The ancestral home of the Charlton clan – once feared for its raiding forays – is putting out the welcome mat for visitors
After nearly 700 years as the base of the Border Reiver family, the picturesque Hesleyside Estate in the North Tyne Valley of Northumberland National Park is opening its gates to holidaymakers.
It is providing accommodation in the shape of traditional Northumberland shepherds’ huts, locally hand-crafted in reclaimed oak.
Sited in an oak copse in private parkland landscaped by Northumberland’s Capability Brown, the fully insulated huts feature wood burning stoves, king-size feather beds and cooking and power shower facilities.
Outside, there is a campfire and access to the natural beauty of the estate and the Hesleyside beat of the River North Tyne – one of the best salmon and trout rivers in England.
Hesleyside is 15 minutes’ walk from Bellingham, and a short drive up the valley is Kielder Water and Forest.
The Reivers were feuding Border families at a time when cattle raiding was common. The legend of the Hesleyside Spur – which is still in existence – tells of a powerful Charlton matriarch who used to serve the spur on a dish at table to prompt her menfolk to go raiding when the cupboards were bare.
Hesleyside and the surrounding area is steeped in history and remains of stone built fortified farmhouses, called bastles, of the Reiving days can be visited through the local Tarset Bastle Trail.
Owners William and Anna Charlton and their four children are enthusiastic about sharing their landscape with visitors.
William said: “It is a privilege to live at Hesleyside but this comes with a huge set of unique and costly challenges.
“In order to secure Hesleyside for future generations and keep pace with the rising costs of running a large historic house we are having to diversify from the traditional farming income of the estate.
“We are looking forward to sharing our beautiful surroundings with our guests and giving them a holiday to remember.”
The Charltons were supported in their investment with a Leader grant from the Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group (NULAG) which aims to encourage new ways of improving the local economy in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.
Anna said: “Thanks to this grant we have been able to invest in developing new income streams that will make the estate more self-supporting in future.
“We have already been able to give business to local craftsmen and professionals and hopefully there will be more work and orders as we go forward.”
Michael Nixon, chairman of NULAG said: “We are delighted to support this unique development in the North Tyne Valley as it will bring a number of benefits to the area, not least by attracting more tourists to the local economy and helping to establish new products created by local craftspeople.”
Tony Gates, chief executive of Northumberland National Park Authority and board member of Northumberland Tourism, said: “High standards of accommodation that sit lightly in the landscape, like these charming shepherds huts, are essential to help expand the county’s offer to visitors and to make the most of our special tranquillity. I’ve no doubt they’ll be a great hit.”
Hesleyside Huts are open now and will be available all year around for families, anglers and people seeking the tranquillity of the area.
Both huts have ensuite bathrooms and sleep two adults and one child. They were built by the Northumberland Shepherd Hut Company.
NULAG was established by Northumberland National Park Authority with the aim of directing European Leader funds into the North East upland rural economy through an independent panel of community champions – the Local Action Group.
The NU Leader area covers 3,042 km2 of Northumberland from the River South Tyne to the River Till. Since its inception, NULAG has aided 77 community and business enterprises with £2,035,000 of grant funding, helping to bring £2.3 million of match funding into the region and creating 40 new jobs.