Berwick upon Tweed is the northernmost town in England. The surrounding area is full of interesting history from the political battles between England and Scotland and even Russia. Today, the people are quite friendly and the countryside around Berwick is rugged and beautiful. Salmon made the fortunes of many in Berwick and also grain. The farmland in the Berwick hinterland is still very productive.
The bridge in the foreground was ordered to be built by King James of Scotland (and later England) because the wooden bridge he had to traverse did not inspire him with much confidence. He'd had a bad experience - nearly drowning while fording the river on a horse - but the stone bridge wasn't completed until around 26 years later. The bridge links Edinburgh, Berwick, Tweedsmouth and Spittal with the Great North Road south and London.
The concrete road bridge in the middle was built in the last century partly to give employment to local people in one of the depressing times of higher than normal unemployment and partially to cater for increasing road traffic. Unfortunately the new road entered the town in the centre and caused more congestion - until the bypass was built recently.The viaduct in the distance was engineered by Stevenson (of Rocket fame not the Treasure) and provides a splendid view of the Tweed and Berwick from the train and also looks attractive from the river. Unfortunately, Stevenson vandalized the remains of Berwick castle by plonking his station in the middle of it. There is a notice in the station stating that it is built where the castle once stood. What is left of the old castle ruins can be seen in the store-yard nearby (It should be safe there for a while). Berwick railway station is one of the nicer stops on the East-coast rail network and only 45 minutes from Newcastle and Edinburgh.
The triple-storied Lion house in the back-ground is said to be one that the painter LS Lowry was considering buying but never did. As he lived alone it seems he made the right decision. It does have a splendid view over the walls and out to sea though - and he liked to paint sea-scapes.
The smaller building inside the walls is the magazine. Maybe this was the reason Lowry didn't buy the Lion house although I think it might have been empty when he viewed? The magazine is only open to the public one day each year.
The inside of the magazine reminded me of a cave with the lines of oak barrels but the contents of these are more explosive.
The barrels have been restored and painted. Copper is used because it doesn't cause sparks if rubbed on other metals or the masonary.
This tunnel provided a safe exit from the Cumberland bastion for Elizabethan man (probably plus helmet and pike) but I had to stoop down as I walked through. It is closed 364 days a year. I just happened to be there on the 365th.
The wide top of Berwick town wall is grassed and makes a pleasant walk with a good view all around. Elizabethan man wouldn't have been seen dead up here. If he had he would have been but the massive fortifications were never used in anger.
There is a story that Berwick upon Tweed changed hands between the fighting english and scots and french so many times that it is still officially at war with Russia (it couldn't get any more bizarre than that.) I don't think that this story is true. As far as I am aware, Berwick upon Tweed wasn't mentioned as a separate political entity in the original documents but it is a rather nice story about political daftness.
Forgetting politicians, the walls now make pleasant walks for we normal people. I suppose they can be compared with the pyramids. There was probably a similar amount of earth, masonry, forced labour and desperation used in their construction - and the usefulness to people was about the same but these mounds now provide a pleasant area to stroll around and contemplate the limited vision of political leaders throughout the ages - if we need any reminding.
The bastions each held 2 large cannons pointing parallel to the wall and aiming at the next bastion along the wall. It was hoped that the cannon shot from one bastion would not reach the opposite bastion but would cut down would-be attackers. It makes me pleased that I live in more enlightened times. (You might notice the pinch of irony in that last statement.)
I like the apparent unplanned nature of this town and the wide areas of green and the fact that I don't feel dominated or threatened by the architecture as I often do in some cities. Many architects have created a mass civilization of oppressive banality and they probably might be better if they started to think about people more and the effects some of their monstrous constructions have on the people who have to live with them.
Another view inside the walled town. This is 'The Avenue' with an attractive white-painted house at the far end. Close-by there are ruined walls of what could have been a very old place of worship or even a monastery. There is an air of genteel decay about some areas of the old town.
Houses around the community centre (the gable-end centre-left) on East Palace street. This image was taken from the top of the old walls.
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