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Langley on Tyne near Hexham

THE BIG ATTRACTIONS of A SMALL PLACE

 

It doesn’t look much on the map – just a kind of thin wriggle - but the tiny village of Langley in the North Pennines,  within a few miles of Hexham and The Roman Wall,  offers enough to delight visitors with different enthusiasms for  the better part of a day.

 

Walking – History - Gardening – Art – Fishing - Wildlife.  You can gratify your interest in any of these in Langley.   Hungry or thirsty – you can find everything from a good cup of coffee to excellent lunch or dinner here.

 

The landscape varies from  rugged, open moorland,  through pastures still supporting sheep and cattle, to the shelter of ancient woodland.  The water of the big fishing lake by the Langley  crossroads shimmers in the sun, tempting passing drivers to stop and appreciate the view that the author Catherine Cookson  enjoyed from her house beside  the lake when she lived here in the 1980s.  Langley inspired Some of her work, notably “A Dinner of Herbs.”

 

Historically, Langley is the last remnant of what was the Langley Barony.  A barony was one of the feudal divisions of territory introduced by the Normans.  What was the appropriate demesne for a baron? Langley Castle was completed in 1350 and the nobles who possessed it over the centuries included the the Prince Bishop of Durham, the Earls of Northumberland and the Earl of Derwentwater (2nd title, Viscount Langley), who came to a tragic end as a Jacobite sympathiser – his fate is recorded on the Derwentwater Cross  on  the road up from  Haydon Bridge to Langley. The cross was commissioned by the historian and antiquarian Cadwallader Bates who purchased the Langley estate and the Castle, which he  restored, in 1882.

Langley Castle

 

The  castellated  turrets of  Langley Castle Hotel can be glimpsed above the trees as you approach Langley.  This handsome landmark  is now a well-known hotel whose romance attracts many couples to celebrate their wedding there. This is now a hotel but has in the past done service as a school and stately home. Inside Langley Castle are some of the best preserved Garterrobes in Britain and these can be viewed from the main staircase. 

 

The greater part of 19th century life in Langley was dominated by one of the most significant industries in south west Northumberland at that period -Lead mining.  Langley was a lead smelting centre – the lead was brought down to Langley by horse and cart from the Alston mines.  Smelting was a dangerous and infact highly skilled job – smelters were   considered the aristocrats amongst lead workers.  However, the intense toxicity of the smelting fumes to all living things in the area, did not immediately contribute to the beauty and pleasure of Langley. 

 

Yet the Langley lead smelting industry in the 19th century brought with it constructions and installations which  have weathered into the 21st century to endow it with some of its  greatest attractions – fascinating archaeological evidence of  its history. 

 

The 97 foot tall  chimney on the moor is a landmark for miles around; the reservoirs constructed to store water for powering the smelting mills are today, to all immediate appearances, beautiful natural lakes. Trout fishing, run by helpful Fred & Noreen White of Langley Dam Fisheries is now enjoyed on the largest dam. 

 

Prior to “Beecham’s axe” and the closure of the railways Langley on Tyne was served by two stations, one above the Sawmill near the old Langley Castle Estate offices (now the village hall), and the other at Staward at the far end of the village. Before the closure of the railway line to Allendale (it was closed before construction was complete) it was a common trip to come out on the train to Staward and walk down to Staward Gorge past the Gingle Pot (at one time a pub), and past Staward Peel (an old defensive peel tower). Staward Manor has an old Roman alter stone in 1999 a Roman road was discovered nearby and further investigation shows that there may be a Roman fort also in the area.

 

Staward Gorge is an area of Special Scientific Interest and the most northerly habitat of Dormice in Britain and while walking in the National Trust owned Allanbanks and surrounding area you are likely to encounter Deer, Red Squirrels, and signs of Dormice (although you are very unlikely to see these shy and retiring creatures). One thing you are likely to see, if you are following the right walk, is farming still carried out by horse as Sillywrea farm still uses horses for the majority of work on the farm.

 

The magnificent stone bridges along the old railway line built to transport the lead ore in the 1860s are now part of a most unusual and lovely woodland garden.  Langley’s  pretty, restored Victorian railway station - “The Garden Station”, run by Jane Torday as a centre of courses for gardeners and artists and also a key visitor attraction in the area.  It is an especially tranquil and atmospheric place to visit.  A stroll through the woodland garden can be followed by refreshments and perennial plants, gardening books and artworks are available. 

 

Nearby, in the old blacksmith’s shop, a new kind of work is being forged.  William Pym , a  high profile sculptor in steel  with a number of major public commissions to his credit, has his workshop in this fine, recently restored building.  The workshop can be visited by appointment.  Sculpture by William Pym  can be discovered along The Garden Station’s woodland walk.

