© Copyright Andrew Curtis and licensed for
When our esteemed local hero, Cuthbert Collingwood, was elevated to the status of ‘Lord’ in the aftermath of the Battle of Trafalgar, he became ‘Baron Collingwood, of Caldburne and Hethpool, in the County of Northumberland’. And, being in possession of a fair old chunk of the lower College Valley, he determined to take advantage of the fact and do his bit for the future of the Royal Navy.
Collingwood, you see, was mad keen on planting acorns – with a view to ensuring the future supply of English Oak for the replenishing of the Fleet. When he was home on leave he would often be seen wandering the hills with his dog, Bounce, and a pocket full of acorns. He would plant and scatter them here and there as he went – and would encourage his friends and acquaintances to do likewise.
It seems he had great plans for his patch of real estate in the Cheviots; but when he died a few short years later in 1810, well, his grand design seemed destined never to leave the drawing board. However, his widow, Sarah, stepped into the breach and made quite sure that her husband’s final wish came true. For, in 1815, she oversaw the planting of 200 oak trees on the flank of The Bell, on the western bank of the College Burn, near Hethpool. One for every ship in the Royal Navy, it was said.
The great oak wood was never needed, of course, as warship technology moved on to iron-clad vessels and beyond. And so the Collingwood Oaks were allowed to mature into the 200-year-old beauties we see today.
Note: On the other side of the road which runs up the valley – directly opposite the Collingwood Oaks – was planted another wood in 2005. Called the ‘Trafalgar Wood’, it was created to mark the 200th anniversary of the famous battle. Oaks, of course.