Tag Archives: old railways

Favourite walks - beechwood path

Favourite Walks for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

We love to walk. Our favourite walks take us on modern multi-user routes, along coastal paths and old railways, but we also love to scramble along leafy, muddy woodland tracks in our own local woods. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, we are sharing walks, both indoors and out. All of the photos I have chosen, feature places we love to walk.

My header shot is of our beautiful local beechwoods. We know and love this path in all seasons and all weathers. Its surface can be dry and sandy or distinctly soggy, with deep puddles and rivulets cascading between the tree roots. Its popularity with cyclists in recent years has prompted the addition of limestone gravel to some parts of the path to keep it passable in wet conditions.

Favourite walks - the aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens
The aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens

I thought I add one indoor walk for this challenge. Sunderland Winter Gardens are like a little oasis in the heart of the city centre. This high level aerial walkway is a wonderful vantage point from which to view the impressive tropical plants in the Winter Gardens. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week, I showed you the fountains you can see both inside and out at Sunderland’s miniature-tropical-rainforest-in-a-giant-greenhouse.

Favourite walks - Whitburn Coastal Path
Walking along Whitburn Coastal Path to Souter Lighthouse

At least once every Summer, we head out to the North East coast and walk along South Shields Leas to Souter Lighthouse or walk the Whitburn Coastal Path. Both of these paths are maintained by the National Trust along this beautiful and fascinating – but also the most dangerous – stretch of England’s coast.

When we aren’t walking coastal paths, we love to walk along old railways. Here in North East England, we have many old railway tracks that have been turned into a connected set of footpaths.

Favourite Walks - Lintzgreen Station, Derwent Walk
Walking through Lintzgreen Station on the Derwent Walk

Here we’re walking through one of the old stations that stood along the Derwent Valley Railway which carried passengers and freight through our leafy green valley last century when coal mines and steel furnaces were the main employers. You can see the train platforms on either side of the track. My son had evidently found something interesting and had climbed up onto the platform from where passengers would have travelled northbound through to Newcastle. This footpath is now known as the Derwent Walk, a multi-user route that forms part of the C2C long-distance cycle route, and which links up to the Waskerley Way, below.

Favourite walks - Waskerley Way
Heading out across the heather moors on the Waskerley Way

The Waskerley Way railway path takes us out over the heather moors and is another favourite walk of ours in Summer when the purple heather blooms. I love walking this path but you have to go prepared – this is real moorland and the weather can change suddenly. A warm Summer’s day in our valley can mean a cool and brisk breeze on the moor and passing showers envelop you – you literally have your head in the cloud! Warm clothing and waterproofs are definitely a good plan.

Favourite walks - going to our camp
Walking to our camp in the woods

Not all of our favourite walks are on wide and well-defined footpaths. We also love leafy woodland tracks. A few years ago we built a camp entirely from natural materials and there I taught the boys to cook outdoors over a small wood fire. The camp was deep in the woods, so the walk to reach it required a bit of scrambling through brambles and steep-sided streams. Here we are taking the narrow track along the top of the stream gorge on our way to cook at the camp.

Favourite Walks - going home along the old railway
Going home along the old railway in our woods

Wherever we may roam, we always return home, and quite often the walk home is along the old railway in our local woods. Just like our favourite beechwood path that we saw at the beginning of this post, we have walked the old railway in every type of weather – sun, rain, fog, frost, ice and snow. We knew all its muddy puddles. We sometimes even sledged along it on the way home from school, years ago when the boys were young.

When the railway was very dry, you could still see the impressions in the ground where the old wooden railway sleepers had lain when it carried the mineral line that took the coal from our village to Newcastle. I’m slightly sad that this Spring the old railway has been resurfaced with gravel to make a modern multi-user route. However, with the increasing rainfall due to climate change, the puddles in some places were becoming so deep and wide, a boat was almost needed! So perhaps the new path surface was the only practical solution 🙂

Do take a look at the walks others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

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

Shaft of sunlight lighting up the old waggonway between the dark conifer trees

Straight lines and contrasts – photo challenge time

When I saw the themes of two of this week’s photo challenges, it made me remember an interesting industrial archaeology project we worked on a couple of years ago. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week we are seeking out “straight lines”. For the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge we are considering “contrasts”. In the place we were exploring our industrial archaeology we noticed several combined instances of these concepts.

Our local area is full of industrial history as we live on part of the Durham Coalfield. Remnants of old mine shafts, iron workings and networks of old railway lines and waggonways are woven into this peaceful green and rural landscape. It must have been a very different environment a hundred years ago when coal mining here was at its height. The noise, the dust and the smoke have all gone completely. The collieries, old spoil heaps and railway tracks are now gradually assimilating into the landscape. Reclaimed by Mother Nature and grown over with woodland (some natural, some planted), unless you know their story, you don’t really notice them at all when you pass by.

