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Celebrating and protecting
the rich cultural
heritage, landscape
and wildlife of

Working with local people in the Rede Valley, we have successfully secured an award of £1.8 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, to celebrate Redesdale’s rich cultural heritage and to protect and enhance the area’s landscape and wildlife.

On 25th January 2022 the Revitalising Redesdale team gave an online presentation about the overall Revitalising Redesdale programme so far, including Natural Redesdale and Lost Redesdale archaeology activities, together with Community Engagement and Activity proposals for the coming year. The talk is now available for you to view below and on our YouTube channel.

Interested in finding out more about what we’re up to? Visit our What’s On page to see upcoming events.

As the forestry industry grew in the early twentieth century, so did the demand for accommodation for forestry workers and their families. One such village was Byrness in Redesdale.

John Pendlebury, Professor of Urban Conservation at Newcastle University, has kindly given us permission to reproduce his article for the Northumbria Gardens Trust about the forestry villages of Kielder, Byrness and Stonehaugh, planned by Thomas Sharp.

Thomas Sharp was a planner and writer of some significance in the middle part of the twentieth century, although he was never in the mainstream. A native north-easterner, raised in fairly humble circumstances on the south-west Durham coalfield, his was an impressive rise in the profession; all the more so due to his tendency throughout his working career to fall out with people! His first polemical text, Town and Countryside, published in 1932, was in part written whilst unemployed as the result of one such falling out. In very brief summary, Sharp celebrated the planning achievements of the Enlightenment period for creating harmonious towns and beautiful countryside. These were inspiration not for imitation but for planning in a contemporary way; for example he believed in a clear separation between town and country and was very scathing about the contemporary planning ethos, originating in garden-city ideas, which created low density suburbia. The way of building in the countryside was not through ribbon development and sprawl but through creating new villages.

His work in the north-east was primarily in Durham and for the Forestry Commission. In Durham he produced the well-known 1945 plan Cathedral City (part of a slew of such plans he produced at this time for historic cities including Oxford, Exeter, Salisbury and Chichester) and he was employed by the City as consultant advisor for many years subsequently. For the Forestry Commission he was initially engaged in 1946 to masterplan eight villages for its forestry workers (ten had initially been suggested), each of which would house between 350 and 500 people. The forests of Kielder, Wark and Redesdale were undergoing massive expansion and it was anticipated a large workforce would be needed close by. Sharp and others argued that rather than scattered small groups of houses, which had been the policy of the Forestry Commission up until that time, houses should be grouped into villages of sufficient size to sustain community facilities. This was to be a phased work; the Commission decided they immediately needed 150 houses which Sharp recommended be divided between three sites; Kielder (60 houses, adding to some earlier inter-war semis), Byrness (50 houses) and Stonehaugh (45 houses); though these settlements would be incomplete he considered that they would be of sufficient size to give some community and village character.

AreaVillageNo of dwellingsNotes
 Plashetts100Low priority, site now under reservoir
 Mounces100Low priority, site now under reservoir
RedesdaleRochester80?Long-term village expansion
Forestry village intentions May 1947. (Earlier proposals included expansion of Falstone but site susceptible to flooding and Coldcotes in Wark area amalgamated with Stonehaugh proposal.)

There were already a number of buildings at Kielder. The castle of course, but also various houses, some built in the inter-war period for the Forestry Commission and mostly located in the Kielder Station area. Though Kielder was an obvious place to develop a village at the outset it was seen to be challenging because of the scattered and disparate existing buildings. There was a debate over whether village extension should take place around the station but Sharp was firmly of the view that it should be on the new site of Butteryhaugh (though there is in practice also some post-war development around the station). The completed plan would have established a more satisfactory visual relationship with the castle than exists today – Sharp orientated one of his informal spaces at the entrance to Butteryhaugh to capture the view up the hill. Byrness and Stonehaugh were virgin sites. Comb was to have been the fourth village, again a virgin site, with a linear plan running along an isolated ridge in the Tarset Valley.

In undertaking his designs Sharp was mindful of his own writings on villages, particularly in his classic 1946 text The Anatomy of the Village and his conclusion that most English villages, especially in the north, have a strongly nucleated form. At the same time he strove for a reasonably organic and non-formal plan, without axial treatments and so on; a kind-of ordered informality. So Sharp planned terraces (he was a great believer in terraces and streets) with occasional semi-formal spaces and focus on community buildings. Building in stone was not possible so he proposed white or near-white colourwash as a finish. In Sharp’s view the frontage of properties was essentially part of the public domain. The modest front gardens in front of houses were to be left open and grassed as part of the wider composition. Private space was to be found in the long rear gardens.

