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Tarset Bastle trail Northumberland; route created by Forestry Commission & Tarset Archive Group

Other posts by  |  Sheelagh Caygill on Google+ |  August 27, 2012 | 0 Comments
The Tarset Archive Group and Forestry Commission open the Tarset Bastle Trail

The Tarset Archive Group and Forestry Commission open the Tarset Bastle Trail

Northumberland Tarset Bastle walking route

Walkers can now go back in time and explore the lands of robbers and raiders who made Border life dangerous and risky hundreds of years ago thanks to a new Northumberland walking trail.

The Tarset Bastle trail has been created by the Forestry Commission and the Tarset Archive Group (TAG). The Bastle Trail in a spectacular corner of 62,000 hectare (155,000 acre) Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland.

The Tarset Bastle Trail offers a choice of waymarked routes up to eight miles long. The routes are available for walkers who want to learn more about the incredible archaeology lurking amongst the trees.  Colourful new storyboard panels have also been erected and a new leaflet produced by TAG and funded by the Northumberland National Park Authority.

Neville Geddes from the Forestry Commission said: “Bastles stand as a testament to a violent past when life could be nasty, brutish and short. Kielder is a very surprising place and by getting off the well-worn path you can find remarkable relics such as these.  TAG has done a brilliant job working with our rangers to design the route and produce fascinating interpretation boards to make sense of the haunting ruins.”

Bastles were fortified farm houses built mainly in the late 16th century to protect families from raiders from both sides of the Border.  A climatological shift to colder weather added to the woes of farmers trying to eek an existence from the land, while also warding off attackers.

The trail will take walkers past four sites – Boghead, Hill House, Black Middens and Shilla Hill. It also goes to some fascinating pre-history sites, including an Iron Age site at least 2,000 years old. Other off limits bastles, on private land but still visible, are also marked.

Jan Ashdown,  TAG co-ordinator, added: “It’s been a great partnership project and we were able on draw on the group’s bastle studies, which culminated in the 2009 Bastle Exhibition, to design and produce the panels and commission a beautiful hand-painted map.  The route makes it easy for people to explore this wonderful place. For us in Tarset bastles have a constant presence; you can find the remains of them in walls, and people’s gardens, and even incorporated into houses. They are a rich part of the unique cultural heritage of this stunning part of Northumberland.”

Black Middens bastle on the Tarset Trail

Black Middens bastle on the Tarset Trail

About the Tarset Bastle Trail

During the reiving period Tarset was in the front line, just as it had been during the Border wars. Nearly all the bastles on the trail were repeatedly attacked.

On 30 August 1583, Kinmont Willie with some 300 other Armstrongs sacked eight farmsteads in Tarset, killing six people, taking 30 prisoners and driving away a large quantity of livestock. It was many years after the accession of James 1 in 1603 before peace finally returned to Tarset.

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more visit

Tarset Archive Group (TAG) is run by community volunteers. Its main aim is to set up a digital archive for the area by collating and recording a large amount of new information.  Interests range widely from archaeology and geology to social and cultural history, as well as covering the ecology of the area and the current state of biodiversity.  For more information visit

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