This walk is a fairly short walk, but it is steeped in history and interesting features. Before we begin, a little history lesson regarding “Camp 18” at Featherstone Park:
Location: Haltwhistle, Northumberland
Closed: Summer 1948
“Camp 18”, bordering the South Tyne river and stretching across a mile of Featherstone Park, was constructed in 1944 to accommodate US personnel prior to their departure to Normandy for the Invasion of France. Emptied of Americans, the camp was for several months used to hold Italian prisoners of war, but in 1945 it was converted to hold “Black Nazis”; the most fervent believers in Hitler’s Germany, who would only be repatriated after a thorough course of denazification. It was not particular to any one section of the Reich; Wehrmacht officers, captured U-Boatmen, Luftwaffe pilots, bureaucrats, diplomats and ambassadors were all represented. The most senior resident was General Ferdinand Heim, a veteran of Stalingrad and chief of staff to the Sixth Army, captured in 1944 when his garrison defending Boulogne surrendered. Consisting of some 200 huts in four compounds, Camp 18 was one of the largest officer POW camps in Britain, at one time housing 4,000 officers and 600 orderlies.
Despite the obvious challenge of making the most hardline Nazis into good citizens fit for the new Germany, the operation was an enormous success, so much so that in 1947 the barbed wire fencing around the camp was removed. It was said that the Featherstone more resembled a university campus than a POW camp; prisoners would be sent out to work on local farms during the day, but at night they would study, and received lectures from Durham, Newcastle, even some Oxford academics. It was a system that quickly prepared these men for flourishing careers in the new Germany; some even went on to play a political role in its foundation.
The camp had its own chapel, theatre, library, and medical centre, even a bakery and sewerage system. It had a newspaper; Die Zeit am Tyne, printed in Hexham, and, making use of the great pool of talent in the camp, it boasted three orchestras and its own puppet theate, which entertained various audiences across Northern England.This extract was taken from http://www.pegasusarchive.org/pow/cB_FeatherstonePk.htm
We started from a small car park just the other side of the river to the Lambley Sewage treatment system. After getting ourselves ready, we went through the gate and headed along the track towards Featherstone Castle. The path is on hard track, through estate land all the way to the next road. After about 1/3 of a mile, we came to the remains of the Prisoner of War camp (see extract above). After looking around the ruins and contemplating what it would have been used for (we didn’t look up the info until we got home) we continued on our way. We carried on along the path, passing through the gates to the camp, eventually coming to Featherstone Castle on our right. The Castle is still used, so we couldn’t look round it. We carried on for a little way until we came to where the bridge was to cross the river.
Unfortunately, due to the bad rain and floods on 18th May 2013, the bridge was washed further downstream so we decided to carry on and try and find a different way across. We came to a road bridge that had a fairly secluded beach by the river just the other side of it. We decided to stop here and have lunch, and let the dog swim in the river. After Lunch and letting the dog have an interesting swim in the river, we started on our way back.
We crossed the road bridge, and took the footpath on our left that ran the opposite side of the river to where we had just walked. The path was a muddy track through woodland following the course of the river upstream. Because of the floods earlier in the year, there was a lot of river debris strewn throughout the woods, and we soon came across the footbridge that was supposed to be further upstream. It demonstrates the amazing (and scary) power of the water. We eventually came to the edge of the woodland, crossed the stream via a footbridge and came to a very crooked gate.
We then walked through sheep fields, following the river upstream, until we came to a farm track. We then followed this track a short way until we came back to the main road. We then turned left and followed the main road back to the car.
|Map used:||North Pennines|