Like so many of Sharp’s commissions things were not to work out as he wished; indeed in his unpublished autobiography, Chronicles of Failure, he goes as far as saying that the Forestry Commission was the worst client he had! This had been an important project to him, ‘I felt that what would most satisfy me in life, what would most justify me ever having lived, what would crown a whole life’s work, would be to build a good new village and write a good, even if very short, lyrical poem’ (p247). Though he was not architect for the houses built he was not unhappy with these (these were by Robert Mauchlen of Mauchlen & Weightman). Rather, the problem was that the works were not continued, as the mechanisation of forestry work and improving communications meant that the scale of workforce estimated to needed on site dropped rapidly. Kielder and Stonehaugh were only ¼ to 1/3 completed – Byrness rather more so and Sharp felt it rather more successful as the part that was constructed was more self-contained – the remainder of the village would have been the other side of a stream (Sharp’s favourite was perhaps Comb, abandoned all together). Furthermore, the Forestry Commission refused to provide the necessary community buildings including basic needs such as a shop or pub and he was often unhappy with details such as bridges. Only after much pressure did they provide £5 or so per village for amenity tree planting!

Visiting the three villages today, the overall planning of the parts that were built, in terms of the combinations of buildings and the spaces that link them, stands up fail well in my view. One suspects, though, that Sharp would not have been too impressed with some of the attempts to personalise both houses and the gardens to the front. At the same time understanding something of the history explains what is so unsatisfying in each case – they are fragments, in the cases of Byrness and Stonehaugh little more than a series of terraced houses, not the complete and coherent villages Sharp wanted. The experience is perhaps most dispiriting at Kielder, however. For at Kielder further development has taken place and rather than using the Sharp plan as a key for growing the village the building has been haphazard and unrelated to what went before, architecturally, but more importantly in terms of siting.

John Pendlebury


Sharp, T. (1932). Town and Countryside: Some Aspects of Urban and Rural Development. Oxford, University Press.

Sharp, T. (1945). Cathedral City: A Plan for Durham. London, Architectural Press.

Sharp, T. (1946). The Anatomy of the Village. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin.

Sharp, T. (1953). “The English Village.” Design in Town and Village, T. Sharp, F. Gibberd, and W. G. Holford, eds., HMSO, London, 1-19.

Sharp, T. (1949). “Village Design.” Journal of the Town Planning Institute, 35(5), 137-148.

Sharp, T. (c. 1973). Chronicles of Failure. GB 186 THS. Newcastle upon Tyne: 296.

Stansfield, K. (1981). “Thomas Sharp 1901-1978.” Pioneers in British Planning, G. Cherry, ed., The Architectural Press, London, 150-176.

This article also draws upon the Special Collection of Sharp papers, Newcastle University. This collection is currently subject to an AHRC Resource Enhancement Grant.

A plan of Kielder village.
A model of Kielder village.
A plan of Byrness village.

Redesdale Revitalises led by Newcastle University student volunteers ‘Go Volunteer’, is helping new groups to explore and enjoy being outdoors in Redesdale’s tranquil, rural environment. Here’s a report and photos by Mike Duckett from Go Volunteer about their latest activities….

This summer two young people from El Salvador had a chance to spend time in Redesdale as part of a teenagers’ residential. In October an opportunity was spotted to let them introduce their families and others to the area – to show off their experiences and the confidence they’d gained. So a day trip was organised by Redesdale Revitalises with families who are supported by N.E.S.T (North East Solidarity and Teaching). These are families who have a similar shared background but do not know or live near each other, so another purpose of the trip was to give them a shared experience and allow them to feel more connected as a community.

We arranged for local activity provider, John Hartshorne, to set up an archery activity at Otterburn’s RTC centre – kindly opened for us by volunteers, and we ordered a bulk order of pizzas from the Border Reiver shop. Three Spanish speaking University volunteers helped translate during the trip, (especially useful for the archery safety!), and the two experienced young people also did a fantastic job of keeping the chatter on the minibus journey lively so that everyone felt included. It worked really well as a social trip, and the archery was something that everyone – from 5 year old Jason to the adults alike – really got into. When the pizzas arrived it was hard to stop the competitive spirit as everyone aimed for the target board balloons and beating their personal bests. Some participants brought food to share, and then we moved on to our second Redesdale location of the day, Rupert’s Wood.

