Audio Tour

Audio Tour



Chapter 1

Patrick Norris: Archaeology can only provide us with tantalising clues, as if we had a few pieces from a gigantic jigsaw. We still don’t know where some of the pieces fit into the overall picture, and many pieces have disappeared forever. Nevertheless, the sites surviving in these hills, and the objects in this exhibition, can provide a glimpse into the lives of the people who walked these hills before us.

Chapter 2

Rebecca Wilson: Sometime around 12,000 years ago, the last glaciers of the most recent Ice Age melted away. The ice sheets were replaced by a tundra landscape of lichens and mosses, roamed by herds of reindeer. Scrub, including juniper and birch gradually colonised the land. Eventually, larger trees such as pine and oak appeared, ultimately clothing all but the most inhospitable rocky screes and mountain tops with dense wildwood. Where reindeer, once roamed, red deer, roe deer and wild cattle now grazed. Salmon, trout, and other fish were plentiful in the rivers.

Chapter 3

Patrick Norris: Hunter gatherers. We don’t know exactly when the first animal in the valley felt the stab of a sharp flint arrowhead. People probably moved into the valley around 10,000 years ago. Living in camps of temporary huts made from skins stretched over wooden poles, they move seasonally around the landscape catching fish and game and gathering nuts and berries. Later, they may have created clearings into the wildwood, where grazing animals would gather, making, hunting easier. These people left few traces of their activities. Nearly everything they used was made of wood, bone or hide, which has long since rotted away. Only a few flint tools and weapons survive as evidence of their existence. Living at the mercy of this wild untamed land, which is also home to the wolf, bear and lynx, these people probably had a belief system linked to the natural world. Mountains, crags, rivers, and springs may have featured in ancestral myths, not unlike those of Australian Aborigines, or Native Americans. Perhaps brooding Brough Law or rugged Cunyan Crags once had such special significance.

Chapter 4

Rebecca Wilson: The first farmers. At the beginning of the Neolithic or New Stone Age around 6,000 years ago, a slow change began. With polished stone axes, the wildwood that still covered most of the land was felled in patches large enough to sow cereals such as wheat, oats and barley. Whilst hunting was still important, domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and pigs were introduced. No Neolithic settlements have been found in this valley, which may still have been occupied seasonally. Instead of worshiping only in natural places, sacred or magical places could now be constructed in the form of tombs and temples. Later, big earthen circles, known as henges, were built and great stones were erected on their own or in large circles. Some stones were marked with mysterious hollows and circles, which we now call cup-and-ring marks. Their exact meaning has been lost, but it was probably linked to Neolithic religious belief. As you leave Ingram Cafe, take a good look at the boulder outside the door. It was found near here and dates from the time of these early farmers. What do you think the marks on it could mean?

Chapter 5

Patrick Norris: The cairnbuilders. By about 4,000 years ago, during the early Bronze Age, the climate was warmer than today, allowing people to live high on the hilltops. Small villages of thatched timber roundhouses dotted the landscape. Low stone walls formed fields and paddocks, allowing greater control of livestock. The ard – a primitive wooden plough – was used probably drawn by oxen. Sheep were kept for wool, which was spun and woven into new kinds of clothing.

From this period, we find the first evidence of burial within the valley. Individuals were buried in prominent locations in cists (stone coffins), which were covered by a cairn of stones. These burials are often accompanied by attractive pots, known to us as ‘beakers’ or ‘food vessels’ – perhaps holding provisions for the journey to the afterlife.

Often additional cremation burials were inserted into the cairns. Sometimes the burnt bones were accompanied by a pot, or else simply scattered on the cairn. We can only imagine the ceremonies that must have taken place as the dead were laid to rest.

Chapter 6

Rebecca Wilson: The first metalsmiths. One of the most significant advances of this time was metallurgy. The introduction of the technique of blending copper and tin to make bronze, which was hard enough to hold an edge, revolutionised tools and weapons. Tools made of bronze could be used for long periods before resharpening making tasks such as woodworking easier.

Around 2,800 years ago, the technique of iron making spread to Britain. Sources of iron ore, are more common than copper and tin ores, and the metal is much harder. It gradually replaced bronze for tool and weapon making during the Iron Age, but bronze continued to be used for more delicate objects such as jewellery.

Chapter 7

Patrick Norris: Time of the hillforts. Towards the end of the Bronze Age, around 3,000 years ago, the climate began to decline dramatically becoming cooler and wetter. During the Iron Age that followed, the landscape became more open, with fewer trees, and the lower valley floors became prone to flooding. Control over upland for pasture and cultivation became important and the people began to enclose their settlements of timber roundhouses first with a timber fence, known as a palisade, and later with ramparts of earth and stone, or with massive dry stone walls.

Although known to us as ‘hillforts’, we now think that these settlements were essentially farmsteads belonging to extended family groups of roughly equal status. Defined territories can be seen attached to these settlements, each with access to arrange of resources from the hilltops to the rivers below. We can even see cultivation remains in the form of cord rig (narrow ridges and furrows) where cereals were grown.

The ramparts around the hillforts reflected the status or prestige of the family group living there. Often, some sections of rampart can be seen to be more elaborate than others, so that when viewed from a certain direction, they would have appeared stronger and more impressive as if to say, “don’t mess with us!”. When climbing up to hillforts, such as Wether Hill, you can imagine how impressive such sites would have appeared to visitors in the Iron Age.

