Walk the footsteps of the soldiers who fought on the Flodden Battle field almost 500 years ago.
Today, in the quiet fields and rolling hills around the small village of Branxton it is difficult to believe that 500 years ago this was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles ever to take place in the British Isles. Soldiers came from all parts of Scotland and England to line up in two great armies facing each other across the shallow valley just to the south of Branxton. It was here that a great artillery duel opened the last medieval battle, where men fought hand to hand and 14,000 died within the space of a few hours - a rate of slaughter that compares with some of the worst days of the Battle of the Somme in the First World War.
It was here too that a King, James IV of Scotland, became the last monarch to die in battle in the British Isles and the course of history of two nations was changed.
The Flodden Battlefield Trail, an award-winning trail created and maintained by the Remembering Flodden Project (a registered charity) covers the ground where the two armies met in combat and detailed interpretation boards assist the visitor in visualising the events of the 9th September 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.
The local church, St Paul’s at Branxton, is also well worth visiting to see the records and notes taken from the battle. Large scale burial pits were dug in the vicinity.
Perhaps the last word should go to an 8 year old visitor who had a great time when she visited the battlefield. “I visited the site with my mum and dad today and really, really enjoyed it...I liked the picture boards all the way round. I could imagine the mud and the noise when the battle happened. I like to imagine what ancient things are buried deep in the ground!!!”
Free and open access to the battlefield site throughout the year. Flodden Battlefield is the core site of the Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum, established to commemorate the quincentenary of the battle in 2013.
Ford & Etal is a great family day out with something for everyone to enjoy. There are many activities around the Estates to keep the children entertained throughout your visit.
Starting at Etal, the Castle offers a book box for children as well as a giant book on display about the castle, and there are tables outside for castle visitors to enjoy a family picnic.
Moving across to Heatherslaw the railway room at the Heatherslaw Light Railway displays model railways and paper and crayons for children to draw. At Heatherslaw Mill explore the mill, pick up a mouse trail and find the mice, take the Junior Miller's Quiz and get hands-on in the Dough Zone (bread making/baking sessions on selected days in school holidays - check events listings for details.) Talk to the miller and learn how the massive machinery works - you may even be able to start the mill up! There's a Victorian cottage too, with dressing up clothes for all the family and artefacts from that era. All this and more is included in the normal admission charge. Outside there's a large grass paddock and a sandpit, with picnic benches outside the mill and tearoom. Whilst mum and dad have a cup of tea, crayons and paper are available for children to draw and colour at their tables at Heatherslaw Tearoom.
While your'e are Heatherslaw take a walk - or drive - up to the Heavy Horse Centre at Hay Farm where you can meet the magnificent Clydesdale Horses who's ancestors worked the land here, explore the exhibition area, discover other rare breed animals and enjoy a picnic in the company of the horses.
Over to Ford, in Lady Waterford Hall the 'Kids Zone' offers a range of activities including quizzes, drawing and using slates just as the children in school would have done in Lady Waterford's time.
The Estates are very child-friendly and high chairs are available to use at the various tearooms. You will also find baby changing facilities located in the public toilets at Etal and Heatherslaw as well as facilities for customers at The Lavender Tearooms.
Pushchairs are welcome, with easy access into most attractions. At Lavender Tearooms there is plenty of room to leave pushchairs outside the shop and there is room for small pushchairs inside too. Heatherslaw Mill, Shop and Tearoom are only accessible by stone steps and are spread over three floors, however young children are very welcome and pushchairs can be left in the Visitor Centre. Ford Moss and Maelmin Heritage Trail may be difficult for some pushchairs to access as there are uneven surfaces along the trails, parking is close by to both these attractions to leave pushchairs in the car. Heatherslaw Railway is fun for all the family and can accommodate pushchairs in the two wheelchair and buggy compartments.
Family tickets are available from:
Etal Castle: 2 adults & 3 children £16.40
Heatherslaw Mill: 2 adults & 3 children £12.00
Lady Waterford Hall Family ticket £10.00
Children under the age of 5 also have free entry to these 3 venues and a discounted joint ticket (approx 20% off normal admission) is available for Lady Waterford Hall and Heatherslaw Mill, costing £17.50 for a family.
Set in a hollow at the top of the hill to the east of Ford village, with stunning views over the Till Valley and the Cheviots, Ford Moss is an area of wild landscape, exciting flora and fauna, and historical remains of an abandoned mining community.
Ford Moss extends to over 60 hectares (150 acres). It is an area of bog and scrub known as a lowland raised mire. A deep layer of peat, formed by rotting vegetation over many thousands of years, overlies the carboniferous limestone bedrock. Seams of coal were mined on the site from the late 18th to the early 20th century. Ford Moss has become increasingly more dry over the last 250 years mainly through human activity (mining, afforestation and associated drainage).
