Tyne Riverside Walk - Ovingham and Wylam

PUBLISHED: 08:48 13 December 2011 | UPDATED: 12:07 09 October 2012

The Ovingham road bridge

The Ovingham road bridge

This walk in the countryside around Ovingham and Wylam is the perfect antidote to festive excess Words and pictures by David Taylor

Were a creative lot in the north east of England: Sunderland has a long tradition of fine glassmaking; the University of Northumbria in Newcastle is awash with bright, young and highly regarded fashion-design students; and you cant throw a stick anywhere in Durham and not hit a shining example of Georgian architecture.

These are all cities though and youd expect cities, with all their hustle and bustle, to be the perfect breeding ground for the creative type. But they dont have a monopoly on creativity Thomas Bewick, one of the finest British artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, was born in the tiny village of Mickley near Stocksfield (and Stocksfield is hardly a teeming metropolis).

His exquisite and elaborate woodcuts depicting the natural world were inspired by a childhood spent in the rural folds of the Tyne Valley. Bewick died aged 75 in 1828 and even though he was nationally famous by this time it is fitting that he was buried near the River Tyne.

his months walk begins at St Mary the Virgin Church in Ovingham, the resting place of Thomas Bewick. Before we begin, wander around to the western tower of the church. There at your feet youll see Bewicks grave. And, if youve time, go into the porch of the church to see his memorial stone.

From the church, walk down to the pedestrian bridge and cross over the Tyne. The road bridge to your right was opened in 1883 and is strikingly narrow. One thing you cant do on the road bridge is stop to admire the view both east and west along the river.

Having crossed the bridge, cross over the road and into the Tyne Riverside Country Park. In front of the visitor centre, head along the path that leads to the river, turn right and follow the path east along the river.

At the fork in the path, bear left, past the sign for the Country Park, and continue. Hagg Bank Bridge will soon come into view. Take care on this section of path, since some parts are slippery when wet and the path slopes towards the river.

t the top of the path, turn left onto the bridge. Hagg Bridge, known locally as The Points is a very early example of an arch suspension bridge it pre-dates its more famous arch suspension cousins the Tyne Bridge (1928) and the Sydney Harbour (1932) by some distance.

he bridge was built in 1876 by the Scotswood, Newburn and Wylam Railway Company and was designed to carry trains from North Wylam Station to join the Newcastle to Carlisle line at West Wylam Junction. Many of the trains which used it carried coal from collieries at Newburn and Walbottle to Carlisle.

Having crossed the bridge, continue along the footpath. Watch out for a small path which winds up to the left. Follow the path past the houses on Woodcroft Road until you reach a road junction. Turn left and follow the footpath along the main road, taking care, as the path is quite narrow.

Eventually, on the other side of the road, you will see a Public Footpath sign to Holeyn Hall Road. Follow the footpath as it climbs through woodland. At the top of the hill, there is a splendid view back towards Hagg Bank Bridge. Continue along the path until it emerges at the edge of a field. Follow the path round the field, through a gate, and turn left onto the footpath.

Follow the road for approximately 200 metres, to the end of the footpath. On the left is a stile waymarked for Horsley. Follow this path along the edge of the field until you reach a stile. Cross over the stile and continue in the same direction.

At the bottom of the field, curve round to the right and continue, until you come to another footpath marker. Walk through the wood, cross over the small wooden footbridge over a stream, and head up to the stile into the field.

Continue to the right, round the edge of the field and up an incline, until you reach a stile on the right. Climb the stile and head straight across the field. the top of this field, bear left through the next field and go straight ahead. path will bring you to Horsley.

Walk through the village and, when youve passed the last house in the village, turn left onto the public footpath for Ovington and Ovingham. At the bottom of the path, bear right through a gate and follow the path straight ahead. There are also excellent views across the Tyne Valley from here. This is not a walk youd want to undertake without a camera.

t the end of the field, go over the stile in the stone wall, then diagonally across the field. Go through a gate, then head right, along the edge of the field. Follow the line of the field until you come to the road. Cross over, climb the stile and head left along the edge of the field.

Follow the line of this field (round several right-angles), until you reach a grassy path at one corner. Follow this path until it becomes a tarmac lane with houses on the right. Turn right when the lane joins the road and continue down the hill, to reach Ovingham, and the end of our walk.

Walk facts

Start Point: St Mary the Virgin Church, Ovingham

Grid Reference: NZ 085 635

Ordnance Survey Map: Newcastle upon Tyne Landranger 88

Length: 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometres)

Difficulty: Easy paths, some walking uphill

Time: 3.5 hours

Nearest Pub: Lion and Lamb, Horsley

Nearest town: Prudhoe

For more information about Thomas Bewick visit www.bewicksociety.org

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