LAST week, Memories alighted with delight on Melon Isle – a farm with a wonderfully fruity name on the banks of the Killhope Burn near Cowshill in upper Weardale. Did they once grow cantaloupes or honeydews or galias up in those wonderful wilds, we asked?

“Forget the fruit,” said John Backhouse. “The name is almost certainly a corruption of “Miln Eele” from its association with the water corn mill just upstream at Burtree.”

Les Blackett agreed. “According to WM Egglestone’s book, Weardale Names of Field and Fell, Melen Eale below Cowshill probably marks the site of an iron and lead mill which existed there in Queen Elizabeth I’s time.”

So, there was once a mill there. What about the island?

“The second part of the name is much more puzzling,” said John. “There are several place names in Weardale with Isle or Eele in them – Scotch Isle near Wolsingham, Bond Isle at Stanhope, Blackies Eele near Eastgate, Cambokeels between Eastgate and Westgate which is a corruption of “Cammock Eele”, the bent or curved eele.

“They are all areas in the valley bottom with the river flowing along one side, but none of them is surrounded by water. Neither is Island House near St John’s Chapel.”

Weardale isn’t alone in having its isles. On the carrs to the east of Newton Aycliffe, which have the River Skerne, the A1(M) and the East Coast Main Line running through them, there is Great Isle, Little Isle and The Isle. The land today is drained, so it is a little ridiculous to talk of islands, but in olden times it was a large lake and these tufts of land were dry while all around was wet. Did the isles of upper Weardale also stay dry in times of flood?

Last week’s article was about Heathery Cleugh, which is the name of the parish in upper Weardale. Several people have asked how to pronounce it, and the second word is the same as the famous football manager, Brian.

“You also mentioned that the waters of Heathery Cleugh ran into Killhope Beck,” said Les, pulling us up on a slip of the fingers. “It should have been Killhope Burn as there are no becks in Weardale only burns.

“A beck is a Norse word for a brook or a stream and becks occur in Teesdale, but burn is an Anglo Saxon word for the same and are used in the river names in Weardale.”

The Vikings cannot have penetrated far enough into Weardale to rename its burns – nor to grow any fruit.