Barrowburn Meadows, Alwinton
The ancient upland haymeadows of Northumberland National Park are internationally rare and those at Barrowburn are some of the best in Europe.
Barrowburn is the one of the prettiest locations in the Cheviot Hills, with the musical Coquet still a clear mountain stream as it runs past the farmhouse door. Here, with only the sounds of nature for company, is a delightful farmhouse tea room serving homemade cakes and local ice cream.
The farmer manages his grazing land in such a way as to encourage these lovely reminders of a slower way of life, the haymeadows include lavender-blue wood cranesbill and the white umbels of pignut among many other species of flower, grass and moss. The intense variety – commonly over 25 species per square metre in the National Park, creates an ideal habitat for hundreds of insects, bees and butterflies that nourish a wide range of birds such as meadow pipits and skylarks, swallows and martins, wheatears and the rare ring ouzel.
How to get there
Take the B6341 from Rothbury for about 4 miles, then turn right (signed Harbottle). Follow the road up the Coquet Valley passing through Alwinton. Continue 6 miles on to Wedder Leap car park between Bygate and Barrowburn Farms where you can park (O.S Grid Ref: NT 866 103) for a short walk to the tea room.
Species to spot
Best time to see: May - Sept.
A semi-parasitic flower, that feeds off nutrients in nearby grass roots. In doing so it helps restrict the vigorous grasses, allowing more delicate wildflowers to emerge. Its 'rattle' is from tiny seeds in their pods.
Best time to see: April - June
With delicate, branched stems, and white umbels of small flowers. Shakespeare refers to pignut in The Tempest when Caliban says 'I pr’ythee, let me bring thee where crabs grow; And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts; Show thee a jay’s nest, ....'
Image by Cath Shellswell, Plantlife
Best time to see: June - September
The eyebright is a beauty in miniature, with distinctive lobed petals and often, a bright yellow centre. So-called because it was traditionally used to treat eye infections.
Image by Trevor Dines, Plantlife
Best time to see: All year
Male skylarks can be spotted rising almost vertically from the ground, hovering and singing from a great height before parachuting back down to earth. Despite their aerial activities, skylarks nest on the ground, laying three to four eggs. Image (c) Stefan Johansson
Ministry of Defence