Field Notes - Walk 5

Field Notes - Walk day 5

Friday, June 3, 2011
Riding Mill – Hexham: Natural Historians Tina Wiffen and Steve Westerberg

View VARC Walk 5; 4th June 2011 in a larger map

We met at Riding Mill station at 10.00am from where we walked down to the side of the River Tyne, following the river bank west of Riding Mill past the gravel pits at Farnley Haughs and over Farnley Scar. Here, you can see a bricked up tunnel entrance and if you look closely, you can see a number of bat holes in the bricked-up western portal of the tunnel entrance. Our route then continued along the river, crossing under the bridge on the south side at Corbridge. This lovely bridge was built in 1674 and was the only one of the Tyne’s bridges to survive the great flood of 1771. Our path then moved away from the river for the rest of the walk, crossing farmland at Dilston and through woods around Duke’s House to the B306, which we followed into Hexham, where our journey ended at the Queens Hall in Hexham. 

Walk 5: 5th June; Riding Mill – Hexham: Natural Historians Keith Bowey, Tina Wiffen and Steve Westerberg


We met at Riding Mill station at 10.00am from where we walked straight down to the side of the River Tyne, following the riverbank past the gravel pits at Farnley Haughs and over Farnley Scar. Here, you can see a bricked up tunnel entrance. The tunnel was opened in 1835 and was originally built to accommodate a single line but a section of it gave way on 28th December 1844 during widening work for double track operation. A further £1,000-worth of repairs were ordered in 1871 when an inspection uncovered weaknesses. This chequered history led to the tunnel's eventual abandonment. A deviation line was constructed through a new cutting allowing Farnley Scar Tunnel to be taken out of service on 27th May 1962[1]. On close inspection, we noticed a number of bat holes in the bricked-up western portal of the tunnel entrance. Our route then continued along the river, crossing under the bridge on the south side at Corbridge. This lovely bridge was built in 1674 and was the only one of the Tyne’s bridges to survive the great flood of 1771. Just past here, looking to north bank, at low water, it is possible to see the remains of the Roman bridge which carried Dere Street or Stanegate to Corstopitum. Our path then moved away from the river for the rest of the walk, crossing farmland at Dilston and through woods around Duke’s House to the B306, which we followed into Hexham, were our journey ended at the Queens Hall in Hexham.

 

Along this route, we saw a variety of different flora and fauna. River birds included Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Goosander and Dipper. We had hoped to hear a late Cuckoo and walking across the fields we saw and heard Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Mistle and Song Thrush and in the woods we either saw or heard Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tits and the yaffle of the Green Woodpecker. In the recent past, we might have seen or heard Pied Flycatcher and Redstart, but these birds have since become vary scarce hereabouts. Amongst the flora, we found plently of evidence of the invasive dark pink/purple Himalayan Balsam, Greater Stitchwort, Giant Hogweed, Meadow Cranesbill and Water Dropwort. And looking up, we caught a glimpse of birds of prey – Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.

 

When we arrived in Hexham, we were able to see the exhibition of work by ceramicist Sue Dunne at the Queens Hall (her show is called The Nature of Clay and runs in Gallery Two from 28th May – 2nd July). Her work ‘directly reflects her year-round fascination with plant-life, especially when it’s wild, the intermittent presence of birds. Included are pieces from local poet Linda France based on a flowering year’ (so very appropriate!).