The bog plant communities in this area include the aromatic Bog Myrtle, while the adjacent woodland contains mature Scots Pine and Oak trees. The Moss is also of interest for its wildlife, the site being home to common lizards and occasional adders as well as birds such as red grouse, woodcock and snipe. Buzzards and kestrels are also often seen above the reserve.
Because of its special characteristics, Ford Moss was notified in 1968 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and further classified by the European Union as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in 2000. Ford & Etal Estates work closely with Natural England and the National Wildlife Trust to promote positive management of the reserve. The aim is to maintain the conservation interest, principally by reducing the amount of water run-off through a series of small dams on the bog surface. This has retained the mire community.
Ford Moss is dangerous to walk on. Its boggy surface is very soft and treacherous. However, a circular path of 2 miles allows visitors to walk right around the area and gives excellent views of the surrounding countryside as well as the Moss itself.
Park on the road side by the main entrance gate and please wear appropriate clothes and footwear. A seasonal toilet is located 300m further along the tarmac road behind the small stone building.
The archaeological remains of the former colliery at Ford Moss are an iconic feature of the landscape. Known to have been active from the 17th century, the coal mine largely operated along the northern and western edges of Ford Moss, where the ruin of an old engine house and a large brick chimney are the most obvious features.
The mine closed in 1918, but several of the miners who lived and worked at Ford Moss colliery in the late 19th century were depicted by Louisa Lady Waterford in her famous paintings on the walls of the school which she built in Ford.
A project to record the important social heritage of Ford Moss colliery is currently under way, in connection with the Lady Waterford Hall.
Active4seasons has been running guided trips and training in the area for the last 17 years and has fully qualified and insured instructors to make sure you are safe and have fun.
Active 4 Seasons is VisitEngland "Good to Go" accredited so is Covid safe.
Currenlty offering two hour "Made to Measure" adventures from £75 at Etal as well as trips around Berwick estuary at high tide. Pre-booking is essential - phone evenings between 6 & 7 pm or e-mail anytime.
High quality horses and ponies suitable for all ages and levels of expertise are available.
Hack out along quiet country lanes, across moorland, through grass fields and woodlands, or take an excursion to the beach and hills.
All the family can enjoy the experience of riding together. Booking is advisable but the visitor is welcome to come along and see the horses and ponies. The Riding Centre is situated on a farm one mile from Ford Village.
There is also a comfortable three bedroom self catering cottage for family holidays.
Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre is set to step back in time on 11th & 12th October with its "Looking Back" event. Visitors to this weekend event will be able to see Heavy Horses working in the field and view horse drawn machinery through to the first working tractors. Whilst children can visit the Clydesdales stabled within the barn parents can browse the selection of crafters, food producers and demonstrators located in the undercover market area. The organisers of the event have been very fortunate in locating a rare crafter who will be demonstrating the old art of corn dolly making. Also joining them for the weekend will be a very unusual sight - the only ploughing mule team in the country, who apparently are also highly skilled at escaping from stables!
In its day Hay Farm was an integral part of the estate as the standing steam engines for threshing were located here. In years gone by seventeen heavy horses worked the land and moved cereals down to Heatherslaw for milling. This event incorporates these two venues and visitors can take a short leisurely walk down past the working horses to Heatherslaw Cornmill and learn of its history - children can even become 'junior millers'! This is truly a family event and is sure to bring back memories for grandparents as well as giving younger family members an insight into rural life in years gone by. Daily admission charge to event only £2.50 adults/£1.00 children. Admission event plus Cornmill – Adults £5.00 Children £2.00. Both venues open 10am – 4pm, last admission to Mill 3.15pm.
The Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum is taking part in the 2014 Northumberland Residents Festival on 29th and 30th March with events at Heatherslaw Mill and the Crookham Peace Centre.
Also taking place the same weekend is the launch of the new Ecomuseum site, the Flodden Ridge: a circular walk around the ridge on which the Scots Army was encamped. The route, which offers spectacular views of the Tweed Valley and the Cheviots, will be publically accessible for the first time and during the course of the weekend free guided walks will be led by Flodden 1513 Archaeologist Dr Chris Burgess, HLF-funded Flodden Project Coordinator Alistair Bowden, Dr Chris Bowles, Scottish Borders Council archaeologist and local Flodden-author Noel Hodgson. For more information and to book a place please click here.
Lots of activities for half-term when Heatherslaw Light Railway, Heatherslaw Cornmill, Lady Waterford Hall and Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre are all open from 20th-24th February. More details to follow - but the good news is...kids go free at Heatherslaw Cornmill and Lady Waterford Hall.