Christmas gift ideas from Northumberland and the Borders
Looking for some lovely gifts from Northumberland and The Borders for the people on your Christmas list? Want a Christmas present from Northumberland that’s a bit different.
We’ve strolled through shops, looked through local magazines and browsed the web to come up with some fresh ideas that capture the best of Northumberland and the Borders.
Northumberland local food
It’s apt that food comes at the top of this list given that Christmas and New Year are about celebrating. And sharing good food and drink with family and friends is an important part of that tradition.
Northumberland has significantly raised its profile on the national stage when it comes to local food. If you live in the county you will know that there is a great deal of choice and tasty offerings include award-winning sausages, game, chicken, fish, free-range eggs, honey, ice cream, pies, cakes, rum, oysters and biscuits.
So many of the foods can be bought at farm shops and online. Northumberland produces some of the world’s best heather honey, due to the quality of our flora and fauna. Chain Bridge Farm offers honey and related products, such as candles, creams, lip balm, hand and foot creams and a great holiday season essential – honey mustard.
Other options include cheeses from the Northumberland Cheese Company, Coquet Valley Preserves, or Northumberland Squirrel Fudge. Better yet, put them all together in a gift hamper from one of a number of hamper companies, such as Pride of Northumbria.
Northumberland’s malting barley is the barley of choice to brew some excellent beers – and there will be no shortage of choice for the real lover lover in your family or circle of friends. Consider some of the offers from Wylam Brewery, which easily match any of the award-winners in Germany and Austria when it comes to character and flavour.
The Northumberland Brewery also has some good beers with great names such as The Fog on the Tyne and Sheep Dog. They offer gift boxes and seasonal beers too, with colourful, cheeky labels.
The Scottish Borders Brewery is Scotland’s only plough-to-pint brewery, selling hand-crafted ales made using barley grown in the surrounding fields.
Northumberland art and crafts
This part of the world is overflowing with creative people. Painters, writers, photographers and sculptors live here – and many of them have deliberately chosen Northumberland and the Borders because the light and land are so inspiring.
Many display locally or have their work in Tourist Information Centres, including Morpeth’s Chantry.
Helen Stuart is a Northumberland artist who developed her painting in the early 1980s after taking up watercolour painting under the instruction of the well known local artist, the late Arthur Young.
Helen’s paintings, particularly of the Northumbrian sea and landscapes, have been much-sought-after as commissions. She lives on the Northumberland coast and her work can be viewed at the Chantry in Morpeth, and also at the contacts listed on her website.
One of the county’s – and in fact the UK’s – most famous artists is Mary Ann Rogers. She began painting at a very early age. Although she focused on environmental studies in Newcastle, she is now a full-time artist and her colourful, vibrant and expressive water colours have propelled her into the list of top 10 best selling UK artists.
Mary Ann is based in Redesdale, Northumberland, where she is surrounded by the wildlife and farm animals that star in many of her paintings. Her new studio has been custom-built and was the subject of a recent television programme.
In 2009 Mary Ann received the Best Selling Published Artist award from the Fine Art Trade Guild. She exhibits in her own studio next to her home and across the UK. You can find out more here.
The Scottish Borders is a haven for craftspeople and woodworkers and one of the best places to see their work is at Buy Design Gallery, at Ancrum, near Kelso. The large and impressive showroom at Harestanes contains art and furniture made from wood, as well as crafts produced in metal, glass and fabrics. Although you cannot buy online some of the products and works are available by mail order.
A personal favourite is 100 Walks in Northumberland. It’s a classic walking route book by Charlie Emett that’s still as popular as ever. It’s easy to read and follow, and doesn’t require great map-reading skills. It’s also a great reference book and contains walks from across Northumberland. RRP £5.99, available from bookshops and online sellers.
Another favourite is Stan Beckensall’s Northumberland’s Hidden History. The castles and the coast have had thousands of words written about them, but the hidden history of the county, much of it prehistoric, is something of a secret.
If you know someone who’s curious about prehistoric settlements, the Celts, ancient rock art, settlements that were here long before the Roman’s arrived, and industry before the term Industrial Revolution was coined, this book is just the thing.
The writing is really thought-provoking and it’s a beautifully illustrated work, too. RRP £16.99, available from bookshops and online sellers.
25 Walks series – The Scottish Borders. The 25 Walks books are really good guides and are written by people who know the subject area extremely well. In this book there are easy-to-use maps and colour photographs.
The new edition by Peter Jackson includes walks in near ancient burial grounds, prehistoric hill forts and Border abbeys. It covers the Lammermuir, Moorfoot and Tweedsmuir Hills. RRP £9.99, available from bookshops and online sellers.
Catching the Eagle is Karen Charlton’s first novel based on a true story that divided a community and devastated a family. Karen Charlton grew up in Sheffield and Leeds and completed an English degree at Hull University. She settled in Teesside and stumbled upon the tale when she began tracing her husband’s family history in the 1990s.
It is the the story of two brothers, Jamie and William Charlton. Jamie becomes the main suspect when £1,157 is stolen from Kirkley Hall, Northumberland, in 1809 and William desperately tries to save him from the gallows.
The tale of this notorious miscarriage of justice is a riveting read about a court case which divided a community and devastated a family. Catching the Eagle is the first novel in the Regency Reivers Series and was published on December 8. RRP £19.99, available from bookshops and online sellers.
The Northumbrian pipes have a different tone to the Scottish traditional bagpipes, a mellower and gentle sound that covers two full octaves. This gives them greater range and a completely different result, and they are often used as accompaniment to songs in traditional folk style.
Kathryn Tickell is the foremost exponent of the Northumbrian pipes and, as her website says, she is a composer, performer and successful recording artist whose work is deeply rooted in the landscape and people of Northumbria. She’s recorded a number of CDs, including our personal favourite, Signs, The Best of, The Northumberland Collection, and The Gathering. Her recordings can be bought online.
Another piper is Alistair Anderson, who in fact has worked with Kathryn. He is recognised as a master on the English concertina and is also a composer. He has toured globally and yet still finds time to perform in Northumberland.
The landscape inspires much of his work and tracks include Windy Gyle, The Farne Islands and On Cheviot Hills. His CDs include Steel Sky, the more jazzy Air Play, and Islands. His work can be bought online.
Northumberland landscape photography
Graeme Campbell is a Newcastle-based photographer who also provides training and design work. He specialises in landscapes and seascapes, and has captured some wonderful images of Northumberland, which can be seen on his Flickr stream. His other work can be found here: www.graemecampbell.net
Graeme Peakcock is a well-known local photographer who each year produces a calendar containing stunning images of Northumberland. He specialises in landscape photography and his calendars capture the variety and vibrancy of Northumberland. RRP £5.99, available from www.graeme-peacock.com and other online retailers.