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.
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.
Located at the edge of the village of Milfield, the trail depicts life in the Cheviot Hills from the dawn of time showing man’s occupation through the ages.
There is a short walk with information along the way and a full-scale reproduction of a Stone Age wooden henge, an exact copy of one of the many wooden henges that stood on the landscape some 4300 years ago. (This is locked with the key available from Cafe Maelmin in Milfield village). There is also a Stone Age hut and a Dark Age house that was recently found at the nearby Cheviot Quarry.
A trail guide can be purchased from Cafe Maelmin and at other locations in the area.
Sadly the temporary exhibiton centre which has been open through the summer in the old Bakery building, opposite the entrance to Heatherslaw Mill , is now closed for the winter. Developed by the Till Valley Archaeological Society (TillVAS) the extensive exhibition, 'Life in a Border Village 1830-1930' included maps, photographs and some artefacts, with a focus on the local villages of Crookham and Branxton. The centre, which was manned by members of TillVAS, reported a very successful season and hopes to return with another exhibition next year.
After a successful exhibition in 2013 TillVAS is returning to the Old Bakery opposite Heatherslaw Cornmill with an entirely new exhibition, running from 20th May until 25th September (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Bank Holiday Sundays & Mondays, 11am-4pm).
Ford and Etal Estates is a quiet and remote part of the country, filled with hidden gems, with many walking trails around the villages and farms. But one of the wildest parts of the estate is a place many visitors don’t get to: the nature reserve of Ford Moss. Situated east of Ford village, it lies away from the main roads, accessible by foot from Ford, or by car along a narrow, winding lane followed by a short walk. The Moss itself is a bog, dangerous to walk on, but a circular path allows visitors to explore the area safely.