 

 The Victorians knew how to build – they also had access to good stone.  Their most utilitarian buildings were well designed and masterfully constructed.  There are fine examples of this all over Langley.  One of the arched stone bridges along the Garden Station walk is quite unique.  Restored by English Heritage in 2000, this bridge was constructed for the sole purpose of carrying the big flue from the lead smelting mills across the railway line and then on, underground for around half a mile up to the big chimney on the moor, also restored by English Heritage.

 

The Cart’s Bog pub in its deep dip on the Alston road junction may not have been a joyful place for the weary traveller in the past, more a flipping inconvenience as its name suggests.  Now, in its comfortable and cosy rooms you will get a warm welcome  some of the best pub food in Northumberland.

Cart's Bog Inn

 

You will still see cart-horses pulling the plough in north Langley at  Sillwrea Farm.   John Dodd and his family still manage the farm by horse power.  This survival of this traditional agricultural practice is pretty unique and has been celebrated in a TV series “The Last Horseman” and book of the same title by Charles Bowden.

Horses can still be seen in everyday use for farming

 

Plankey Mill is an entrance point to the woods of  Ridley Hall through which the River Allen flows – maintained by The National Trust.  For walkers, this is particularly appealing territory – a dramatic landscape, steep in places. There is also a picnic area.

 

What a variety of pleasures in one small place – a day out for all the family.

 

Directions:  Langley can be approached from the Allendale/Hexham road or from the A69 Newcastle/Carlisle road. Turn on to  The A686 Alston road by Haydon Bridge.  Running east from Penrith, the A686 has been designated one of the 10 most scenic routes in Britain .

 

Essential Information:

The Garden Station.  Woodland Garden - Open Tues to Sun

May - August. Perennial plants available.

Leaning Shed self-service café with good coffee, organic ice cream and home-bakes.

Station building fully open weekends and Bank Hols May to August.   More cakes and waitress service.  Summer Art Exhibition  June – August.

Open weekends & Bank Hols. May – August

Tel: 01434 684 391.  www.thegardenstation.co.uk

 

William Pym Sculpture.  By appointment only. Tel: 01434 688540.

www.pymsculpture.co.uk

Langley Dam Fisheries. Open throughout the year. Bookings: 01434 688846

Carts Bog Pub.  Open daily.  Children welcome. Great food. Tel: 01434 684 338

Langley Castle Hotel.   Tel: 01434 688888.  www.langleycastle.com

Langley Post Office.      Tel: 01434  684 084

 

Langley is a little village in west Northumberland.  It’s history is rooted in the lead mining industry which dominated this part of the county in the 19th century. Dramatic architectural evidence reveals Langley’s past as a lead-smelting centre, from the 90 ft high chimney on the Moor, to the remarkable stone bridge which carried the lead flue across the railway track at The Garden Station.  Dams which provided water power for the smelting mills now appear as natural lakes. 

The village of Langley on Tyne is on the A686 about three miles outside of Haydon Bridge. The skyline of Langley on Tyne is still dominated by the lead smelting chimney with its underground flue leading to the old smelt works, now a sawmill, where the old tracks for the ore wagons can still be seen.

A widely distributed village the first building in Langley that is seen is Langley Castle. This is now a hotel but has in the past done service as a school and stately home. Inside Langley Castle are some of the best preserved Garterrobes in Britain and these can be viewed from the main staircase.

Prior to “Beecham’s axe” and the closure of the railways Langley on Tyne was served by two stations, one above the Sawmill near the old Langley Castle Estate offices (now the village hall), and the other at Staward at the far end of the village. Before the closure of the railway line to Allendale (it was closed before construction was complete) it was a common trip to come out on the train to Staward and walk down to Staward Gorge past the Gingle Pot (at one time a pub), and past Staward Peel (an old defensive peel tower). Staward Manor has an old Roman alter stone in 1999 a Roman road was discovered nearby and further investigation shows that there may be a Roman fort also in the area.

Staward Gorge is an area of Special Scientific Interest and the most northerly habitat of Dormice in Britain and while walking in the National Trust owned Allanbanks and surrounding area you are likely to encounter Deer, Red Squirrels, and signs of Dormice (although you are very unlikely to see these shy and retiring creatures). One thing you are likely to see, if you are following the right walk, is farming still carried out by horse as Sillywrea farm still uses horses for the majority of work on the farm.

The Carts Bog public house is located centrally to the distributed community and provides a range of fine ales and food.

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