A major Northumberland attraction is hoping to have one of its busiest years ever following the launch of a new marketing campaign.
Ford and Etal, which sits between Kelso and Berwick, is a working estate centred around picturesque villages of the same name in North Northumberland. The attractions on the estate are many and varied and offer something for everyone, from children to history buffs, food fans and walkers.
The villages are two of the most beautiful in the north of England. Etal has a large manor house (not open to the public) at one end and a castle at the other. Unusually, the village is home to a thatched pub – the popular Black Bull Inn – and cottages.
“In 2011 it was a bit mixed,” said Elspeth Gilliland, estate administrator. “So we’ve worked on our marketing for this year and have a new leaflet available and some online marketing activity too.
“A lot of people in this area and in other parts of the county are familiar with the estate and what we have to offer. But for some people further afield we have yet to be discovered.
“We are a hidden gem and think that when people see what’s on offer they will really want to visit,” Elspeth continued. “It’s an exciting time for North Northumberland, with Berwick working anew to lift its profile and the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden next year.”
Ford is home to Lady Waterford Hall, which is the work of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford. She was a talented 19th century artist in the pre-Raphaelite style and dedicated more than two decades to creating a series of watercolours. The works were then applied to canvas and fitted to the walls of the hall which, at the time, was a school. The hall is now used for events, study, and child-friendly activities.
Ford and Etal is home to Heatherslaw Mill, which is the only working water-driven cornmill in Northumberland. Milling began more than 700 years ago on this site and today the Heatherslaw Mill still produces high-quality, stoneground, wholemeal flour from wheat grown in the nearby fields. You can buy the flour on the estate, or sample scones and other delicious foods using stoneground flour in the nearby tea shop.
The mill is definitely a family attraction that facilitates a good mix of fun and learning. People can find out about food, farming and Victorian life. In addition, there are activities for children including dressing-up clothes and quiz sheets.
Probably one of the most popular attractions on the estate is the ight steam railway which travels the 6.4km-journey from Heatherslaw to Etal village.
Nearby Etal Castle was built in the 14th century by Robert Manners as a defence against the Scots. The property is now managed by English Heritage, which has installed interpretive displays focusing on the history of the castle and its role in the Battle of Flodden in 1513.
Flodden Battlefield itself is a few miles from Ford and Etal, near the village of Branxton. It is well worth the trip for those interested in British history or just wanting to experience the poignant atmosphere of the place.
The Flodden Battlefield Trail covers the ground where the English and Scottish armies met in combat. It has interpretation boards to help visitors visualise the dark and bloody events of September 9, 1513.
The boards describe the manoeuvers and tactics of the Battle and provide illustrations of the weapons and armour of the times. They explain the importance of the topography and ground conditions, and how the tide of battle ebbed and flowed for the two opposing armies.
Not far from Branxton are the standing stones at Duddo – North Northumberland’s equivalent of Stonehenge. The ruggedly beautiful stones, which are at least 4,500 years old, are shrouded in mystery. They are located two miles north of Etal, near the tiny village of Duddo.
The variety and breadth of Ford and Etal is best discovered by car, although cycle hire is available at the Heatherslaw Visitor Centre. The centre is an excellent starting point for visitors arriving on the estate. It gives information about Ford and Etal as well as the many attractions in the surrounding areas of north Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.
In the centre visitors can see a fascinating short film – Ford & Etal: Portrait of a Working Estate – which illustrates the challenges facing the area on a daily basis. Information panels, displays, maps and trail leaflets give lots of worthwhile information about the estate.
The centre has full disabled access, with disabled parking and toilet facilities adjacent to the building. For visitors who are unable to access Heatherslaw Tearoom, the centre can be used as an alternative venue.
There will be some special events at Ford and Etal, too. As part of the Flodden 500 project a taster living history weekend is being planned at the same time as the well-established Etal flower show, set for September 2. It attracts a large number of entries as well as visitors.
The flower show weekend includes a dog show, music, refreshments and entertainment. For details contact Helen Moffit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ford and Etal Estate is currently open during weekends and will soon open for the upcoming season. Find out more and plan your visit by visiting the estate’s website: www.ford-and-etal.co.uk.
Find out more about North Northumberland.