Yeavering Bell is a hill north west of Wooler, between Yeavering and Kirknewton.
A difficult. 2 hour walk on high moors. Good walking shoes are essential. Stiles exist on route and sheep may be on the hillsides, and if so a leader will be necessary.
Ad Gefrin, the site of one of the royal capitals of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, is close to the parking area.
Postcode for Satnav - NE71 6HF. This is for Old Yeavering Farm.
Coming from the south, about 3 miles north of Wooler the A697 bends right, but take the left turn, the B6351 sideroad signposted 'Yeavering, Kirknewton'. From the north, as you approach the foot of the Cheviots, you will see this road on your right, signposted 'Yetholm, Kirknewton' and 'Akeld Manor country hotel'.
About 2 miles alomng this road you will see a layby on the right for the Ad Gefrin site, and a farm on your left a couple of hundred yards past. There is space for 3 or 4 cars to park on the grass verge at the farm entrance.
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Walk up the trackway to Old Yeavering farm, pass the farm and then continue over the cattle grid. You will see a signpost on your left marked 'Permissive route to Yeavering Bell', but this is a hard, steep climb, so we tackled the walk anti-clockwise. So, continue up the roadway for about a mile, until you see a path on your left marked as St Cuthbert's way. Follow St. Cuthbert's way up into the hills, over a stream and up to a stile over a wall. Continue along behind the wall until you see a footpath crossroads sign, with the left hand heading up the back of Yeavering bell.
When you park your car, you will see a small gateway in the wall opposite. If you go through this gate and follow the path behind the wall, it brings you out at the AD Gefrin archeological site. When we were there, a couple of archeologists had a large trench open, and we could see the stains in the soil that will be familiar to anyone who ever watched Time Team. Otherwise you will just see a large empty field, although there are a couple of information boards describing the site.
There is very large hillfort on top of Yeavering Bell, with 3 meter thick walls that must originally have been several meters high. It was originally built in the Bronze age, or maybe even the Neolithic, and may have lasted until after the Romans, a span of several thousands of years.
Ad Gefrin, or the Hill of Goats, was an important Northumbrian royal palace. The Northumbrian Kings had several royal residences in the kingdom, and they moved around them to consolidate their rule, collect taxes and dispense juctice. Ad Gefrin was one of the oldest, but was lost for a thousand years until an archeoligist in the 1940s noticed crop marks on aerial photos. Excavations in the 50s and 60s revealed a great timber hall about 30 yards long, connected to a smaller hall by an enclosure. Other buildings included kitchens, weaving sheds, and a large grandstand that could initially sit 150 people.
Ad Gefron was first occupied by the Anglo-saxons during the reign of King Ida, the first king of Bernicia, though his palace was at Bamburgh. His grandson Aethelfrith consolidated Bernicia with Diera to create the kingdom of Northumbria. He extended Ad Gefrin into a Royal palace, and had the ampitheatre built. Aethelfrith was succeeded by Edwin, and his consort, Queen Aethelburgha of Kent brought the bishop Paulinus north. The Venerable Bede describes Paulinus preaching at Ad Gefrin, maybe in the ampitheatre, which could now hold 320 people. Paulinus baptised dozens of Northumbrians in the nearby river Glen.
Edwin was eventually killed in battle by Cadwallon of Wales and Penda of Mercia who burned Ad Gefrin to the ground. When he regained the Northumbrian throne, Oswald rebuilt Ad Gefrin complete with a cemetery and a church, but it was burned again by Penda of Mercia. Ad Gefrin never really recovered from this, although some rebuilding happed during King Oswiu's reign. The seat of power eventually moved to nearby Maelwin, and Ad Gefrin was forgotten for 1000 years.
Some believe that the legendary King Arthur was associated with 'North Wales', the British region that extended across modern day lowland Scotland and northern England. Arthur's first battle was said to have happened at the mouth of the river Glen. Was this the Lincolnshire Glen, or the river Glen that runs just north of Ad Gefrin? Was this tale an echo of the battles that must have happened as Ida established the Anglo Saxons at Bamburgh and doubtless tried to spread his influence inland? Maybe one day the archeologists can tell us if there was an earlier British settlement here, but I doubt if they can tell us anything about King Arthur.
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