In summer we’d used the woodland for fire and games and getting safely lost in the high bracken. The young people had been led on a circuitous and confusing route through the head-high vegetation, manoeuvred into a stream crossing to get them helping each other (or facing the challenge in their own way), and then once disoriented, they had been given the challenge of finding their independent way back to the fire site. This time, the two young people were instructed to repeat the challenge and their smart young brains immediately and accurately followed the original random route around the camp. With their families following them, they selected an easier stream crossing and led the column of followers in a loop past the original point of return, across a big ditch, until yes, they got lost in a wild wood in Redesdale. We gently led them to ramble through the undergrowth back to basecamp where the whole group gathered around a fire we made together. Sticks were sharpened for marshmallows as the music and singing started. What’s more, the weather was kind to us right up to the point at which we had to leave Redesdale.

Bridget Stratford made a video of the experience, following the perspective of the youngest member of the group, 5 year old Jason. The young people who attended are now pestering us to organise a Christmas trip back to Redesdale, and we are probably going to let them succeed in this.

We’re excited to share the details of the first photography walk by White Oak Studios, part of one of our Community Heritage Fund projects, with more walks planned over the coming months! It’s the first walk of the Autumn 2021 series, with further dates below and future season’s dates to be announced.

The first walk of the first series of photography walks in Redesdale takes place this Saturday, 16th October in West Woodburn. Walkers and photography beginners or enthusiasts alike are invited to attend one or more walks to photograph the landscape, flora and fauna. You need not be an expert in photography or even have a camera (your phone is fine!).

Christine Woodcock will lead the walk and show you wonderful sights to capture and offer ideas and technical tips. The
groups are limited to ten, making the sessions supportive and informative.

Tickets cost £10. For further information, please visit To book a place,
please email Chris at or telephone her on 07737 518867.

Autumn 2021 dates

Saturday 16th October 2021: Woodburn
Saturday 23rd October 2021: Otterburn Village Trail
Saturday 30th October 2021: Elsdon Village Green
Saturday 6th November 2021: Hindhope Linn & Three Kings

This walk series is organised in partnership with Revitalising Redesdale Landscape Partnership and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

We’re very pleased to announce the arrival of our new Programme Manager!

Bruce Wilkinson has joined us as the Revitalising Redesdale Programme Manager – pictured below at East Woodburn Bridge enjoying one of the Corsenside Country Walks. Bruce has been out and about in Redesdale over the last few weeks looking at all we have achieved so far – the river restoration projects such as Smoutel Ford; peatland restoration on Steng Moss; the rather fantastic Blakehope Nick shelter; the repairs to Ridsdale Iron Works and the fort High Rochester; Community Grant funded repairs to the pews at St Francis in Byrness and archaeological dig sites on the Otterburn Ranges.

We’re very excited to share the news that Redesdale will be the subject of BBC Radio 4’s Open Country on Thursday 3rd December at 3:00pm! It will be repeated on Saturday 5th at 6:07am and on the BBC Sounds website.

The programme will explore the Revitalising Redesdale Landscape Partnership, featuring peatland restoration at Whitelee Moor National Nature Reserve; the improvement of the River Rede for people and wildlife including freshwater pearl mussels and the Battle of Otterburn. Tune in to discover the rich heritage that makes up this wild and beautiful landscape!

For more details visit the BBC Radio 4 Open Country website.

Revitalising Redesdale has continued to make progress this year on the catchment-wide effort to improve the River Rede for wildlife and people. Enthusiastic farmers and land managers are helping the partners to re-establish natural river processes, capture sediment, create wetlands, plant trees and manage grazing.  Partners also rebuilt the historic Smoutel Ford, allowing walkers and riders to enjoy trails between Monkridge Hill and Otterburn for the first time in decades.

We were very excited to hear what a close connection local artist Mary Ann Rogers has with the Rede.  Here Mary Ann shares how she finds a different perspective of the River when she’s away from the easel…

What do artists do when they’re not painting? It’s a commonly asked question. The first place to look might be in the River Rede, as I am a keen outdoor swimmer. One of five children, spending our weekends and holidays by the sea, we swam every day regardless of the weather or temperature of the water. When not swimming in the sea, we would search out pools in rivers like the famous Linhope Spout, at the head of the River Breamish, for daredevil jumping and swimming under the waterfall.

Living in West Woodburn, the River Rede is temptingly close, and it has many quiet, safe pools and stretches of deep water to enjoy swimming in. A summer adventure included a swim, while the level was high following heavy rainfall, from the bridge at Otterburn to the restored Smoutel Ford at Monkridge Hill. This type of swim gives a unique opportunity to see wildlife at close hand. River dwellers are less wary of swimmers than walkers and it’s not unusual to observe salmon, mallard, teal, goosanders and kingfishers. The encounters with wildfowl and other creatures are magical.

