Tag Archives: Derwent Valley

Nine Arches Viaduct from the meadow path

Scale in our landscape

History in the landscape fascinates me. I love to explore the architectural forms built by our ancestors, from castles to abandoned coal mines and from intact and preserved structures to stray bricks found in a stream bed. Whether I am exploring ‘virtually’, through maps and photographs, or physically on the ground, a question that I often ponder is, “Why was it built here, in this particular location?”

With the Nine Arches Viaduct, in Gateshead’s stretch of the Derwent Valley, it is possible to answer my question definitively. When the Derwent Valley Railway was built in the 1860s, the Earl of Strathmore refused to allow the railway to cross his land on the south side of the river and this meant two sizeable viaducts were needed to route the railway onto the north side to avoid the Earl’s Gibside Estate. I can appreciate that to keep the railway on a level route would have taken the railway rather close to the grand Georgian house and besides, the Earl’s coal interests didn’t require this railway line, so why would he help out his competitors?! Arguments of this sort were commonplace as Victorian coal mine owners sought routes to transport their coal to the River Tyne and so increase their fortunes.

Nine Arches Viaduct on the Derwent Walk Railway Path

The Nine Arches Viaduct now carries the Derwent Walk Railway Path, a multi-user route that is very popular for walking, cycling and horse-riding. This route is part of the C2C long distance trail between the east and west coasts of England.

Many people must travel over the rather unassuming concrete surface of the viaduct without ever knowing the reason for its existence and those who never venture from the main path down to the river bank would also never know the huge scale of this amazing piece of Victorian engineering, 500 feet (152 metres) long and rising 80 feet (24 metres) above the River Derwent.

Nine Arches Viaduct from the river bank

As you’ve probably guessed, the viaduct is known as the “Nine Arches” because it has nine arches, though only one of them actually spans the River Derwent.

Nine Arches Viaduct from the meadow

Looking up from the meadow and the river bank is the best place to see the impressive scale of this sandstone and brick bridge structure. The fence under the trees and the trees themselves in the above image give you some idea of the height of the railway viaduct. Now let’s take a look at the Nine Arches Viaduct from an elevated viewpoint.

Old Hollinside - panorama of the Derwent Valley in Autumn colour

Here we can see the Nine Arches Viaduct in context. You can see it is dwarfed by its own landscape setting, taking its small-scale place in this wooded valley. I think the view over this part of the Derwent valley is wonderful when the woodland is in its Autumn colours.

This post is my entry for the WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge this week on the theme of ‘Scale’. I was inspired to take part in this week’s challenge by Cee’s entry at Cee’s Photography … it was that amazing maple leaf that hooked me 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome

Victorian Railway Bridges in Black and White

Clues to an industrial history criss-cross our now-green-and-peaceful landscape in the form of old railways and waggonways. These old transport tracks now serve as walking and cycling trails by which we are able to explore a significant amount of the north east region and also further afield. Throughout much of the nineteeth century railways and waggonways abounded in our region, particularly to enable the transportation of coal. Many bridges were built either to carry the tracks across the steep-sided streams that are a major feature of our valley, or to allow established roadways to cross the newly-built railways. Some of these bridges were lost during the later decades of last century when rural railways were abandoned on a huge scale here in the UK, but fortunately many bridges survived and now form historical features of the walking and cycling trails.

Thinking about black and white for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week led me to remember and seek out images of some of these bridges I had collected a few years ago for another project.

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome
Victorian rural railway bridge in our local woods

The bridge in this first image carries the old road over what was the mineral railway line that carried coal from our village ‘pits’ down to the River Tyne. We often walk this way so we have seen it in all weathers. I think the snow seems to add something to the ‘by-gone era’ feeling of this Victorian stone-built bridge.

Victorian  railway bridge in monochrome
This hidden stone bridge carried the old mineral railway over a farm track

Only a short distance away on this same old railway there is another stone bridge, built in a similar style to the first. This one carried the single-track railway over a farm track that provided access to the fields and woods beyond. Now the bridge arch is largely filled with earth underneath, as on this stretch the old railway forms the boundary to a golf course. Unlike the first bridge which stands as a well-known landmark and proud historical reminder, this one is almost hidden away and overgrown.

Stone-built culvert in monochrome
This stone-built culvert was part of an old stream crossing

It’s not a railway bridge, I know, but it is a nineteeth century construction and it was built to aid travelling, so I decided to include it in this post. There are several of these arched stone-built or brick-built culverts dotted around our woods. As with this one, the culverts were used to carry the streams underneath paths and tracks. Earth would have been embanked on top of the culvert to help level out the path as it passed over the steep-sided stream, making it easier to walk, ride a horse or transport goods by cart through this part of the wood.

Stone bridge over an old railway monochrome
This stone bridge carries a farm track over an old railway line

Another Victorian railway line and another Victorian bridge. This lop-sided bridge still carries a farm road over the Derwent Walk Railway Path. No, it isn’t your eyes, or my dodgy photography [not this time!] … the bridge does slope downhill from left to right. This railway through the picturesque Derwent Valley formed the Consett branch line of the North Eastern Railway. Opened in 1867, it was a busy railway linking Consett to Newcastle, carrying passengers and goods. There are no rails on this track any longer but it remains busy as part of the C2C route of the Sustrans National Cycle Network – the C2C literally crosses the UK from coast to coast, east to west … or west to east depending on which direction you choose to cycle!

Stone-built Victorian railway viaduct in monochrome
Three of the nine arches that make up this impressive railway viaduct

I’ve saved the biggest bridge until last! The Nine Arches Viaduct is one of those marvels of Victorian engineering at 500 feet long and rising 80 feet above the River Derwent. One of four viaducts along the Derwent Walk Railway Path, the impressive Nine Arches Viaduct only came to be built because the Earl of Strathmore refused to allow the railway to cross his land at Gibside on the south side of the valley. Looking underneath the arches of the viaduct, you can see where a ‘second’ bridge has been added to allow a second track to be laid along the route. There are some marvelous views to be had from this vantage point – perhaps I can show you another day.

J Peggy Taylor