30 April 2018 by Guest blogger
The Tyne and Wear Heritage Way, an 80 mile route taking in the rich historic and industrial heritage of the area will re-open on 31 May, thanks to the hard work of Northumbria Ramblers with support from the local councils.
Judith Taylor, Ramblers volunteer, writes about how proud she is to be part of the team working to re-open the trail.
It was a happy coincidence. Back in 2015, a group of us in the Northumbria Ramblers area realised our united passion for protecting and improving our path network. With a range of useful skills, we all set to work to re-instate the Heritage Way.
Our first job was to understand the exact issue before us - so we walked the original route in its entirety. Much of the route was still in good condition but other parts had broken stiles and overgrown vegetation. At one point, the original way crossed a road which may have been possible 30 years ago but today would be far too dangerous with fast moving traffic! In another place, a steep river bank was suffering landslip so the footpath could no longer be safely used.
After a bit of thought, we planned and walked alternative routes and worked with the local councils to make sure the paths were in good condition. Other volunteers tested our routes and when we’d agreed the directions, the way-marking team swung into action, painstakingly planning, recording and fixing waymarks and clearing dense vegetation. The local councils were really helpful and supportive throughout.
While this was in progress, a graphic artist prepared the leaflets which included walk directions, heritage information and a map for each section with the route highlighted. Then we got the website up and running – an important step in today’s digital age. Next, we’ll create and send out flyers that detail the new route.
It’s been a great project to be part of and I can’t wait for the official opening on Thursday, 31 May. For me, the best bit has been finding out about the lesser known parts of the area that I live in. The extraordinary burst of inventiveness and industrial progress that took place around two centuries ago, has been impressively evident as we’ve walked the old waggonways and the footpaths trodden by our ancestors. We’ve also been made aware of the great human cost, particularly in the mining industry. Many a churchyard has a stark memorial to the lives lost in the dangerous conditions of the pits. I hope that some of the excitement and pride in the historical past of my area coupled with the stunning natural beauty of the varied, post-industrial scenery, can be communicated to other walkers.
Long distance trails such as the Tyne & Wear Heritage Way are of great importance. As well as the exploration of our rich industrial heritage, this entire route is close to the huge conurbations of Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland. Public transport can be used to get walkers to and from the starting and finishing points of each section and the many tea-rooms and pubs that feature along the route can provide welcome refreshments.
In this way, large numbers of people can benefit from healthy exercise by walking within a short distance from their home and local communities can benefit from increased trade.
Just a short distance from the centre of Newcastle and Gateshead, the trail is a stunning mix of rural and industrial scenery. Two famous Georges have their roots here. You can spot the ancestral home of the family of George Washington, founding father of the United States, and the more humble abode of George Stephenson, the railway pioneer. Follow the Way on to the dramatic coastline near Marsden Rock, the Fish Quay at North Shields and through wooded valleys with sweeping views.
Find out more about the Way here.
Ramblers volunteers are active across the country, undertaking path maintenance, establishing new routes, protecting rights of way and leading walks. Find out about your local group.