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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.
More about the Church of St. Cuthbert, Bellingham
You’ll find the Church of St. Cuthbert tucked away behind the Black Bull Hotel. Although parts of the church date back to 1180, it was extensively rebuilt in 1609 and restored in 1865, when a bellcote – the framework which houses the bell – was added at the western end.
Because the original church was continually under attack by Border Reivers who attempted to burn it down, local people decided to rebuild it entirely out of stone, including the barrel vaulting inside and the enormous slabs on the outside of the roof. It remains a rare example of a stone roof of this type. The building remained standing as a place of shelter and worship.
Some of the 13th century remains include the chancel – the area around the altar – and the window on the south wall of the chancel. You’ll see another original 13th century window in the south chapel.
During restoration of the church in 1861, three cannonballs were found in the roof. It’s believed they were part of an attack on Bellingham by the Duke of Buccleuch’s men in 1597.
St. Cuthbert’s walking routes
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.
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.