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Redesdale’s villages 

As you explore Redesdale you’ll find villages and communities where you can stop off for refreshments, or to stay for a night or two. 

  • Rochester – this peaceful hamlet is close to a number of Roman remains, including Bremenium Roman Fort and a Roman cemetery. The village has a Post Office and also boasts the last café in England, Rochester Relish. Find out more about Rochester
  • West Woodburn – a bustling village with its own Post Office, garage and petrol station, and local shop. There are also lots of accommodation options for people looking to explore the area in more detail. Find out more about West Woodburn
  • Otterburn – here you’ll find the Border Reiver Village Shop and Café, Otterburn Mill Shop and Café, and the William de Percy Inn and Creperie (formerly the Percy Arms). Otterburn is also home to St. John the Evangelist Church, designed by John Dobson, and has a range of hotels, B&Bs and self catering cottages. Find out more about Otterburn.
  • Ridsdale – whilst it may be smaller than some of the other village hubs in Redesdale, what Ridsdale lacks in size, it makes up for in historical importance, and visitors flock to Ridsdale to explore its ironworks, which helped create the village you see today. Find out more about Ridsdale.
  • Elsdon – Elsdon was the largest and most important village in Redesdale for hundreds of years. Now it’s a characterful place with a number of important historic sites including the Winter’s Gibbet, the village green, a motte and bailey castle, Elsdon Tower and St. Cuthbert’s Church. Find out more about Elsdon

The Redeswire Fray 

Carter Bar was the site of the Redeswire Fray – sometimes known as the Raid of the Redeswire – which was the final border skirmish fought between the Scots and the English. 

On 7 July 1575, fighting broke out at what started as a regular ‘Truce Day’ meeting between wardens who had responsibility for overseeing a specific area of land. The Truce Days had been created as part of an attempt to impose law and order on the troubled borderlands, with the area divided into three areas of opposing ‘marches’, each under the supervision of a warden.

On this day, Sir John Forster, Warden of the English Middle March (an area which contains Redesdale today) met with his Scottish counterpart, Sir John Carmichel, Keeper of Liddesdale. 

Forster is alleged to have been something of a rogue, with historian Beryl Holmes, in her book, Tales of the Border Reivers, saying “…there were many accusations of misconduct against him and the misuse of his office as warden.”

One of the topics of discussion was an English man who had stolen from a Scot; Carmichael demanded that the thief be sent to Scotland to face justice, and Forster responded that this was impossible as the man had escaped custody, but promised to produce him at the next Truce Day meeting. 

Insults were traded and shots were fired, with the Scottish contingent boosted by the arrival of a second group of men from Jedburgh. The number of men who died varies according to different reports, but we know that Sir George Heron, Forster’s Deputy Warden was killed, and others were captured by the Scots. Hundreds of cattle were also stolen from local farms. 

And so the Truce Days, which had been created in order to help maintain peace on the border, resulted in death, bloodshed and the continuation of the feuds which underpinned the culture of Border Reiving. 

Dark skies in Redesdale 

The vast majority of Redesdale falls within the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park which was unveiled in December 2013. At 572 square miles (1,483 square kilometres), it is Europe’s largest area of protected night sky and has been awarded gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association, making it officially the best place in England for people to go to see sights such as the Milky Way, meteorite showers and the Aurora.

A number of local businesses, such as the Redesdale Arms, offer dark skies weekends with local astronomers, and many accommodation providers are often fully booked over winter weekends with visitors wanting to experience the dark skies for themselves. 

Exterior lights in a number of locations, including Elsdon, have been replaced with lights that minimise light spill, as recommended by the International Dark-Sky Association, and you will see dark skies interpretation panels dotted throughout Redesdale, with more information on what you can see in our night skies. 

More about Whitelee Moor National Nature Reserve

Whitelee Moor is recognised as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) thanks to its blanket bog and heather heaths. The wider National Nature Reserve has been designated both an SAC and a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). It forms part of a larger area known as the Border Mires, Kielder and Butterburn Special Areas of Conservation.

Blanket bog is a type of peatland which is only found in a few places in the world, often where the climate is cool and wet. These conditions encourage plants like bog mosses and cotton grasses to grow which, when they die, break down very slowly to form layers of peat which can be up to eight metres deep. 

On the lower slopes of Whitelee Moor you’ll find the heather moorland. The heather’s delicate pink flowers appear from August to October and this area is home to wildlife including buzzards, peregrine falcons, the small heath butterfly and the northern eggar moth.

Wildlife in Redesdale

Redesdale’s wild and rugged landscapes of grasslands, bogs and mires provide the perfect habitat for wildlife to thrive.

Cattle and sheep craze the mosaic rushy pastures throughout the year, whilst curlews and lapwings flourish in the wetter areas of land.

If you walk across the fells around Carter Bar and Whitlee you might see a herd of feral goats which were first brought to Britain in Neolithic times. The feral goats in Northumberland are some of the best examples of this primitive goat. Herds of feral goats can also be found in hilly areas of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and other parts of England. 

And if you look up to the skies you’ll be able to see some spectacular birds of prey, including hen harriers, buzzards, merlins and peregrines, which all share the Redesdale landscape.

Bat species, including pipistrelles, brown long-eared, whiskered/Brandt’s and Natterer’s bats, have been sighted in trees and buildings and structures across Redesdale. The valley is also an important site for reptiles and amphibians, with significant populations of adders and common toads based in the area.

The River Rede supports a wide range of wildlife, many of which are threatened or protected species. Together with the North Tyne, the River Rede is one of the only places in England currently supporting a significant population of freshwater pearl mussels. Otters – a European protected species – are also widespread along the river and its tributaries.

Migratory Atlantic salmon and brown trout thrive in the waters of the River Rede and the wealth of fish in the river support the population of kingfishers, dippers and herons.

Despite being a military training area, the Otterburn ranges are a haven for wildlife. Barn owl nesting boxes at Otterburn Camp have led to an increase in barn owl chicks. Merlin, buzzards and black grouse can also be found across this remote area of the National Park.

Find out more about other places to visit in Redesdale through the landing pages for the interpretation panels along the valley.
For information about self guided walks in the area see our walks page with downloadable pdfs of 18 walk routes.