Here’s my selection:

This straight track is part of the old railway line. This railway carried steam locomotives hauling their cargo of coals to the River Tyne. Now it is a peaceful footpath where we watch butterflies and pick blackberries as we look out across the wooded valley.
This straight track is part of the old railway line. This railway carried steam locomotives hauling their cargo of coals to the River Tyne. Now it is a peaceful footpath where we watch butterflies and pick blackberries as we look out across the wooded valley.
Sunlight searching through this steep-sided stream gully provided a stark dark/light contrast from our vantage point on the hillside between some tall, dark conifers.
Sunlight searching through this steep-sided stream gully provided a stark dark/light contrast from our vantage point on the hillside between some tall, dark conifers.
Blocks of moss-covered stone masonry built into the bankside are all that remain of this early 19th century coal mine shaft. The horizontals of the masonry contrast with the verticals of the conifers above.
Blocks of moss-covered stone masonry built into the bankside are all that remain of this early 19th century coal mine shaft. The horizontals of the masonry contrast with the verticals of the conifers above.
A wide, flat, straight pathway through a hillside conifer plantation. This pathway would have carried a wooden waggonway, with horses drawing the truckloads of coal from the mine along to the colliery yard.
A wide, flat, straight pathway through a hillside conifer plantation. This pathway would have been a wooden waggonway, with horses drawing the truckloads of coal from the mine along to the colliery yard.
A shaft of sunlight glances across a woodland floor. A century ago this used to be a noisy, busy colliery yard.
A shaft of sunlight glances across a woodland floor. A century ago this used to be a noisy, busy colliery yard.

Most of these photographs were taken by my son. He loves to seek out interesting patterns in the landscape.

J Peggy Taylor

Old rail trails and a bear hunt for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Whenever I look out across our green and wooded valley it seems hard to believe that around a century ago it was a major coal mining area with pits in every village and an extensive network of railways with steam trains carrying tons of coal every day to the staithes on the River Tyne.

This industrial heritage has left us the legacy of miles and miles of old railway paths, many of which have now been ‘upcycled’ into trails for walking, cycling and horse riding. As Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is “Ground:rocks, sand, dirt, paths, walks, trails”, I thought I share some photos of some of our local old rail trails.

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!

Some of our local railway paths form part of a particularly popular long distance cycle route, enjoyed by 15,000 people every year. It’s called the C2C, and it is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend. The route travels 79 miles right across Northern England, literally from sea to sea, hence the trail’s name! I can’t say I’ve ever covered the whole distance, though we have walked several sections of it at different times.

The Derwent Walk railway path forms part of the C2C cycle route through Gateshead. This 9 arched viaduct was built to carry the railway over the River Derwent.
The Derwent Walk Railway Path forms part of the C2C cycle route through Gateshead. This 9 arched viaduct was built to carry the railway over the River Derwent. Built originally in 1867, the Derwent Valley Line carried goods and passengers.
The Nine Arches viaduct that carried the Derwent Valley Railway. The C2C cycle route follows the Derwent Valley Railway Path through this part of Gateshead's countryside.
The Nine Arches viaduct that carried the Derwent Valley Railway. The C2C cycle route follows the Derwent Valley Railway Path through this part of Gateshead’s countryside.
The Waskerley Way is an old railway path in County Durham that forms part of the C2C cycle route. The Stanhope and Tyne Railway was also a mineral line but this one carried limestone for use in the local iron and steel industry.
The Waskerley Way is an old railway path in County Durham that forms part of the C2C cycle route. The Stanhope and Tyne Railway was also a mineral line but this one carried limestone for use in the local iron and steel industry.

Whilst I was looking for my challenge photos for this week I also came across one I took whilst out with my youngest son recently. This one involves a muddy trail and a muddy tale!

Our walk took us along one of our favourite muddy paths where we spotted a trail of deer tracks in the squelchy mud. We observed from the tracks that the deer had been running in the same direction as we were walking but though the tracks were quite fresh there was no other sign of the roe deer that had left them.

Tracks in the mud - is it a bear chasing a deer?
Tracks in the mud – is it a bear chasing a deer?

After we’d followed the tracks for about a hundred metres or so my son spotted another set of tracks that seemed to be punctuating the deer tracks every now and then. We observed these tracks were from the paws of a large carnivore … and so the story soon became jovially embellished! We decided that, obviously, the tracks we were following were those of a bear chasing after the deer! … I should perhaps add that we don’t have bears here in the north of England of course … but, in storytelling, dogs could become bears, I’m sure 😉

J Peggy Taylor