THERE’S a fascinating opportunity this weekend to visit a garden near a ford where ravens once drank and a piper once drowned.

Ravensford Farm is to the south of Hamsterley, and its history goes back to at least 1408 when it was the home of a widow called Alice Galonn.

The farmhouse gets its name from the nearby Linburn Beck – a stream that seems to have both belt and braces in its name. A burn is an Old English word for a stream but when the Vikings arrived after 866AD, they brought with them their word for a stream, beck.

So every stream that flows into the Tees in the south is a beck but every stream that flows into the Tyne in the north is a burn.

Weardale is the battleground between burn and beck. Streams that flow into the Wear are both becks and burns, and Linburn Beck manages to be both a beck and a burn simultaneously.

The farmhouse name may show a similar tussle: it could be in ancient times that ravens once nested near the ford, or it could be that a Viking called Hraefn, a common Scandinavian name, settled here.

Visitors approaching the farmhouse from the south will cross Linburn Beck on a bridge near a part of the stream known as Piper’s Hole.

One day in the 1720s, when the beck was in flood and so the ford was not useable, Jack Dowson of Ravensford Farm went across on a rickety footbridge with his horse. A travelling piper, touring the area playing for money, followed.

As Jack and the horse passed the centre of the bridge, it gave way behind them. They scrabbled to safety, but the poor piper was washed away.

One version of the story says: “When the people of Hamsterley asked Dowson where the piper was, he replied, with the utmost coolness, that “he was drowned all to rags”.”

The body of the unfortunate fellow was found in Piper’s Hole the following day.

Hopefully, visitors will arrive more safely on Sunday when the Ravensford gardens are open from 2pm and 5pm as part of the National Open Garden Scheme, raising money for charity.

Visitors will see the handiwork of the Peacocks, Caroline and Jonathan, who bought the property in 1984 when it was a ruin surrounded by semi-derelict land full of nettles and thistles and one old apple tree.

The apple tree survives, but in place of the wilderness, the Peacocks have sculpted a beautiful garden of lawn, woodland, herbaceous borders and, fittingly for the battleground of beck and burn, plenty of free-flowing water.

Ravensford Farm gardens at Hamsterley (postcode DL13 3NH) are open on Sunday, August 3, 2pm to 5pm, admission is £4. Homemade teas available.