New Cragside Trail Set in Stone
Many have been prompted to wax lyrical about Cragside’s majestic setting overlooking Northumberland’s Coquet Valley, but visitors to the magnificent Victorian house standing in 1,000 acres of beautiful gardens, rugged woodland and shimmering lakes can be forgiven for being more poetic than usual.
Head out among the seven million trees and shrubs planted in the 19th century and you’ll now find words of wisdom, wit and wonder quite literally written in stone.
A series of thought-provoking quotes from the Victorian inventor, innovator, landscape genius and creator of Cragside, Lord Armstrong, have been carved into worked stones from a quarry on the estate that were destined for but never used in its building. They are now waiting to be discovered by visitors on a new Visions of Science Trail running between Slipper Lake and Canada Drive on Cragside’s upper reaches.
The five literary engravings fashioned on site by Cumbrian-based letter carver and artist, Pip Hall, are an unusual memorial to Newcastle resident Shirley Scouler’s lifelong love of Cragside.
Shirley died at the age of 57 in 2011, and the stone etchings have been made possible by a bequest from her family.
Husband Rodney Scouler, 62, and sons Jonathan, 38 and Matthew, 35, were prompted to make the generous gesture after enjoying many memorable family trips to the National Trust-run attraction on the outskirts of Rothbury. Jonathan, who has a seven month old daughter, Fearne, says the family is thrilled with the sculptural tribute to the wife and mother from Kingston Park.
“Mum loved Cragside, and growing up we spent a lot of happy days there picnicking and exploring. She especially loved the rhododendrons when they were in bloom,” Jonathan says.
“We wanted the money to fund something that everyone could enjoy but that at the same time would be a lasting tribute to mum.
“The stone carvings are fantastic and they are in a really beautiful place. Mum would have approved of what we have done. Cragside held a special place in her heart.”
The quotes form a narrative and have been drawn from his speeches. They give an insight into the mind of a remarkable and driven person, and include inspiring phrases such as the “seeds of invention exist in the air ready to germinate,” and refer to harnessing the energy of water by making “the power of great waterfalls obedient to the will of man.”
The idea for the stone markers came from Cragside’s head ranger Duncan Norman and his wife Joanne Elcoat, a historian of science at the University of Leeds. They selected the quotations from Lord Armstrong’s speeches and publications and collaborated with Pip Hall on the design of the stones.
“The object of the project was through his words to take Lord Armstrong onto his estate. In the house you will find his portraits and writings, but the landscape is his creation as well, so it is fantastic to now have some of his thoughts carved into the very stones of Cragside,” Duncan says.
“They have been deliberately placed on a hill path so you can follow the dramatic narrative of Lord Armstrong’s vision of science, ending with an account of the continuing challenge of science, ‘we still see heights above us and the immensity that lies beyond.’”
These words sit on a path offering some of the best views from Cragside over the heights of the Coquet Valley, Simonside and the Cheviots.
The Scoulers have walked the Visions of Science Trail. Jonathan says: “As a family, the stones and their location will forever be a special place to us and we hope it will be for others too.
“We hope visitors will delight in finding the stone carvings and I’m looking forward to enjoying days out at Cragside with my daughter and carrying on a family tradition.”
The Visions of Science Trail takes in part of one of four new way-marked walks launched this year, each offering a different view of Cragside.
While the house is now closed for the winter, visitors can still explore the surrounding woods and formal garden on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until December 21, before enjoying a well-deserved cuppa and bite to eat in the tea room.
A number of ranger led walks that are off the beaten track have also been organised for every Sunday until 21st December. The two hour walks are free to join in (normal winter admission charges apply) and take place between 1pm-3pm.
More information can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside