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More about Chain Home radar station

The creation of the radar station at Ottercops made Redesdale part of the first early warning radar network in the world: Chain Home.

The codename Chain Home was sometimes abbreviated to ‘CH’, and the site at Ottercops was known as ‘CH40’.

Not only did the network of Chain Home radar stations, which stretched from Orkney in the north, to Weymouth in the south, give early detection of enemy aircraft during World War II, but it also provided the RAF with an idea of the number and type of craft approaching.

At the Ottercops site, you would once have seen eight metal towers. Tall transmitter towers produced electromagnetic waves, while shorter receiver towers captured the waves as they bounced off aircraft. A team of operators, plotters and assistants – who were often members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) – would use the data to calculate aircrafts’ positions, plot them on a map, and relay the positions to a central station.

The radar station was protected by roadblocks, anti-aircraft positions and pillboxes. A pillbox was a concrete structure with small openings (called loopholes), through which weapons could be fired. They were often hexagonal in shape – like the one which remains today.

The Chain Home network was an essential part of Britain’s defences during WWII, but it was overtaken by more advanced systems soon afterwards. After the war, the site was demolished and today only the remains of the pillboxes can be seen.

More about Benshaw Moor

Benshaw Moor nature reserve is home to an abundance of plants and wildlife, including:

  • Curlews
  • Skylarks
  • Meadow pipits
  • Short-eared owls
  • Small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies
  • Large heath butterflies
  • Bogbean
  • Butterwort
  • Limestone bedstraw 
  • Grass of Parnassus

The site was bought by Northumberland Wildlife Trust in 2019 using funds raised through a public appeal, plus money from charitable trusts, businesses, private donations and a bequest by the late George Swan, emeritus professor of organic chemistry at Newcastle University. The bequest was specified for use in buying a site of botanical importance.

Work is now underway to plan visitor access and long-term management of the site.

The main entrance to Benshaw Moor is currently from the Winter’s Gibbet road. The site has no footpaths and parts of it are very boggy and uneven so, if you do visit, keep an eye on the weather and make sure you’re kitted out in appropriate footwear and clothing. 

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.