Tow­er­ing trees thick with colour, lakes and brooks criss-crossed by bridges, and a fan­tas­ti­cal man­sion – en­ter the wa­tery world of Crag­side, an en­chant­ing es­tate dreamt up by an am­bi­tious in­ven­tor, says Maria Hod­son

Countryfile Magazine - - Great Days Out -

Agrand man­sion, vastly wa­ter-pow­ered wealthy built by and a ec­cen­tric Vic­to­rian in­ven­tor, cloaked in dense wood­land dot­ted with fol­lies, grot­tos and bur­bling brooks. It sounds a place con­jured in a work of fic­tion, but Crag­side does in­deed ex­ist, in the wilds of Northum­ber­land.

The house is the first home in the world to be pow­ered by hy­dro­elec­tric­ity, at the de­sign of Lord Arm­strong, an engi­neer and in­dus­tri­al­ist known as “the Ma­gi­cian of the North”. The founder of the Elswick works on the Tyne, Arm­strong (18101900) man­u­fac­tured ships, hy­draulic cranes and weapons. This vastly wealthy self-made man threw all the op­u­lence he could at Crag­side – and this lav­ishly dec­o­rated mock Tu­dor man­sion be­came the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced house of its era. Sit­ting atop a rugged hill, it is sur­rounded by its re­mark­able grounds, in which Arm­strong had five lakes con­structed – and seven mil­lion trees and shrubs planted.

On this walk, look out for Dou­glas fir, west­ern hem­lock, gi­ant se­quoia – some tow­er­ing above 50m – along with beech, Nor­way spruce, pe­dun­cu­late oak, Nor­way maple, Scots pine, larch, com­mon lime and sil­ver birch, cre­at­ing a ma­jes­tic riot of au­tumn colour. It’s a true wood­land won­der.


From Crag­side house, head north-west past the car park and fol­low the path to­wards the NT vis­i­tor cen­tre, tak­ing the right-hand route, Car­riage Drive, along the east­ern side of Tum­ble­ton Lake. Walk up­hill past the vis­i­tor cen­tre on your right, where you can en­joy a fine cream tea (no, it’s not too early).


After pass­ing some cot­tages on your right, turn left on to the gravel track of Lady’s Walk to head south through au­tumn woods. Cross Deb­don Bridge and con­tinue along the west­ern bank of Tum­ble­ton Lake on the board­walk, be­fore fol­low­ing the lake around to the left.


Take the steps on the right down to­wards the Pump House, which sup­plied the house with the wa­ter by pump­ing it up to a reser­voir 200 feet above the house. This stored wa­ter was fed into the house by grav­ity to power the hy­draulic lift, kitchen spit and laun­dry equip­ment.

Fol­low the Arm­strong Trail, which wends back and forth along bur­bling Deb­don Burn. Take the stone steps on the left to gain ac­cess across the splen­did iron bridge. At the other end of the bridge, take the steps be­neath the bridge to­wards the Pine­tum, which is thick with conifers. Cross a wooden bridge and fol­low the trail. Where the path forks, turn right to con­tinue through the Pine­tum. Keep an eye out for red squir­rels tum­bling through the tree­tops, and gnarled wood spirit Dou­glas, a sculp­ture carved into a fallen Dou­glas fir.


Turn right to cross over the ivy bridge and con­tinue along the path to­wards the Power House. From the Power House, head east to reach a main track – here turn left and re­turn to the house. Ad­mire its ex­tra­or­di­nary art­works and the tech­no­log­i­cal nov­el­ties of the era, such as a tele­phone and a pas­sen­ger lift, be­fore ex­plor­ing the grot­tos, rock gar­dens and clock tower. Both ahead of its time and out of this world, Crag­side is mag­i­cal.


Pro­duc­tion ed­i­tor Maria Hod­son ap­pre­ci­ates fairy tales, spells and spell­ing.

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