Chapter 8

Rebecca Wilson: Visualising the time of the hillforts. The ramparts built around the
summit of Brough Law consist of massive dry stone walls. They’ve been designed not only to be strong, but to look impressive too. The Roundhouse walls are made of large timbers, wattle panels and daub. Inside, a central fire provides the heart of the home. The heather thatched roof allows the smoke from the fire to escape outside.

Outside there are cattle. The cattle are kept for their meat and hides. Immensely strong animals, they’re used for all the heavy jobs, such as ploughing and pulling carts. There are also horses. Horses are kept as status symbols rather than as farm animals. They can transport people over great distances very quickly and can be be ridden in battle.

Patrick Norris: The ramparts need repairing from time to time. Like dry stone walls today, exposure to the elements causes the stones to move eventually causing the walls to collapse. Although farming now provides much of the people’s food, they still go hunting for wild animals to supplement their diet. Gathering and chopping firewood is a never-ending task. As more of the ancient Woodland is cleared for agriculture or harvested for timber, the journeys to gather firewood get even longer. The sheep provide meat, skins and wool. These sheep are allowed to graze the hillsides during the day, but are penned in at night to keep them safe from wild animals.

Chapter 9

Patrick Norris: The Romans reached the Cheviots in AD79. By this time, local communities were apparently living in a peaceful landscape of small farmsteads. Much of the original wildwood had been cleared and the hillsides would have been largely treeless. Some of the hillforts were still occupied, but the ramparts had long since tumbled and decayed. In AD 122, the Romans began the construction of Hadrian’s Wall between the rivers Tyne and Solway. This was many miles to the south of the valley and for most of the Roman occupation, the valley remained outside the Empire. The lack of Roman camps in the area suggests that the local people were left to get on with life as they had before. Perhaps they traded cattle and cereals, in exchange for protection against tribes to the north. The find of a Roman coin at the native settlement at Fawdon Dean suggests at least some contact with their Imperial neighbours.

Chapter 10

Patrick Norris: After Roman rule ended, around AD410, new kingdoms emerged. In the early seventh century The Kingdom of Northumbria was founded and Christianity was introduced. Gradually, people abandoned their sacred places and their old gods. They moved from the hilltops, to small, low-lying villages of rectangular timber houses with Christian churches. In only a few generations, the old timber roundhouses were a distant memory.

Chapter 11

Rebecca Wilson: In the 14th century, life became very hard. War had broken out between England and Scotland in AD 1296. The climate worsened, and a series of poor harvests brought widespread famine in their wake. The Black Death ravaged the land. We can never know with certainty, how these events affected the lives of local people, but archaeology can give us clues.

Excavation has revealed that the garden of the Old Rectory at Ingram, had once been a ploughed field. Household rubbish had been spread over it as a form of fertiliser, including hundreds of pieces of broken pottery. None of this pottery was later than the 14th Century, which may indicate that, with fewer people left to work the fields, much of the land at Ingram was abandoned or used instead for pasture.

Ingram was a dangerous place in the 16th Century. Border Reivers, often numbering in their hundreds, could descend on a farm or village without warning. The largely defenceless victims could lose everything they possessed, and even have their houses burned down. If luck was on their side, they could escape with their lives. Not even the church would be spared. On one raid at Ingram, even the lead from the church roof was stolen!

Peace eventually came when James Stuart, King of Scots, became King of England in 1603. In the valley large sheep farms soon emerged producing food for a growing population and wool for the textile industry. The sheep grazed out the few remaining trees, creating the grassy landscape that has hardly changed to this day.

Chapter 12

Patrick Norris: Modern convenience. For thousands of years, the basics of life for the valley remained the same. Daily life centred on the tasks of fetching water, producing food and gathering fuel. It was hard, time-consuming work, but people had never known anything else.

During the last century, this way of life changed forever. New machinery removed many of the heavy chores. Piped water, central heating and convenience foods have all appeared within living memory, in the blink of an historical eye.

Watching the changes. Johnny Wilson has lived on Ingram Farm, where most of the recent archaeological digs took place for over 50 years. In fact, he remembers Ingram Cafe when it was the Village School! All the teaching was done in one room – at times up to 44 children and various ages cramped in one room for their lessons.

Johnny, his brothers and their father before them have watched many changes, take place here. Cars and tractors that have replaced horses; the quad bike has meant fewer jobs for shepherds. Conifer plantations have been planted on the hillsides, where ancient wildwood once grew.

Chapter 13

Rebecca Wilson: Piecing together the past. Perhaps, as research continues and new techniques are developed, more of the jigsaw will fall into place, increasing our understanding and enabling us to ask new questions today.

As we have gone through time, the history and wildlife of the valley are the big attraction. The future is tied to the past: forestry plantations are slowly being removed and replaced with new native woodlands; the River Breamish (which is one of the cleanest in Great Britain, thanks in part to the sustainable farming) a source of water and food for countless generations, is now an important habitat for salmon and otters and is protected by law. Take this opportunity to explore this landscape on the Ingram Valley Farm Safari.

Chapter 14

Miss M Wilson: A sense of connection. Wherever we go there’s evidence of ancient times: turf covered mounds and hollows, heaps of old stones, remains of tumbled walls. Once they were just that, but not anymore.

Chapter 15

Master L Wilson: Thanks to archaeologists the landscape means much more to me now. I can connect to civilisations, to people, who knows maybe my ancestors, who like I do now, lived and worked here a millennia ago.

Chapter 16

Miss M Wilson: It is a privilege, but one I never take for granted to be part of such a special place.