I swim in the Rede all the year round. Last week we saw a heron, plus a salmon leap clean out of the water! As the weather gets colder, the swims get shorter. In freezing weather, it’s not unusual to break the ice in the regular swimming pool but only for a very short dip, maybe just a few minutes. It’s essential to listen to your body, to get out before early stages of hypothermia kick in, then get dry, dressed and warm as fast as possible.

Wild swimming is not for everyone, but recent research seems to indicate that cold water swimming can prevent dementia as well as being beneficial for mental health; just the thing for artists.

Photo credit: Mary Ann Rogers.
Photo credit: Mary Ann Rogers.

Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Mary Ann for her photographs and for giving us permission to share her article from the Redesdale and Three Kirks News newsletter (Issue 104: Monday, 2 November 2020).

Hi everyone! My name’s Katie, and I’m the new Programme Officer for Revitalising Redesdale. I joined the project earlier this month and would like to introduce myself! I’m really excited to be on board.

My chapter in the north-east started when I relocated to Newcastle upon Tyne in May this year from Leicestershire as soon as restrictions allowed. I must admit, although I’d already visited many times, it was very strange moving to a new city in the middle of lockdown. Luckily, since then I’ve been able to explore the north-east a little. Unsurprisingly, as a massive fan of nature, history and rambling, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the region, especially once we made our way into Northumberland. From Boulmer to Kielder, I became totally enchanted. And then along came Redesdale…

By the time that I was invited to join the project, I hadn’t ventured as far as Redesdale! When I found out that I’d been appointed, the following weekend my partner and I decided to have an impromptu gander around the valley, stopping for a while at Carter Bar. We were very lucky with the weather, something which I’ve since realised is far from being a guarantee! I was in awe of the valley’s remote beauty and couldn’t wait to get to know the area better.

The view towards Scotland from Carter Bar. Photo credit: Katie Bridger.

On our way home, we decided to stop for lunch at the William de Percy Inn in Otterburn. I still regret not choosing one of their famous crêpes (I know, I have no idea why either), but now I have an excellent excuse to return! One thing that I’m sure you’ll find out about me soon enough is that I’m a massive fan of the natural world. I’m a keen birdwatcher, but my love also includes plants and trees (and especially propagating them, much to my partner’s dismay!). To celebrate my new role, we also visited a garden centre on our way back and I finally became the proud owner of a Red Robin tree! It was a little tricky getting it into the car…

Optimistic tree purchasing! Photo credit: Katie Bridger.

After our initial foray into Redesdale, I didn’t have too long to wait before my first week in my new role. I was given the grand tour of Redesdale, this time through the eyes of the project. From the infamous horse skulls at Elsdon to the nineteenth-century reservoir at Catcleugh (and substantially soggier weather up at Carter Bar in comparison to my previous visit!), it was a perfect introduction to the spellbinding tales that Redesdale has to offer. We were also treated to a stunning view at the end of the day, courtesy of the River Rede. If you’ve visited Redesdale, I’m sure you’ll have seen how beautiful the colours are there, whatever the weather (if you haven’t – do go!). It’ll be lovely to see them change as the year trundles on.

Beautiful autumn colours at Catcleugh Reservoir. Photo credit: Katie Bridger.
Late afternoon sunshine by the River Rede. Photo credit: Katie Bridger.

My passion for the natural world also extends into the historic past. I’m a landscape historian by trade and completed my PhD in the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester a couple of years ago. I am fascinated by our relationship with the natural world, past and present, and in that wonderfully intimate connection between people and place. I spent quite a lot of time thinking and writing about how the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Leicestershire gentry influenced and were influenced by the world around them, so it’s great to now be firmly based in border reiver territory! I’m also on the board for the British Association for Local History, so I’m super invested in local and regional history more generally.

So what does my role involve exactly? Well, in a nutshell, I’m stepping into the shoes of my brilliant predecessor, Nick Lightfoot. I’ll mostly be desk-based accompanied by spreadsheets and reports, but there’ll be plenty of opportunities for getting better acquainted with Redesdale too! I’ll definitely be making some noise about our Community Heritage Fund so you’ll be hearing more from me about that soon. I’ll also be working with our wonderful team and partners on our projects, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone, so if you happen to see me out and about in Redesdale with the team, come and say hello!

Latest News & Events

Battle of Otterburn Guided Walk & Talk

July 2, 2022 10:30 am

Talk & short guided walk about the Battle of Otterburn recent research findings led by the Battlefields Trust

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