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Acklington, Brainshaugh and Guyzance

Today marked the start of a rather ambitious photography project which is to photograph the villages of Northumberland. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 290 villages in Northumberland. I decided to tackle this in alphabetical order, starting with A but include a couple of surrounding villages at the same time, otherwise it would take forever.

The first village beginning with ‘A’ is Acklington, south west of Amble. Its name means ‘farmstead of Eadlac’s people’ in Anglo Saxon English.

Along the main street is the Parish Church of St John the Divine and some attractive houses. There is also an old water pump which had become a bit overgrown.

South of the village is HMP Northumberland. In a field nearby is a World War II FW3/22 pillbox.

Leaving the village of Acklington heading towards Guyzance I found a place to park my car off the road just outside the Brainshaugh and walked down to see the horseshoe-shaped dam which is considered one of the finest dams in England. By this time the sun had broken through the clouds and it so it was a very pleasant walk in the sunshine, admiring the pretty clusters of wildflowers and smelling the wonderfully fragrant gorse bushes along the roadside.

Brainshaugh itself is a small hamlet with just a few houses.

To the north of the hamlet I sighted at the entrance of a field another World War II pillbox that was built as part of the Coquet stopline.

Upon reaching the dam I was disappointed not to be able to get a clear view as it was heavily obscured by trees. The dam was designed by John Smeaton to provide power to the Acklington Park Ironworks in 1776.

However, not everyone was pleased by its construction as it caused problems for the river's salmon. Frank Buckland, an eccentric naturalist, observing that the salmon could not leap the 11 feet to the top of the dam, posted a sign that read:

"No road at present over this weir. Go down stream, take the first turn to the right, and you will find good travelling water up stream, and no jumping required"

At the site of the dam is a memorial to what is known as the ‘Guyzance tragedy’. During a river crossing exercise on 17 January 1945 ten soldiers lost their lives when their boat was swept over the weir. Weighed down by their equipment, all of eighteen-year-old soldiers sadly drowned.

Down river from the dam is Dye House. First built as an Ironworks in 1776 it was then converted into a woolen mill before further changing hands in 1828 and again in 1915 when it was used to make hydrate of alumina. It was one of the first mills in the county to be powered by hydro-electricity. Now it is privately owned housing.

In a field at a bend in the river Coquet opposite Dye House are the remains of Brainshaugh Priory (also known as Guyzance Priory). This was originally St Wilfred’s Premonstratensian nunnery, founded in 1147-52AD. The cause of its abandonment is thought to be the Black Death.

The next stop on my tour was the hamlet of Guyzance, one of two places in the UK to end with ‘zance (the other being Penzance in Cornwall). It is a historic village dating from at least 1242 when it was owned by Robert de Hilton

The village consists of a small street of attractive single-story cottages that date from the 18th century.

Moving on from Guyzance I thought to travel to Morwick Dairy Farm for an ice cream. Looking at the map there appeared to be a road that connected Guyzances to Heather Leazes by crossing a ford which would have saved some time. However, when I got there, it became evident straight away that this route is not suitable for anything other than farm vehicles. I certainly wasn't about to drive my little mini across!

I turned around and drove further north to Warkworth and back down to Morwick. There was a queue to order the ice creams which is due both to its popularity but also the coronavirus pandemic. The latter also meant that the farm was closed to visitors. I would like to have seen the cows that made the ice cream.

I enjoyed a wafer cone with two scoops of ice cream, black cherry and hazelnut.

N.B. All sources can be found on the Villages of Northumberland source references page under the miscellaneous page of my website.

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