How you delight me so!
Hexham, a small picturesque market town located in Northumberland, England, south of the River Tyne (and Hadrian’s Wall!) and 40 km west of Newcastle, bewitched me. Quaint and very much English, I felt like everywhere I turned was a postcard worthy photo opportunity.
More than the sights, the people of Hexham and surrounding northern communities were a delight: friendly and generous. And like a pilot and flight attendant I befriended at the Newcastle airport shared with me, “The best. Northerners are the best kind of people. The friendliest. You’ll have a great time. The further north you go, the friendlier the people.” So said the flight attendant in her, what I think I can now identify as, her Geordie accent.
Gal pal and longtime friend, Kim, is blessed with calling the town her home. As I was due for a visit, naturally I stayed with her in her lovely abode. I stayed for close to a week and a half starting the end of June, with the exception of a couple getaways, the first to Edinburgh, Scotland, the second down south to Cambridge.
Sadly, the weather wasn’t all that cooperative. Most days were a cool and windy 12 degrees Celsius with light, misty rain, though we did luck out with some sunshiny weather, enough for me to get a run in on one occasion and enough to have a barbeque for friends, family, and neighbours.
The few runs I have been on while on my travels, have not exactly been the most calorie burning – I have to stop every other minute to take a picture at some mundane marvel. Here is an example from one morning jog: I can’t handle the stonework, both old and new.
Hagustaldes ham (aka Hexham)
Hexham is dominated by a sizeable Benedictine Abbey (founded in 674 AD) by a Saint Wilfred and was then known as Hagustaldes ham (Old English). I wish I could share my own personal snaps of said Abbey, however, I have just realized I deleted them all, including images of its interior and the original crypt (of which the stones used were taken from nearby Roman ruins—likely even Hadrian’s Wall). Oops.
Interesting tidbit: like many towns neighbouring the border between Scotland and England, Hexham suffered from the border wars between the two country’s kingdoms, including attacks from William Wallace who burnt the town in 1297. Not cool.
Enter Hadrian’s Wall, though more on that later.
Ye Old Gaol
Apparently, the Old Gaol is the earliest recorded ‘purpose built’ gaol in England and was built in 1330 to house the Archbishop of York’s prisoners. I didn’t get a chance to go in, but I hear it’s been turned into a museum informing visitors about how victims of the prison were kept and of course, how they were punished.
A moot hall is a meeting or assembly building, typically used as a space to decide local issues. Hexham’s’ moot hall was a gatehouse used as part of the defences of the town, later a courthouse, and presently houses council offices for Hexham’s Museum’s Department.
Pretty little side streets.
I’m a huge Chronicles of Narnia fan and whenever I happen upon a standalone lamppost, I can’t help but think of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy and Mr. Tumnus, and a forever winter without Christmas.
Though Hexham is small, it’s close enough to Newcastle, Edinburgh, and heaps of neighbouring communities worth checking out… including, of course, Hadrian’s Wall and surrounding Roman ruins.