonderful place to visit in the spring, or indeed autumn when the leaves turn.

01M-6855 Waterfall in Hareshaw Dene Near Bellingham Northumberland England UK.
There are several waterfalls along the way. This one is just downstream from the main fall

Eventually we made it to the main fall at the top of the gorge.

01M-6846 Hiker Hareshaw Linn Near Bellingham Northumberland England UK
Hareshaw Linn

After a break for pics and food we made our way across the fields and moorland to the north of the village to arrive back at the campsite just as it got dark.

I am certainly not leaving it another 25 years to head back, it's a wonderful area even in the rain.

Text/images copyright David Forster www.bluestoneimages.com


  1. very interesting post and wonderful waterfall pictures!

    1. Thank you taking the time to comment Lindsey. Woodland and waterfalls, they fit together perfectly don't they. Nice places for inspiration too. I have just had a quick look on your blog and I love the reflective face in the Silver Birch log (May 2012 post). I always look for interesting shapes and pattern in the bark of trees, but have never seen one with that impact - a true woodland spirit.

  2. Hi David. That was interesting, and certainly a bit tragic in places. I had no idea the debris from flight 103 was scattered across such a wide area.
    It's not an place I know, despite having cycled through Bellingham in about 1994 and continued through Kielder and down to the Lakes. I should go back and take another look.
    Loved those comments from the old boys. Characters like that make the world go round. I hope I've got the wits to shout things across the street when I've reached that age. Not that I'm in a hurry, mind.
    Great pictures as usual!
    Cheers, Alen

    1. Hi Alen
      I think the searching of Kielder and the Pennines west of there mainly appeared in the northern newspapers and local TV at the time. Many of us have always been a bit reticent in mentioning anything about it as we were concerned that anything made public might have prejudiced a fair trial. Pretty naive considering all the conspiracy theories, books and TV programs made since then. It was the northeast where the T-shirt known as the Hizbulha T-shirt was found (whether it actually represented that organisation I don't know for sure), along with significant amounts of money. It has all been made public over the years, but even now the authorities still refuse to confirm, or even acknowledge some of what was seen and found. This is despite the fact a number of us witnessed the finds. I only really mention it on here as some of the more senior team members have since died and these stories should be recorded by those who were there rather than second hand in the papers or on TV.

      Anyway on a lighter note those old boys really were great characters and really gave us a laugh. I bet it was a great bike ride through the area in 1995, although in summer it's probably the best way to experience the place given the midges. You should head back sometime as there is a great mix of industrial heritage, alongside some interesting walking. Cheers, David

  3. Great to see this side of the Incident thank you all for doing such a difficult task. it is well worth sharing.
    God bless you all.