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Published: February 13th 2017
High Level Bridge
One of many bridges in Newcastle
The strange history of Berwick-upon-Tweed
The main purpose with our visit in England on this trip was to hike the Hadrian's Wall Path
. After finishing that we had a few days over and here we are going to write a little about how we spent those.
We didn't have any plans for the remaining days when we arrived in England. We did actually try to go to Scotland but had to abandon that idea when we didn't find any accommodation. When we sat down to make plans for the last days Ake remembered that he many years ago read a story about how a town in northern England ended up being in war with Russia for over 100 years. The town is called Berwick-upon-Tweed
and here comes the story.
Berwick-upon-Tweed lies near the border between England and Scotland right at the estuary of Tweed River. This location was strategically important and England and Scotland fought about it in many wars in the Middle Ages. From the 12th to the 15th century the border shifted back and forth between England and Scotland and during that time Berwick-upon-Tweed actually changed hands as many as 13 times. This constant shifting
Gateshead Milennium Bridge
One of many bridges in Newcastle
of border caused some confusion since the town was sometimes Scottish and sometimes English. Therefore they began in official documents to name Berwick-upon-Tweed separately, as in "England, Scotland and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed".
This habit of naming Berwick-upon-Tweed as a separate entity was in use as late as the 19th century. When UK declared war against Russia in 1853, the war known as the Crimean War, the declaration was signed by Queen Victoria with the words "Queen of Great Britain, Ireland, Berwick-upon-Tweed and all British Dominions". When the peace declaration was signed three years later Berwick-upon-Tweed was never mentioned. This was discovered by a historian in late 1950-ies. He or she realized that this meant that a small town in northern England technically was in war with Russia and had been so for more than 100 years. The mayor of Berwick-upon-Tweed eventually invited the Soviet Ambassador and in his presence signed a peace treaty.
This story is a good one but alas it is not true. But that didn't stop us from going there anyway because we realized there are other reasons for going to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Much of the story above is true.
Fish market in Newcastle
Berwick-upon-Tweed was for several hundred years an important border town, it did change hands between England and Scotland many times in the Middle Ages and it was for a while mentioned separately in documents. However, that practice had been abandoned for at least a century before the Crimean War. The only part of the story which is untrue, or "alternative fact" as the 45th President of the United States would call it, is that Berwick-upon-Tweed was mentioned as a separate entity in official documents as late as the 19th century. But even without the-war-with-Russia-story it sounded like an interesting place to visit. The historical city centre dates back to the Middle Ages and is unusually well preserved. For instance the city walls still stands, many buildings in the centre are several hundreds of years old and there is a lovely bridge spanning the River Tweed dating back 17th century.
Other things we saw in Berwick-upon-Tweed were
• the remains of Berwick Castle. All that is standing today are a few walls leading from the railway station down to the river
• the Royal Border Bridge. It is a railway bridge with a whooping 28 arches
Monument over Charles Grey aka Earl Grey. It would have been much more fun if there had been a supersized teabag on the top, wouldn't it?
spanning River Tweed
• the football stadium Shielfield Park. Shielfield Park is the home of Berwick Rangers F.C. a team in England which plays in the Scottish football league
When we took the bus from Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed we stopped at Alnwick Castle
. Most of the year the castle serves as the home of the Duke of Northumberland but in summers it is open for public. It is a spectacular castle and it has at numeral times been used as a filming location. Among the productions which have been shot there are Downton Abbey, Robin Hood and two films in the Harry Potter series. The last one of those has inspired the staff at the castle to arrange broomstick flying lessons for children. To us it seemed like the adults were enjoying that at least as much as the kids.
One of the days in England we went to Durham
. The main attraction in Durham is the Durham Cathedral and the Durham Castle, both UNESCO world heritage sites. When we were there both the castle and the cathedral were being restored and the castle was not even open for visitors. The cathedral is an
Graves in a cemetery in Newcastle
impressive building and well worth visiting. But we did one thing in Durham that we enjoyed even more and that was to have a stroll along the River Wear. The river runs in a canyon and is lined with water mills and lush greenery and along the ridge you can see the castle and the cathedral. To walk there was just like walking in painting.
We also visited Newcastle
. It is a good place to use as a base if you wish to explore this corner of UK. There are plenty of good museums in Newcastle, several interesting buildings, both historical and newer, and a couple of spectacular bridges.
This is some of the things we saw in UK. We hope you enjoyed reading it.
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