3,000 Years as a Wild Spiritual Home

The Journal (Newcastle, England), June 4, 2007 | Go to article overview

3,000 Years as a Wild Spiritual Home


Byline: By Tony Henderson

Tony Henderson visits a remote spot redolent with the shades of the people who lived there over the centuries.

Blawearie, in the heartland of wild Northumberland, is said to mean "tired of the wind".

It's open moorland, so no doubt the wind does whip across at times. But it is difficult to see how one could grow weary of such a truly atmospheric place.

Although it has to be conceded that living there in the depths of a howling winter ( if we ever get one again ( may temporarily change perceptions, for visitors looking to escape the whirl of the modern world it is a location which would never grow tiresome.

The starting point is the farm and cottages of Old Bewick. A short walk and it is up and on to Bewick Moor, with its sweeping vistas.

The walk skirts Bewick Hill, with its dramatic double hillfort.

Then on to the evocative remains of Blawearie House, fronted by a Bronze Age burial cairn.

The 19th Century house was the home of the Rogersons, a shepherding family, and is thought to have been abandoned before the Second World War.

The names of the family's children are in the log book of the former school at Old Bewick. It must have been a hard battle across the moor to school through the winter snows for the redoubtable young 'uns.

Today, the ruinous house is the only trace of habitation on the wide moor, and is flanked by trees and rocky outcrops.

This is the favourite landscape in Northumberland of Hexham archaeologist and author Stan Beckensall, which is saying something considering that he has spent decades criss-crossing the county in search of prehistoric rock art.

"Because there are very few trees on the moor, the cluster of specimens around the house give a feeling of an oasis. It is an enormously powerful place," says Stan.

The inhabitants of the house would have been surrounded by the burial cairnfields of the people who walked this landscape more than 3,000 years ago.

These cairns are the most visible of prehistoric remains in Britain, and it is estimated that there are about 700 early Bronze Age examples in the North-East.

There are about 20 cairns in a half-mile radius of Blawearie.

Stan was given permission to excavate the cairn near the house over a period of four years, with help from Northumberland high school pupils.

The army had used the area for training during the Second World War and with the pressing needs of those days, had little time to worry about the ancestors being affronted by the use of the cairn as a foxhole.

"It was in a very rough state. It was a mess," says Stan, who found spent bullets buried in a shallow pit in the middle of the cairn.

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