Northumberland newcomer

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Having deposited the wife at work for the day I decided to check out the River Tweed for a walk.

My only experience of the Tweed up to this moment was passing over the famous Royal Border Bridge at Berwick about twenty years before and watching from the train window the last death throws of the river as it merged with the cold, grey sea. It was pure chance that my next encounter with the old river should be another bridge, less famous but equally beautiful.

I parked my car in England and stepped on to a bridge that would carry me, and the dogs, all the way to Scotland. This suspended deck suspension bridge was built in 1820 and spans 137 metres (449 feet in old money) and was the longest of its kind in the world at the time.

It’s the oldest suspension bridge in the world to be still carrying traffic, just, and is a Category A listed building in Scotland and a Grade 1 listed building in England. Who will look after it if Scotland becomes independent?

I stood on the Chain Bridge, or Union Bridge to use its original name, and marvelled at its construction and the beauty of its location.

The Tweed flows lazily beneath and sweeps round a wooded bend towards Berwick some miles downstream. It fits perfectly into the surroundings and I can’t believe that I’d never heard of this place before. Another amazing Northumberland secret.

My two Labradors don’t think about such matters and have their eyes on the river below looking for a swim. So without knowing where I’m going we head north into Scotland and then along the river bank towards Berwick.

A woman with a Jack Russell provides some irritation for a while but, once again, we have the place to ourselves. I half expect Lucy and Bob to come out of the water with a salmon in their chops but no such luck. There’s evidence of some old salmon fishing on the bank in the form of a store house, some nets and a couple of boats and I didn’t know at the time that these belonged to Paxton House.

As I sat on the bank watching a couple of hissing swans viciously attack my bewildered dogs I had no idea that hidden in the trees above me was a major tourist attraction swarming with people.

From England to Paxton House and back again was only a couple of miles at the most but it opened up another little world and a different landscape.

My impressions of Northumberland to date have been of huge landscapes, wild beaches and loneliness but here is an enclave that would easily slip into the gentle countryside of Sussex or Hampshire.

It seems as if somebody has looked at the whole of England and condensed all its good bits into one county. I don’t know who likes it more, me or Bobby or Lucy.