TYNEDALE AT WAR, 1939-45, by Brian Tilley. Published by Pen and Sword Books (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk). £12.99. Softback.

BRAWLING Australians, Polish pilots burning to seek revenge for the German invasion of their country, the German officer who drowned while trying to escape from a South Tyne prisoner of war camp, and the pub landlady who watered down her gin in order, she claimed, to prevent naïve Land Army girls getting drunk – it was all part of life in Tynedale as the district went to war.

Many men from Tynedale lost their lives on active service and there were tragedies on the Home Front too. At remote Coanwood 24 men were left dead or seriously injured when a training exercise went badly wrong, and an exploding ammunition train at Hexham railway station left three men dead.

This book deals with the everyday impact of six years of war on the district, from the arrival of gravely wounded soldiers from Dunkirk at Hexham Emergency Hospital through to dealing with thousands of often louse-ridden evacuees from industrial Tyneside, the heroics of local servicemen and the antics of the Home Guard.


RECORDS AND RECOLLECTIONS OF THE ALN AND BREAMISH VALLEYS, edited by Bridget Winstanley. Email: bridgetwinstanley@gmail.com to order. £7.50 + £4.25 p&p. Softback.

ON offer here is a fascinating compilation of extracts from the Journal of the Aln and Breamish Local History Society, from 1971 to 2012. The activities of the original society, under the chairmanship of Father W. J. Nicholson with Miss Mary Brown as secretary, came to an end in 1988 but the society was re-inaugurated in 2004 with Dr Tony Henfrey as president, George Winstanley as chairman, and Bridget Winstanley as secretary and editor of the new series of Records and Recollections.

Included are history, happenings and stories from Glanton, Whittingham, Callaly and Alnham; sections on farming, village policemen, tailors, blacksmiths and travelling traders. One craftsman singled out for attention is Tommy Darling, the last bootmaker to live and work in Whittingham. This well-known character had a false leg made from cork which squeaked when he walked, and which he often detached when embarking on one of his frequent heavy drinking periods – which often lasted for two months.

A sign that he was ‘on the mend’ was when he placed orders for tins of salmon from the village grocers. The tins had to be opened before delivery as Tommy did not own a tin opener.

Other records and recollections feature schooldays memories, churches in the valleys and the Alnwick to Cornhill railway.


THE OLD TRACKS THROUGH THE CHEVIOTS: DISCOVERING THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE BORDER ROADS, by David Jones with Coquetdale Community Archaeology. Available from Northern Heritage Services (www.northern-heritage.co.uk). £14.99. Softback.

SINCE time immemorial roads and tracks have crossed the Cheviot Hills – ancient routes used for smuggling or droving, reiving or shepherding. Prehistoric settlers, Roman invaders and medieval monks have all left their mark with hillforts, camps, farms, mills or whisky stills.

This book, which contains detailed and informative maps, follows the old tracks through the hills, describing and bringing to life the patterns in the landscape that might otherwise be overlooked.

Since it was founded in 2008, Coquetdale Community Archaeology (CCA), which has more than 100 members, has carried out years of research in the Cheviots to uncover mysteries and shed new light on the way these uplands have been changed by the people who lived in them and travelled through them.

In 2010 members rediscovered the long-lost remains of a medieval fulling mill on the River Coquet near Barrowburn. Four seasons of careful excavation uncovered structures both in the river and on the bank, confirming that it had been built nearly 800 years ago by monks from Morpeth.

In recent years CCA has expanded its horizons and with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Park it has focused on the ancient tracks which cross the Cheviots to link England with Scotland, and which form the content of this fully illustrated book.

The author, CCA’s secretary who has managed the project, said: “Very often people see shapes and structures in the hills – mounds, earthworks and ruins – but know little about them. We explain what they are, provide some of their history and how they fitted into contemporary society.”

Among the five border routes mentioned is Clennell Street, which travels from Alwinton to the border and on to Town Yetholm. There is evidence of Iron Age and Bronze Age activities along the route, which may have been known as the Eagle’s Path in the Middle Ages.

The Salter’s Road runs north west from Alnham to Ewartly Shank, then on to High Bleakhope before joining Clennell Street just south of the border. Sites passed along this route include a deserted medieval village, ancient settlements at High Knowes, and the site of a whisky still named after the legendary Black Rory.

The Street is an old drove road which follows a long ridge south from the border to Barrowburn in the Coquet Valley, where CCA excavated a 16th century fulling mill. Buckham’s Walls is a circular route through an agricultural Coquetdale landscape rich in history with many abandoned farmhouses including the 18th century Yearning Hall.

The fifth border road is Dere Street, part of the Roman road that linked York with Scotland. It travels from Rochester, the site of Bremenium Roman Fort, to Chew Green Roman Fort in the upper Coquet Valley, then over the border to Pennymuir.