Whittingham Vale
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Information about Whittingham, Callaly and Alnham, Northumberland, UK

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History, geography and facilities of Whittingham Vale

The parishes of Whittingham, Callaly and Alnham (governed by one unitary parish council), lie in the valley of the upper reaches of the river Aln: between the Breamish valley in the north east and the Coquet valley in the south west.

It covers about 50 square miles and is essentially hill country, bordered on the west by the Cheviots. It is a great place to live in or to visit. The scenery is beautiful and the traffic is sparse. The Vale has an atmosphere of calm tranquility; however, as you will see elsewhere, the people of the Vale are not completely laid back and there is lots for people to do in their leisure time!

There are about 280 residential houses in the Vale.

Whittingham is the largest village and there are several smaller villages and hamlets, including Alnham, Callaly, Lorbottle, Great Ryle, Little Ryle, Prendwick, Thrunton and Yetlington.

Most of the older buildings within the Vale are farm houses and cottages constructed of local yellow sandstone that has weathered to grey. Whittingham itself was formerly an estate village but in 1927 many of the properties were sold to meet death duties incurred by the then Lord Ravensworth of Eslington.

There are several substantial buildings within the Vale including Eslington Hall, Callaly Castle, the Old Vicarage, the Court House, the Pele Tower and Lorbottle Hall, all of which are residential properties.

Historically the owner of Swarland Hall built small houses on half acre plots in Swarland village to provide accommodation and small holdings for ship yard workers who lost their employment during the 1930s depression. He also set up Swarland Brickworks at Thrunton to provide them with additional work.

The economy is largely agricultural, with much self-employment and some tourism.

Many people who live in the Vale work in trades locally, such as agriculture, plumbing, building, gardening, etc. Others run their own businesses from home offering a wide range of skills such as marketing, architecture, accounting, financial advice, management consultancy, IT consultancy, holiday cottages, etc.. Those who are employed outside the parish travel mainly to Alnwick, Morpeth, Newcastle or even Edinburgh.

The Vale has one public house within its boundary, the Bridge of Aln near Whittingham on the A697, although there are more surrounding the Vale. Travelling shops visit the villages and hamlets weekly to offer general goods, meat, fish and bread. Three supermarkets provide delivery services to the area. The mobile library van makes regular visits. See the Local Info page for more information on all these services.

Alnwick, Rothbury and Wooler are only a few miles away and offer a wider range of shopping facilities.

The Church of England First School in Whittingham has currently about 60 pupils. It runs an outreach lunch club on Thursdays for older people. There is also a toddler group and nursery at the school.

There is great community spirit in Whittingham Vale, which has not slackened after sustained activity to raise funds for improvements to the village Memorial Hall. Nearly £200,000 was raised from the Great Lottery Fund. More recent community efforts have included re-surfacing the Hall car park, and refurbishing the church clock.

Several new societies have been formed, such as a crafts society, a yoga club, a gardening society, an amateur dramatic society, a badminton club, an Art group and an indoor bowls club.

Other organisations include a local history society, a very active Scout group with over 70 members in five sections from Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Seniors and Rovers, a well supported flower club, and a long established Women’s Institute.

Like many other villages in this agricultural area, both Whittingham and Alnham have annual Shows. These provide many activities to interest visitors and also opportunities for people to enter craft and other competitions.

Spiritual needs are well catered for. St Bartholomew’s, the parish church of Whittingham, is of Anglo Saxon foundation and stands on rising ground, which could have been the meeting place of Hwita’s people, the Anglo Saxon chief from whose name Whittingham (Hwita-ing-ham) has evolved.

Alnham has its own parish church, St Michael’s and All Angels.

Callaly Castle, where there had been a Roman Catholic priest in residence since the 12th century, passed by sale into the hands of a non-Catholic in 1877. St. Mary’s church, situated mid way between Whittingham and Glanton, was therefore built for use by Catholics resident in the Vale.

There is a regular bus service from Whittingham to Alnwick and Wooler, and a twice weekly bus to Newcastle upon Tyne. The railway station on the main north-east line at Alnmouth is about 10 miles from Whittingham. The main road connections are via the A697 and the A1.

North Northumberland has marvellous countryside, good beaches and several castles, including Alnwick castle, where the Harry Potter films were made. Other tourist attractions include Holy Island and Alnwick Gardens.

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