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Northumberland National Park

Hadrians Wall Wall town site by Barbara Ballard Northumberland National Park is small at only 405 square miles, but most of it is remote. North, east and south from the Cheviot hills, valleys spin out like the spokes of a wheel. The Border Forest Park lies on the western edge of the national park. Here the forestry commission developed conifer plantations, home to roe deer, fox and badger.

Northumberland sheep on the moors by Barbara Ballard 70% of the park, notably in the center sections near Harbottle and the sandstone escarpment of Simonside, is covered by open grass and heather-covered moorland. Sheep graze here, and grouse moor management takes place.

Bogs are a particularly important habitat in the park, and some are part of a special conservation area. Sphagnum moss and other bog plants such as bog asphodel and cotton grass cover peat up to 32.8 feet in depth in spots.

1% of the park is covered with ancient woodland: oak, birch and alder. There are a small number of ancient hay meadows and meadows restored by seed from them. Wildlife include the red squirrel, curlew and wild Cheviot goats. Invertebrates in the area include the white-clawed crayfish and freshwater pearl mussel. Also in the area are the emperor moth and mountain bumblebee. Rivers and three glacial lakes provide a source of fresh water. The rivers North Tyne, Rede, Coquet, Breamish, Harthope and College Burn rise in the conical Cheviot hills, once part of a volcano.

In the foothills are dry valleys formed from ice age meltwater channels. Waterfalls, known locally as linns, are part of the scenery. The park is home to a number of prehistoric sites. Most notable are two Iron Age hillforts: Lordenshaws with its cup marked rock slab nearby, and Yeavering Bell near Wooler. The Bronze and Iron Age surface archaeology of the National Park is rich due to its lack of arable farming and development over the centuries, resulting in hillforts on most of the Cheviots.

Hadrians Wall House steads by Barbara Ballard The most famous man-made feature in the park is Hadrian's Wall World Heritage site, Romeís attempt to keep marauding Scots in check. Iceland sends its whooper swans to winter in the Greenlee, Broomlee and Crag loughs near the wall. Osprey fish in the loughs. Waders from the coast come to the heather moors to breed in summer.

Because of its location near the border with Scotland, inhabitants built fortified farms (bastles) and manor houses (pele towers). Little is left of 12th century Harbottle Castle, a fortress guarding border passes in upper Coquetdale; it was plundered by villagers for stone. Kirknewton Church, Woodhouses Bastle, Elsdon Pele are surviving examples.

Today, less than 2000 people live in the park, mostly along the park boundaries in towns such as Wooler, Ingram, Rothbury, Elsdon, Bellingham, Simonburn, Hexham, Bardon Mill, Haltwhistle and Greenhead.

Hadrians Wall Wall town site by Barbara Ballard The Pennine Way National Trail runs south to north through the park with the section from Housesteads to Greenhead following Hadrianís wall.

Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water and Forest Park were officially designated Northumberland International Dark Sky Park in December 2013 for the protected and unspoiled night starscapes found here. Northumberland National Parkís official symbol is the curlew.

Visitor Information

Official website: Northumberland National Park

Tourist Information Centres handy for the park:

Ingram National Park Centre
Ingram, Powburn, Alnwick, Northumberland
Tel. 0 1665 578 890
Open: daily, April-Oct, 10am-5pm; closed rest of year
Email: Ingram National Park Centre

Once Brewed National Park Centre Military Rd, Bardon Mill, Hexham
Tel. 0 1434 344 396
Fax. 0 1434 344 487
Open: daily, April-Oct, 9.30am-5pm; rest of year weekends only, 10am-3pm
Email: Once Brewed National Park Centre

Rothbury National Park Centre
Church House, Church Street
Rothbury, Northumberland
Tel. 0 1669 620 887
Fax. 0 1669 620 503
Open: winter: weekends only 10am-3pm; daily April - November, 10am-6pm
Email: Rothbury National Park Centre

National Park Information Point
Muddy Boots Cafe
Ingram, Powburn, Alnwick, Northumberland
Tel. 01665 578120

National Park information Point
Shepherds Walks
Church House, Church Street
Rothbury, Northumberland
01669 621044
Email: Shepherds Walks

Photos © by Barbara Ballard

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