Preserving the rural heritage of Coquetdale

Haymaking at Fairhaugh.
Haymaking at Fairhaugh.

The rural heritage of Coquetdale is being celebrated in memories and stories.

A new project is aiming to preserve memories of the old way of life and record the distinct Northumbrian dialects to ensure a lasting record of a voice that is rapidly disappearing.

Sally Brewis, OOT Museum project manager.

Sally Brewis, OOT Museum project manager.

The Alnwick-based Bailiffgate Museum and Gallery’s Out Of Town (OOT) Museum will focus on routes, journeys and travelling in Coquetdale, by collecting and recording memories and stories told in local voices for a touring exhibition.

The project, funded by a £285,000 National Heritage Lottery Fund grant, is led by Sally Brewis.

She said: “There is a huge amount of interest in the OOT Museum already and I’m looking forward to building on the excellent work that has been carried out in the area to capture the lives of people who lived and worked in Coquetdale.

“This project will run until June 2022 and has a real chance to bring all of this existing work together along with the new outreach activities and events that we have planned.

“We will be involving many more people across the area and will celebrate with an ambitious exhibition programme.

The recordings and items will be properly archived at the Northumberland Archive at Woodhorn and available for future use.

Sally added: “The National Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £285,500 will enable us to find those people who want to share their valuable memories of the old way of life and record the distinct Northumbrian dialects to ensure we have a lasting record of a voice that is rapidly disappearing.

“The focus on journeys and the way people travelled across one of the most beautiful but remote areas of Northumberland will uncover stories and memories of before everyone had a car and it wasn’t so easy to get oot n aboot.”

The OOT project will focus on the rural heritage of Coquetdale, centred on Rothbury and stretching from the River Coquet in the south to the River Breamish in the north. The area extends into the Northumberland National Park to the west of Rothbury.

OOT will research, explore, celebrate and share the heritage associated with routes, pathways, connections and transport in this area.

It is interested in both the well-known (or well-trodden) roads and pathways and the lesser known routes and connections.

The project already has a greater understanding of the mobility of people in rural Coquetdale during the last century.

Many people have stories associated with bus and train travel.

Public transport was more prevalent in the past and, in some ways, getting around was easier than today with buses running regularly and throughout the valley. Yet, in other ways, journeys which are almost unimaginable to us today were routine.

The project has met people who regularly travelled more than 10 miles by foot, horse, bus or motorbike to buy provisions.

Forms of transport now seen as recreational (horses, walking and cycling) were once essential in these communities.

Preserving Coquetdale’s rich heritage of local voice and dialect is an important part of the OOT Museum project.

Sally said very few people now speak with the true Northumbrian accent and dialect, although it does still exist in remote and rural locations.

“We can appreciate what a rich history exists in people’s memories and voices and how important it is for these to be told and recorded in a local voice,” she said.

The OOT Museum will be officially launched at an event in the Jubilee Hall, Rothbury, on Saturday, April 27.

There will be activities to get all ages involved, including a chance to see what’s already been done and have a go at recording memories.

The project will also be looking for volunteers to train in collecting those memories across Coquetdale, as well as individuals and community groups who want to get involved.

Anyone interested can email sally.brewis@bailiffgatemuseum.co.uk or ring the museum on 01665 605847.