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More about St. Cuthbert
Born in North Northumbria in about the year 635, Cuthbert would go on to become one of medieval England’s most famous people, and one of the country’s most significant saints.
He was a monk, bishop and hermit and is often called the patron saint of the North of England.
During his life he served as the prior at Lindisfarne and at the monastery at Melrose, in the Scottish borders. He worked as a missionary, travelled the country and became hugely popular, preaching to the people and reportedly performing many miracles.
In 676, aged in his late 40s, Cuthbert retired and lived as a hermit on the Farne Islands. He was called out of retirement to serve as the bishop of Lindisfarne but by 686, just two years later, he had returned to his life of seclusion and he died on 20 March 687.
Like many places in Northumberland, Redesdale has strong associations with St. Cuthbert. Legend has it his coffin rested briefly in Elsdon and in Corsenside in AD 875, during the monks’ wanderings around Northumbria after they fled Lindisfarne because of Viking attacks.
A Church dedicated to St. Cuthbert has been constructed on both sites. The current St. Cuthbert Church in Elsdon dates mainly from the 14th century, but earlier structures have been incorporated into the building indicating a much earlier foundation. St. Cuthbert’s Church at Corsenside dates from Norman times.
A trail connecting the two churches, along with a third named after him in Bellingham, is walked as an annual pilgrimage on or around St. Cuthbert’s Day (4th September – an official alternative date to the traditional 20th March). The St. Cuthbert’s Three-Church Trail links the churches in North Tyne and Redesdale, travelling from Elsdon to Corsenside and Bellingham.
Today, St. Cuthbert’s body lies in Durham Cathedral, which has grown from the Anglo-Saxon church built to house his shrine and the monks who cared for it.
St. Cuthbert’s Trail
Crossing the border between England and Scotland, St. Cuthbert’s Way is a long-distance walking route linking Melrose, where Cuthbert began his religious career, with Lindisfarne, the place of his burial.
If you’re looking for something shorter than St. Cuthbert’s Way, which stretches for 62 miles, St. Cuthbert’s Three-Church Trail links three local churches which are all named after the saint.
Green signs mark the route from here in Bellingham, through Redesdale to the church in Corenside, and ending at St. Cuthbert’s Church in Elsdon. Measuring around 15 miles, the route will take you through beautiful countryside and is especially popular around St. Cuthbert’s Day on 4 September.
The Border Reivers
Centuries of fighting between the English and the Scottish in the border country brought devastation to the people that lived there.
People were robbed and killed by armies, crops were burned and properties destroyed. Because of the constant threat of attack, borderers began to live by their own rules, which often meant taking what they needed. Cattle rustling, feuding, murder, arson and pillaging were all commonplace, and this led to the rise of the Border Reivers.
Reivers were considered unique in that they came from all social classes. The only thing they had in common was the violent code they lived by. Reiving was considered by many to be part of Border life.
The Border Reivers were united within their family clans and could call on hundreds of men to join them in raids across the border. Men were known to go alone, or with 12 to 50 men in tow. Some large-scale raids would see groups of up to two and three thousand men.
Because the Border Reivers came from every social class, they had a wide range of skills, which stood them well during raids. They showed courage and bravery as well as a blatant disregard for authority, which meant the job of the wardens to enforce law and order was a dangerous one.
Border Reivers rode horses which were sturdy and fast. They wore a ‘jack’ or ‘jacke’ to protect their upper bodies and many would use pewter or brass chains to protect their arms and upper legs. Reivers wore a burgonet to protect their heads and rode into raids with a range of weapons, including lances, bills and daggers.
The accession of James VI to the English throne brought about the end of the Border Reivers. The Borders was renamed ‘the Middle Shires’ and criminals were brought to justice; many of them hanged. Fighting in the Borders finally came to an end in the early 1620s.
Wildflowers in Redesdale
Wildflower-rich hayfields across Redesdale support the biodiversity of the area, providing insects for birds to eat.
More wildflower planting has taken place in recent years to improve the floral diversity of Redesdale’s hay meadows. Plant species have been chosen for each area based on surveys of the existing wildflowers, a comparison with the species we’d expect to find in traditional Northumberland upland meadows, and observations of the conditions in each location.
The species added varies between meadows but includes Great Burnet, Wood Cranesbill, Black Knapweed, Melancholy Thistle, Meadow Vetchling and Globeflower.