First class prize from history project

Carol Porter and her husband Jim Porter outside The Carriages tearoom Bellingham

07 March 2014

A 1950s railway carriage provided a first class prize for a Northumberland heritage project exploring a 19th century railway viaduct.

Image: Carol Porter and her husband Jim Porter, outside The Carriages tearoom, Bellingham.

The volunteer-led Kielder Viaduct Heritage Project, part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, set up an online survey to help them bridge the gaps into the chequered history of Kielder Viaduct, located in the depths of Kielder Water & Forest Park, and how it is used today.

The prize for completing the survey for one lucky winner included a guided tour around The Heritage Centre in Bellingham, Hexham, and afternoon tea served aboard The Carriages tearoom on site.

The carriage, similar to that which would have crossed Kielder Viaduct, was converted into a tearoom by volunteers in 2012 and sits on the Border Counties railway line that originally served the North Tyne valley.

The railway line was closed in 1958 and by 1966 Kielder Viaduct was on the verge of being blown up. Now, the viaduct is part of the Lakeside Way, a multi-user trail that encircles Northern Europe’s largest man-made lake, Kielder Water.

The Kielder Viaduct Heritage Project team are using stories and photographs of Kielder Viaduct to create a collection celebrating the history of the listed structure and how it is used today so others can learn more about its heritage.

Carol Porter, aged 51, from Clock Face Road in St Helens, Merseyside, who owns a holiday cottage in Newcastleton completed the survey and was chosen at random to win the prize.

She said: “We’ve been coming to the area for 14 years and until recently we didn’t even know Kielder Viaduct existed! Just before I answered the survey, I’d read something about the viaduct so I decided to look on the internet to find out a little bit more about it and then found it using an ordnance survey map.

“The views from the viaduct are just absolutely beautiful, and so are the ironwork panels that are on there too.

“I was surprised when I found out I’d won - we had a tour around The Heritage centre in Bellingham and then afternoon tea. They had even made us a cake with the viaduct on – it was amazing, I didn’t want to cut into it!”

Jo Scott, Heritage Planning and Interpretation Consultant, said: “We were delighted to welcome Carol and her husband at the Heritage Centre and tell them all about the Viaduct Heritage Project.

“Based on the feedback from the survey that Carol took part in and consultations with local people and visitors, we′ve been able to establish an exciting programme of new interpretation for the viaduct including a new trail map, graphic panels and an audio post with snippets of oral history on site.

“We hope more local people and visitors will discover the viaduct and enjoy its stories as a result.”

To share your story and memories of the viaduct and railway, or find out what else is in the project archive, visit www.visitkielder.com/ourhistory, or the Kielder Historical Project page on Facebook.

For more information contact Janine Scott, communications advisor (Kielder Water & Forest Park), on 0191 301 5538 or janine.scott@nwl.co.uk

The Kielder Viaduct Heritage Project is a partnership project that aims to help people discover, learn more about and share Kielder’s heritage, with a focus on the historic viaduct and railway. The partners are Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Kielder History Group, Northumberland & Newcastle Society, The Heritage Centre at Bellingham and the community, and the project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The viaduct was built in 1862 by the Border Counties Railway, which serviced the mines and quarries in the North Tyne valley and carried passengers between Hexham and Scotland until the line was closed in 1958. When Kielder Reservoir was being built in the 1970s, the redundant viaduct was simply going to be demolished but, after a long campaign to preserve it, the Northumberland & Newcastle Society stepped in and bought the viaduct for just £1. The Society continues to look after the viaduct today, which is now a scheduled monument and a well-loved local landmark.

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 www.visitkielder.com.

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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