Antony Chessell
Antony Chessell

News

AUGUST 2015

I have recently had two interesting trips that were quite different.

I spent two days visiting Vindolanda, Housesteads and Chesters Forts on Hadrian's Wall with their associated museums including the Roman Army Museum to the west of Vindolanda. This was triggered by a 6 weeks course that I was doing, arranged by NewcastleUniversity.

Then there was a boat trip from Seahouses around the Farne Islands during the nesting season with the constant risk of being dive-bombed by the Arctic Terns! There were also Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittywakes and Puffins as well as the Grey Seals near the Longstone Lighthouse. It was 45 years since my last trip there!

In June, I had an article published in the Borders Writers' Forum Anthology, Border Voices on Waverley and other railways. 'Two Elderly Steam Engines at Riccarton Junction: a family connection', was my contribution towards the Forum's recognition of the forthcoming reopening of part of the Waverley Line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank in September 2015.

In April 2015, I spent a few days excavating, as one of a team of volunteers (under the umbrella of Flodden 1513 and under the direction of professional archaeologists), a site to the west of Wark Castle on the River Tweed, in Northumberland. This was another of the Border castles like Ford Castle and Etal Castle, that were destroyed by James IV of Scotland before the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Three trenches were dug or re-opened and revealed what may have been a boundary wall to a western bailey, a hearth area, post holes and masonry, possibly associated with a medieval chapel. There were early coins, pottery and animal bones. All very interesting.

In May, I was back up at the original site on Flodden Hill (seen in the photograph, above right) where trenches were re-opened and new trenches dug in order to try to establish whether there had been any re-use of the site by James IV in 1513, or indeed by any other occupier since the Iron Age. There were some chunks of thick Iron Age pottery found and more evidence of the Iron Age ramparts but still no 16th century artefacts or structures.

 

My fourth book on local topics, Breamish and Till: From Source to Tweed, has been published by the Till Valley Archaeological Society (TillVAS)(www.tillvas.com), ISBN 978-1-291-58938-2 Price £10. Net proceeds of sale will go to the Society. 

Information about the book can be seen on my Books (cont.) page and copies may be bought by clicking on the blue link at the top of the Books page and following the instructions.

 

In September 2014, we had our annual pilgrimage to the Lake District and, on the Gallery page, I have included a photograph of Bowfell, at the head of the Langdale Valley. If any explanation is needed for my love of the Lake District, this says it for me!

 

Since the Australian trip, we have been fortunate in going on a National Trust for Scotland cruise in June 2014 to Orkney, Shetland, the Faeroe Islands, St. Kilda and Caithness. All in one week! But, a very good cruise. Selected photos in the Gallery. In July 2014, we visited a cousin living in a small village in Normandy close to many surviving features associated with the D-Day landings and the Dieppe landing—the weather was perfect.

 

At the end of March 2014 we returned from a visit to our Australian family and I have put a few photos in the Gallery.

 

In 2014,  I took part in an excavation at Wark Castle overlooking the R. Tweed. A large, defensive wall was discovered on the west side of a large enclosure to the west of the castle. There was medieval pottery, animal bones and a well-preserved iron 'bodkin' arrowhead, probably dating to the 16th century.

 

In 2014, I took part in a poetry reading in Hawick on a Sunday afternoon. It was a chance for local, Borders poets to read some of their work to microphone and camera. It took place in the Drum Beat cafe, a cafe/bookshop that hosts events and book reviews for local writers. There were about twelve of us plus our guests and other people in the cafe. I read two of my poems, 'A Helping Hand' and 'St. Kilda People' and they seemed to be well received. See http://www.youtube.com/bordersopenmic

 

Following on from the above, I was asked to submit a poem for the 'Poetry Corner' for publication in the Hawick News.

 

My photograph of a winter sunrise over the River Tweed at Coldstream was reproduced in the Berwickshire News on 30 January 2014. I have put it in the Gallery.

 

 

 

 

HOME

Thank you for visiting my website. I am Antony Chessell and I am a writer living in Northumberland in Border country, having moved from the Scottish Borders in October 2014. The photograph in the Header above shows Cheviot and adjoining hills in Northumberland as seen from Coldstream, just across the Border in Scotland.

Please click on the tabs to the left to find out about me, my books and various activities. Also, there is a collection of photographs in the Gallery which I add to on a regular basis. If you need to get in touch with me, you will see that there is a Contact tag.

This is me at the National Trust for Scotland cafe before setting off on a walk to St. Abbs Head on a sunny day in late summer. The eastern Borders has a good deal of sunshine with relatively low rainfall. The photos below show views of the ruined Etal Castle which is in the care of English Heritage and which is near to my house. The castle was sacked by James IV and his army before the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and was never restored to its original condition. The first photo shows the Tower House (there was never a keep) with the Gatehouse in the background. The second photo gives an impression of the many dramatic sunsets that appear behind the ruins.

For the last seven years, TillVAS volunteers (including me) have been working on excavations associated with the Battle of Flodden 1513. That year was the quincentenary of the battle and there were many events leading up to the commemoration of the battle on 9 September and these will continue for many years to come. 

We have worked under professional guidance at the supposed site of the encampment of James IV of Scotland on Flodden Hill and we have excavated and field-walked in many fields around the positions of the Scottish and English armies before the battle and the site of the battle itself, below Branxton Hill. 

The excavations this year (2015) started in April and funding means that we have been able to return to Wark Castle, moving back to Flodden Hill in May/June. There will be other 'digs' this year at Norham Castle and Ladykirk (built by James IV and perhaps used as a lookout post overseeing Norham Castle) and .

October 2013. I was quite excited when I found this beautiful worked flint whilst field-walking with TillVAS at a newly ploughed and sown wheat field just north of the village of Branxton. A section of the field had been marked out in 10metre square grids so that any finds lying on the surface could be 'bagged up' and their positions recorded. This flint, like all flints was clean of any attached soil. It has a long rectangular edge on one side which might have been glued into a wooden shaft with , perhaps, birch resin. The other edge has been tooled to enable the flint to have been used for cutting or scraping.

On the Gallery page I have included another photograph of a black flint scraper that I found another time. Evidently, this is an unusual specimen with some unusual features so I hope to learn more about it. Please have a look at it.

 

This is a small group, including Gwen and me (the two in the middle), field-walking on part of the Flodden battlefield site. It was cold!

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