Sunday, 13 May 2012


People of Berwick-upon-Tweed? Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Maybe we visited on a Sunday? When you're shut? (Except for the bookies.)

But it was our fault! Stupidly expecting the English Heritage Barracks to be open! When people are free to visit. Like at weekends. (When it's shut.)

So we half-heartedly began the Lowry trail instead. Here we could see the delightful results of your urban redevelopment schemes.

Anyway, never mind about the depressing cheap concrete blocks of misery which no doubt replaced some character-filled architecture, we learn Lowry liked decay. 'Ugliness too' he is claimed to have said. And, 'a derelict house gets me.'

You might have done something about the Lion house, but elsewhere you're carrying on a fine tradition with sights like this.

One of your beautiful Victorian buildings. Boasting smashed windows, padlocked boards, destroyed entrance, and a garden growing old vodka bottles. The plaque outside tells us it is a Jubilee British School building 1859-1909. It suggests a sniff of scholarly history to respect, no? But well done, Berwick-on-Tweed, for ignoring the potential of that, to keep true the love affair with Lowry.

Really, I hated your town. That is sad to me, because I wanted to love it. I wanted to enjoy the history, the river, the buildings, the landscape, the junction of England and Scotland, the grey skies and your fantastic photogenic bridges.

But after an hour I couldn't wait to bypass Asda, pick up some cheese, and picnic at Etal castle down the road instead.

I think you people of Berwick are probably owed an apology. Sadly not from this hapless tourist who has no intention of sugaring the pill, but for the years of neglect you've probably suffered from local and central government and council, uncaring developers, unimaginative planners, creators of short-term don't-care schemes, and people who make the community worse by throwing empty vodka bottles about, when they should be doing something useful to build it.

Now here's Etal Castle with its exhibition of the Battle of Flodden, and the far more interesting and politically significant Norham Castle. The latter is excellent, and I'm sorry to see the EH person had to decamp due to falling visitor numbers.



Ruth said...

I love Berwick. We stayed on the cliff top and the views were spectacular.

Grit said...

i agree the views of the borders are superb, ruth! (views of berwick urban centre, i am less convinced.)