Artist in full flow for river mural

It's a labour of love which has taken 10 years to complete, chronicling the journey of a North river from its source to its mouth.

It's a labour of love which has taken 10 years to complete, chronicling the journey of a North river from its source to its mouth.

Artist Tony Johnson with his mural at Chain Bridge Honey Farm, near Horncliffe

Since retiring as a teacher in 1998, artist Tony Johnson has been building up a spectacular mural, day by day, at Chain Bridge Honey Farm, near his home village of Horncliffe in North Northumberland.

Its creation has involved Tony spending countless hours immersed in documenting the views along the 97-mile River Tweed, from its spring near the River Clyde in Scotland to where it meets the sea at Berwick.

Armed with a sketchpad and camera, Tony captured 112 different scenes along the river, featuring not only well-known landmarks such as castles, churches and other historic buildings, but village streets and shops and quirky corners where unusual sights have caught his eye.

And this week has seen him finally applying the finishing touches to the monumental task, which will be unveiled to the public as a completed work on April 22.

"Once or twice a week since I gave up teaching, I've made my way to the nearby honey farm, whose owner, Willie Robson, commissioned me to paint a series of murals for his then recently-opened showroom," said Tony, 69, who was headteacher at Tweedmouth West First School.

"The theme was the course of the River Tweed from source to sea, the many tributaries that flow into it, and as many points of interest both natural and man-made as could be worked into the design. "That was in 1998." As the work progressed, interest also grew. "People visiting the honey farm, which stands alongside the Tweed, have recognised themselves in paintings," said Tony. "Some of them will be among the guests attending the official unveiling.

"It's been a long journey, but a very worthwhile one, and I'm delighted it's finally complete."

Mr Robson added: "Tony's murals are outstanding and have been a constant source of interest and fascination to visitors to the honey farm since he started on them nearly 10 years ago. He is a very talented artist who is very modest about his work, but his murals of the Tweed are quite remarkable and we are very proud of them. He has given our visitor centre a star attraction."

Tony, who was an English teacher before he took up painting seriously, is holding a one-man exhibition - A Year in the Borders - of his work throughout May at The Maltings in Berwick.

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Tweed factfile

* The River Tweed is 156km (97 miles) long.

* Its source is at Tweed's Well, near the River Clyde.

* It enters the sea at Tweedmouth, to the south of Berwick.

* It is considered to be one of the best salmon fishing rivers in the world, and contributes around £20m a year to the local economy.

* In Gaelic language, its name is Uisge Thuaidh.

* Along its lower reaches, the Tweed marks the Scottish border with England.

* Major towns through which the Tweed flows include Peebles, Galashiels, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream and Berwick.

* It was on the Tweed at Norham that Edward I of England, also known as Longshanks, met the Scots nobility in 1292 to decide on the future king of Scotland - resulting in the later rebellions of Wallace and Bruce.

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