THE PLACE NAMES OF THE OLD COUNTY OF NORTHUMBERLAND: THE CHEVIOT HILLS AND DALES, by Jonathan West. Published by Northern Heritage ( £9.99. Softback.

IN this first volume of a series of books by a local author on the county’s place names, the meanings of many local place names are discussed in print for the first time. A useful guide to pronunciation is given, as well as National Grid references to pinpoint exact locations.

The book is intended to help general readers discover the possible origins – the etymologies – of the names of towns, villages, rivers and other natural features. Some names have been recorded for over a thousand years while others have little or no history, so some derivations are more plausible than others.

After an introduction outlining the main sources of information used, Jonathan West guides the reader on a series of journeys through the area discussing the place names along the route in their geographical context, as well as in the light of serious academic research.

Interesting possible derivations include Lousey Law, above Colt Crag reservoir, which may have been named because the hill was infected by lice for which the Old English word is lus. High and Low Moralee in the North Tyne Valley may derive from the Old English moriga for a swampy area, rather than a reference to standards of behaviour. The Drake Stone near Harbottle might reflect the Old English word draco for dragon, rather than the name for a male duck.

Coquet is a name generally thought to derive from the Old English words coc for bird and wudu for wood. And nearby Simonside could be so named after the Middle English word side and meaning the hill of Sigemund.