Best places Newbiggin England
Proper countryside, good primary and prep schools, old-fashioned market towns and windswept coastland is what they come for. Some love the sport – turning out on a cold Sunday morning to hunt, shoot or fish. “But there is a strong, solid local market as well, because once you are here you never want to leave, ” says Sam.
The Romans, when they built Hadrian’s Wall, didn’t really appreciate the countryside, the dry stone walls and the multitude of sheep. Today it has a rarity value augmented by a new appreciation of the night sky. Northumberland International Dark Sky Park was created in 2013. People visit the Kielder Observatory to see the Milky Way, the galaxies, shooting stars and comets in true darkness. “It has opened up a wonderful income stream for those who have holiday cottages, ” says Sam.
Section of Hadrian's Wall at Cuddy's Crags near Bardon Mill, Northumberland
At Hesleyside Hall, an ancestral home in Kielder Forest National Park, as grand as Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead, it has certainly made a difference. The owners, William and Anna Charlton, have three handcrafted luxurious shepherds’ huts (hesleysidehuts.co.uk), complete with Egyptian cotton bed linen, butlers’ sinks and woodburners, which they let.
“My family has been here for centuries and it is a constant battle to maintain the house and Capability Brown landscape, so this is one way to help pay for it, ” says William. He spent 12 years in London before returning with his wife, and now has three children aged between five and eight. “The children are almost feral but I wanted them to grow up, as I did, with the great outdoors, ” he says. He and Anna are also about to offer b & b in the Hall’s best bedrooms. “This is the largest dark sky reserve in Europe and a lot of our guests are drawn to it, ” he says.
Whether they are connected to the land, the fishing, mining or shipbuilding industries, people have deep roots here. When Sam and Kate Morton got married they moved back to Bamburgh where Kate had grown up. Her family has lived there for 200 years and run the butcher’s shop, R Carter & Son, makers of the Bamburgh Banger and one of Rick Stein’s food heroes. “It is a magical place for children with its castle, beach, dunes and a very strong community spirit, ” says Sam.
They adapted Kittling Corner to accommodate three children – Rory, five, Meg, eight, and Isla, nine – and bought a flat to let called Joliffe in Castlegarth which looks straight at the castle. They are selling both through Strutt & Parker (23, struttandparker.com) priced at £475, 000 and £400, 000 each, in order to buy a proper family house. But prices are high because Bamburgh is so pretty. “You mostly have to inherit or be an incomer to live here, ” says Sam. “We are selling them to be ready next time a good house comes on, otherwise we will miss the chance.”
Dawn on the beach at Bamburgh Castle
Residents can find themselves working as film extras as Bamburgh is a favourite location. Richard Burton came to film Becket, Cate Blanchett to film Elizabeth and Michael Fassbender was here earlier this year with Macbeth. Sam became an on-screen bodyguard and spent days among the dunes hanging out with the star, though the true star is the castle, built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Farne Islands and Lindisfarne.
Where to buy
By the seaside: Victorian terrace arranged as four apartments at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, £395, 000, Smiths Gore (04, smithsgore.co.uk). The promenade and the ocean are on the doorstep.
7 Windsor Terrace, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea
Close to Wooler: Homildon, five-bedroom house at High Humbleton, two miles out, with a converted stable and firepit for summer evenings, £375, 000, Smiths Gore (30, smithsgore.co.uk).
Homildon, High Humbleton
Sporting chance: Brunton House, Wall, near Hexham, six bedrooms, four-bedroom annexe, outbuildings, salmon and trout fishing, grouse and pheasant shooting nearby, £1.5m, Knight Frank (0131 222 9600, knightfrank.co.uk)
Brunton House, Wall
Small stately home: The Hermitage on the River Tyne near Hexham is Grade II*-listed with 10 bedrooms, lodges, coach house, stables, walled kitchen gardens, parkland and has been unchanged since the Twenties. The price is down from £2.25m to £1.7m, Strutt & Parker (23, struttandparker.com)