Cave In Morpeth, Northumberland
A natural cave modified into a place for swimmers to get changed in the 18th century.
Just a few miles west of Morpeth is a quaint little village called Hartburn, named as such because the river Tweed has a tributary called the Hart Burn running through it.
A few hundred years ago before the advent of heated, indoor swimming pools, if you wanted a dip you would just head down to your local river and jump in. However that meant no changing rooms and even worse, no vending machine for your post-swim packet of pickled onion Monster Munch!
Dr John Sharpe, the local vicar who landscaped these woods, decided to have a bash at the former problem in 1760. Building on an existing cave, he created two rooms and also a fireplace.
Here is Jayne (my glamorous assistant) from the Fabulous North trying out the facilities. (Brolley included to protect modesty!) I can confirm she didn't make it into the river!
Just outside is a small tunnel which allowed bathers to slip into the river without being seen. Or maybe it was an early day banana slide.
The cave is known as the Hartburn Grotto and sits within the woods called Hartburn Glebe.
Now if you look up at the top of the grotto you will see two carved niches which onced housed statues.
Some say it was Adam and Eve, (which may seem plausible giving that Dr Sharpe was a vicar), however a gazetteer from 1828 implied there were two male figures and one of them was “Jupiter hurling his thunderbolt”. Best guess that the other would have been one of his brothers - Neptune or Pluto.
If you continue walking along past the grotto you will eventually come out back further along the road, or just head back the way you came. There are some lovely walks nearby too if you fancy it.
Just at the entrance to the woods you should spot a little bridge with a tall lancet arch. This would have formed part of a more direct path down to the grotto, but is now no longer in use.
If you see this bridge or the below sign then you are on the right track.
Continue down these steps and follow the track to the left.
Lots of lovely picturesque views to see along the way.
Let us know if you used the grotto and made it into the river. Pictures or it didn't happen!
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From the car park turn left and walk along the main road. After 5 minutes you will see a sign on the right pointing down a slope to Hartburn Glebe. Follow the track as it bears around to the left and after another 5 minutes you will come to the grotto, Careful as the decline can be a little slippy in wet weather.
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There is a car park right in the centre of the village. It has an honesty box, so please chuck a quid in if you use it.
Contributed by Simon Hawkins
Thanks for checking out this place on the Fabulous North! I do enjoy a wander out in to the countryside trying to find hidden gems that not many people know about. You can't beat a rogue Pele tower up a remote hill or a mysterious stone circle or a stunning waterfall secluded in a forest.
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