Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Waters of Tyne               April 20th

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
                                     Gang aft a-gley"

as Robert Burns* wrote to the mouse.
  The Hannah Bayman appreciation society, having listened to the weather forecast given by that young lady, decided the planned trip to the Howgills should be postponed.  April's sweet spring showers indeed seemed likely to be "going on for hours and hours" as Flanders and Swan** sang.
 Instead  six gadgies met on Eldon Square Bus Station, Newcastle and caught the !0.25 am number 10 bus to Prudhoe. The bus continued to Hecxham but we all alighted on Prudhoe high street and whilst Brian and Harry went for a bacon butty Dave, Ben, Herbie and I walked round the town trail, spotting the places where John Wesley had preached, admiring the community allotments and the art work in the bus shelters. No kidding, it was not grafitti. Brian awarded the bacon sandwich 3 flitches, mainly on account of the rather inferior bun it came in.
Refreshed we walked downhill to Prudhoe Castle on the south bank of the Tyne. Originally constructed as a motte and timber bailey in the latter years of the 11th century bu in the following 100 years a fine stone built edifice was completed, a castle that proudly boasts to be the only one in the region not taken at any time by the Scots.

  Dave approaches the barbican of Prudhoe Castle.

                             A gloomy view of the castle on a gloomy day.

The castle is a listed building, owned by English Heritage and is well worth a visit.
Walking down to the river and crossing the railway  line, we turned right on to the footpath that sticks close to the south bank of the Tyne. There was plenty of bird life to listen to and we did spot blackbirds, chaffinches and a few sand martins.

After a couple of miles we came to Hagg Bank railway bridge which crosses the river into Wylam. No longer used as a railway bridge it is part of the riverside walk but is a very impressive structure.
                                             Haggs Bank Railway Bridge.
 Built as a single span with no piers in the river to disturb the relatively shallow mine workings in the area, the deck is suspended from the arch by iron rods.
Dave had promised  us a heron in this area and although the river was running strongly we did spot one flying sedately upstream.
 Now on the north bank of the Tyne we walked througjh Wylam, carefully avoiding the Boathouse pub, heaven for real ale drinkers, and continued on the Wylam Waggonway, passing first George Stephenson's*** Cottage, now a National Trust property, with tea room!

                          George Stephenson's cottage on the Wylam Waggonway.

                            And a plaque on the wall commemorating the father of the railways.
 The path here is right on the river bank, we saw a pair of goosanders who appeared to have had a domestic dispute, but then all bird life was put to flight  by a number of lightweight boats, single sculls, coxless pairs and coxed fours. My knowledge of boats is limited to the fact that hopefully they float but it seemed to be an ideal stretch of water for rowing, wide and slowly flowing.  But Brian and I agreed we couldn't have put up with the little miss bossy boots coxing one of the boats.
At last we reached the Keelman pub. Utilising an old steam pumping station this is the home of the Big Lamp brewery. A beautful pub, restaurant and micro brwery all on one site, and with an excellent selection of ales. I chose a pint of Prince Bishop, straw coloured and as divine as it should be with such a name. We sat outside in one of the days few sunny spells. eight miles from the start of our walk.
 At this point Harry, Brian and Herbie decided to stay a while in the pub and then catch a bus to Newcastle. Dave, Ben and I chose to continue the walk but we all agreed to meet in a quayside pub in Newcastle.
 We walkers went first to see St.Michaels's church in Newburn. The tower is early Norman although Dave suggested it could have been Saxon. It is the church where George Stephenson married and is also the burial site of two other railway pioneers, Hedley and Hawthorn.
 In olden times Newburn was a place of some importance on the river. It was the first spot where the Tyne could be safely forded  and it was the upper limit of the tide.
 In August 1640 the Battle of Newburn took place. The last cry in the second Bishops' war a small army of English on the south bank of the river faced a much larger Scottish army who had set up camp on the north. The Scots had placed their cannon in the tower of the church and having the advantage of height were able to bombard the English. The English, underpaid, underfed and non too keen on the battle anyway, (probably all Yorkshiremen) soon took flight allowing the Scots to cross the river
 and capture  Newcastle from the south. It cost CharlesI £200,000 to get it back.

            The lych gate at St. Michael and all Angels' church, Newburn.

                           St. Michael and all Angels at Newburn.

Returning to the Newburn Riverside path we followed the Tyne round Newburn Haugh almost to the point where the A1 crosses the river when we realised we would be very late meeting the others. So we caught a bus to the Central Station, walked down to the quayside past one of the remaining stretches of city wall and down the long steps. The others were sitting outside The Quayside, a Wetherspoons  pub in numbers 35-37 the Close, a medieval building and one of the oldest in the city, not counting the castle keep of course. After food and drink we all went home by bus!
 A true gadgie walk, passes used and a heron seen.
My Higear gave a reading of 11.9 miles at the Central Station, Dave's ASDApeds averaged 11.5 and we both measured it as slightly over 10 on the map. I reckon taking into account our wanderings the benbragometer reading of 12 was about right.
A good walk, easy going as it is flat, but full of interest.
* Oh come on, you know who he was.
** Flanders and Swan. A revue duet singing such wonderful songs as Transport of Delight, about London buses. Their revue was called At the drop of a hat.
*** George Stephenson 1781 - 1848.  Not the inventor of steam engines but he developed them for use on the railways which he also engineered. He also invented the miners' safety lamp generally used in the north east of England. One theory says the name Geordie for natives of the area comes from the use of his lamp.
Back to the hills next week.