Local History & Community Month 2021: The Past can show the Future

Published on 5 May
6 min read

What is Local and Community History Month?

A few years ago, we had a blog post up about Local & Community History Month explaining its purpose and how to make the most of it including pointing out some areas to visit across Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. We also started looking at local food & drink producers some were old family businesses, some were a new looking to make their mark on our community and some were inspired by the past and local area to create products that were also sustainable.

The month is run by The Historical Association. The intention of Local and Community History Month is to raise awareness of local history, to develop an interest in history in the local community and foster participation in local events. The past year’s events will go down in history. Pandemics, lockdowns, breaking economies, food shortages and the politics surrounding them will be the identity of this decade; the 2020s.

Farming potatoes
Local farms produce staple crops such as potatoes at Buston Potatoes near Warkworth.

This is why it is so important -more than ever – to shine a light on our local community and our local producers who have never stopped working throughout these extremely trying times. Now lockdowns are easing, we can travel to across these 2 counties to explore what makes this area so special. We have spectacular coastlines, dramatic ruins, hardworking farms, rolling hills and important industrial sites.

Inspired by our 2019 article, here are some of our favourite places to visit and food & drink to enjoy across Northumberland & the Scottish Borders.

4 ways to discover Northumberland & Scottish Borders for Local & Community History Month

Places to Discover

The fishing industry has been a huge part of life along the North Sea coast. From North Shields, which was part of Northumberland until 1974[1], to St Abbs on the Berwickshire coast, signs of the fishing industry history are everywhere.

Craster kippers curing
Herrings & kippers were an important part of the industry & wealth along the North Sea coast.

There are many memorials to those who lost their lives at sea, including the 189 in the Black Friday disaster in 1881 mainly affected Eyemouth, Coldingham and St Abbs fishermen and their families. It took many decades for the towns and villages to recover. Despite this, these coastal towns are still famous for their fishing. People come to visit the Scottish Borders & Northumberland coast to sample fresh lobster, crab & shellfish from local fishermen such as Ross Dougal Fish Merchants, Swallow Fish Ltd, Northumberland Seafood Centre & L Robson & Sons. We’re even lucky enough to have fresh fish available on market days too!

An iconic artwork in St Abbs to mark the fishing disaster of Black Friday.

The 2 counties are also scattered with castles. This part of the country saw volatile times throughout the Middle Ages not only between England and Scotland but also being subjected to the wild Border Reivers. Famous landmarks throughout Northumberland and the Scottish Borders include Traquair House, Dustanburgh Castle and of course Hadrian’s Wall!

Dunstanburgh castle view
Views of Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance

Food & Drink Communities

Many local businesses have taken inspiration from the history of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Whether it’s to do with the buildings, the plants or the landscape, there is an endless supply of inspiration from locally-based entrepreneurs.

The north-east is also a place where new communities are being built. Community bakeries, such as The Artisan Baking Community & Bread Works Organic Bakery are bringing people together and focusing on the simple pleasures of baking and sharing.

Freshly baked bread is one of the most ancient foods that we still enjoy today!

Heritage Foods

Heritage foods are also of interest to many local food and drink producers. For instance, the landscape and climate make for perfect conditions for plants such as heather and juniper to flourish. Gin makers have exploded in the past decade and luckily the main botanical can be found right here in the Borders.

Juniper bush
Locally foraged juniper bush

Mead & gin have become very popular trends again in recent years. We have many producer in Northumberland & the Scottish Borders who create gin & mead including Lilliard Gin, Hepple Gin and The Borders Distillery.

Lilliard Ruby Gin Liqueur in a basket of fruit
Bursting with summer berry flavours, try some Lilliard Ruby Gin Liqueur

Heather honey is a popular treat around these parts. Chain Bridge Honey Farm create delicious local heather honey, which is also used by many local producers including Doddington Dairy in their Heather Honey ice cream and by Lindisfarne Mead in their Dark Mead. Northumberland Honey Co also use heather honey in their wares. They make heather honey, heather comb honey and heather honey sparkling mead too!

Bespoke Heather Comb Honey by Chain Bridge Honey Farm is honey in its most natural form
Authentic Heather Comb Honey by Chain Bridge Honey Farm: honey in its most natural form

As well as creating new initiatives in the county, some producers such as Gilchester’s Organics are attempting to revive ancient foods. With a focus on heritage grains that our earliest ancestors started harvesting, such as Emmer & Einkorn, Gilchester’s Organics highlights the importance of locally-grown, organic, ancient grains have on our health as well as positively affecting the environment.

The Gilchesters’ team working hard to grow organic, ancient, sustainable crops!

In Northumberland, coffee and tea, which were once only available to the wealthy and intertwined with the slave trade during several centuries, are enjoying a guilt-free revival. Local companies such as Coffee & Kin work alongside tea and coffee plantations to make sure there is a fair deal. Furthermore, Coffee & Kin have recently launched the first plastic-free coffee capsules in the country. These guilt-free but convenient capsules are a far cry from the coffee our ancestors would have been drinking in the coffee houses of the 17th century!

Coffee capsule boxes
Check out Coffee & Kin’s Plastic-free & Biodegradable coffee capsules.

Historical Heroes

From a political superstar with a penchant for tea, the 2nd Earl Grey, Charles Grey, to humble fishermen campaigning for workers rights such as Willie Spears, there are many local heroes stories to discover during Local and Community History Month. The most famous past residents of Northumberland and Scottish Borders include Sir Walter Scott, Grace Darling, Jim Clark and St Cuthbert and St Aidan, famous monks associated with Lindisfarne.

Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory
The monks at Lindisfarne are believed to have established Christianity in England with the Lindisfarne Gospels. They also liked to make mead!

Be Part of History

Food trends are changing, and after a tough year it’s rethinking our food choices. With more time at home, it’s less about convenience and more about taste! We’d love for you to discover fantastic local food & drink that will make a difference to all your meals but also a change to your shopping habits. Planning meals will be easier, it will be more eco and there’s less waste too so your bins will be lighter!

Stock with old & new favourites on the Foodful shop!

Our food & drink heritage is awaiting discovery but now you can be part of the next chapter in history: the 21st Century local food movement. If you would like to discover more, use the Foodful directory to find local producers near you or you can visit our shop page and start making small local swaps to your shopping.

There is a treasure trove to discover. Food does bring communities together, and now that the weather is starting to hold up there is more reason to get outside, meet people, form acquaintances and build friendships whilst sampling your areas Foodful delights! How much do you know about your town?

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