Bridging the heritage gap

Kielder Viaduct

09 August 2013

A north east project set to explore a 19th-century railway viaduct in Northumberland is going full steam ahead.

Encouraged by its 150th anniversary in 2012, an enthusiastic team have been chosen and begun to bridge the gaps into the chequered history of Kielder Viaduct, located in the depths of Kielder Water & Forest Park.

The project, which will cost £68,301, is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, including the Forestry Commission and Northumbrian Water.

Originally, the Border Counties Railway* that used the viaduct was a vital lifeline for small rural communities but it was closed in 1958. By 1966, the viaduct was on the verge of being blown up but was saved at the last minute by the Northumberland & Newcastle Society who purchased it from the Forestry Commission for just £1!

Now, Kielder Viaduct is part of the Lakeside Way, a multi-user trail that encircles Northern Europe’s largest man-made lake, Kielder Water.

The long-term ‘Kielder Viaduct Your Heritage’ project aims to help the local community, school children, and visitors to England’s number one tourism experience, discover and share stories about local Kielder and the viaduct.

But the team need help to gather and preserve mementoes of this lost railway and are inviting people to their first open day, held at Kielder Castle on Sunday September 1 between 11am and 4pm.

They are looking for people to share their memories, personal stories and photographs to help shed some light on Kielder’s social and industrial heritage, and certain gaps in the viaducts history.

The stories will then be retold as part of a fascinating new programme of discovery for the local community, visitors and schools.

Jo Scott, Heritage Planning and Interpretation Consultant, said: “This is a very exciting project for Kielder - it′s about uncovering new stories about the viaduct and village and, importantly, also about developing new skills for the future.

“A key part of our work lies in helping local people to create their own living archive for Kielder and take the lead in sharing this with their community and visitors.”

Elisabeth Rowark, Director of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, said: “It’s so enthusing to be working alongside people and organisations who are passionate about the history and heritage of Kielder Water & Forest Park, and unveiling more stories about and around such a fascinating structure as Kielder Viaduct.

“We want to connect with more people who have an interest, and look forward to our first open day in September. We also welcome people to our group page on Facebook.”

The team of consultants were chosen by Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Kielder History Group, Northumberland and Newcastle Society, and Bellingham Heritage Centre who have joined forces to help deliver the project.

They include Jo Scott, Heritage Planning and Interpretation, David Walmsley, Heritage and Education, and Dr Liz O’Donnell, Oral Historian.

To find out more, visit the Kielder Historical Project page on

For more information contact Janine Scott, Communications Advisor (Kielder Water & Forest Park), on 0191 301 5538 or

The consultant team is led by Jo Scott, a heritage planning and interpretation consultant, who has been helping the partners at Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust with planning and implementing interpretation since 2007. David Walmsley, heritage and education consultant, is currently curatorial and education adviser to the Heritage Centre at Bellingham. Jo and David are joined by Dr Liz O′Donnell, an oral historian, who will be working with local volunteers to record reminiscences as part of the new archive.

The Northumberland and Newcastle Society works to protect valuable buildings and landscapes, such as the ownership and care of Kielder Viaduct, and to enhance the quality of life in both urban and rural areas. For more information go to

The Heritage Centre at Bellingham is an award-winning, volunteer-run museum which presents the history of the upper North Tyne and Redewater area of Northumberland. For more information go to

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. HLF has supported over 35,000 projects with more than £5.5bn across the UK.

*The Border Counties Railway was built between 1855 and 1862, running from Hexham station on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, up the North Tyne valley to Bellingham and across the border into Scotland, joining the Carlisle to Edinburgh line at Riccarton Junction, an isolated settlement with no road access.

Running north from Hexham, the stations on the line were at Wall, Chollerford, Chollerton, Barrasford, Wark, Redesmouth Junction, Bellingham, Charlton (closed 1862), Tarset, Thorneyburn, Falstone, Plashetts, Lewiefield Halt, Kielder, Deadwater, Saughtree and Riccarton.

Originally intended to serve the colliery at Plashetts (now submerged deep under the Kielder Reservoir) and other small mines in the area, the 42 mile single track line eventually formed a vital lifeline for these small communities of the North Tyne for around a century, until it was finally closed in 1958. The Heritage Centre at Bellingham is now the only place where many mementoes of this lost railway are preserved. There are hundreds of maps and historic photographs of the line, its stations and buildings, staff and traffic, and artifacts ranging from tickets and sign boards to railway men’s lamps and tools and even the original Bellingham station clock!

Kielder Water and Forest Park, which spans 250 square miles, is home to the largest forest in England and the largest man-made lake in northern Europe. It was awarded the number one tourism experience in England by VisitEngland 2013, and the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. For more information see

Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working at Kielder to promote sustainable development, provide recreational facilities, improve knowledge of the natural environment and encourage the arts. The Trust works with the range of communities to benefit from these activities.
Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder and Northumberland County Council.

Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.

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