Alston Arches

River Tyne

The River Tyne is a river in England. It is formed by the confluence of two rivers, the North Tyne and the South Tyne. These two rivers converge at Warden Rock near Hexham in Northumberland at a place dubbed Waters' Meet.

The River Tyne has a charity dedicated to protecting and enhancing its waters and surrounding areas. The Tyne Rivers Trust, established in 2004, is a community based organisation that works to a) improve habitat b) produce better understanding of the Tyne catchment and c) build the reputation of the Tyne catchment as a place of environmental excellence.

The North Tyne rises on the Scottish border, north of Kielder Water. It flows through Kielder Forest, and passes through no major settlements before Hexham.

The South Tyne rises on Alston Moor, Cumbria and flows through the towns of Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge, in a valley often called the Tyne Gap. Hadrian's Wall lies to the North of the Tyne Gap. Coincidentally the source of the South Tyne is very close to the sources of the other two great rivers of the industrial north east namely the Tees and the Wear.

The combined Tyne flows from Hexham, the area where the rivers now thriving barbel stocks were first introduced in the mid 1980's, through Corbridge in Northumberland. It enters the county of Tyne and Wear between Clara Vale (on the South bank) and Tyne Riverside Country Park (on the North bank) and continues to divide Newcastle and the Borough of Gateshead for , during which it is spanned by 10 bridges. To the East of Gateshead and Newcastle, the Tyne divides Hebburn and Jarrow on the South bank from Wallsend and North Shields. Jarrow and North Shields are linked underneath the river by the Tyne Tunnel. Finally it flows between South Shields and Tynemouth into the North Sea. As it passes through the Tyneside conurbation, the river marks the historic border between County Durham (to the south) and Northumberland (to the north).

The Tyne, with its shallow and easily accessible coal, it still has, was a major route for the export of coal from the 13th century until the decline of the coalfields of North East England in the second half of the 20th century; exporting from Dunston and the Tyne Docks. Dramatic wooden staithes (a structure for loading coal onto ships) built in 1890 have been preserved at Dunston in Gateshead, although partly damaged by fire. And to this day in 2008 Tyne Dock, South Shields is still involved with coal, importing 2million tones of shipments a year.

The lower reaches of the Tyne were, in the late 19th and early 20th century, one of the world's most important centres of shipbuilding, and there are still major shipyards at Wallsend on the north of the river and Hebburn on the south.

To support the shipbuilding and export industries of Tyneside, the lower reaches of the river were extensively remodelled during the second half of the 19th century, with islands removed and meanders in the river straightened.


Nothing definite is known of the origin of the designation "Tyne", nor is the river known by that name until the Saxon period: Tynemouth is recorded in Anglo-Saxon as Tinanmuðe (probably dative case). There is a theory that Tīn was a word that meant "river" in the local Celtic language or in a language spoken in England before the Celts came: compare Tardebigge.

The River Vedra on the Roman map of Britain may be the Tyne, or may be the River Wear. The late Thomas John Taylor supposed that the main course of the river anciently flowed through what is now Team Valley, its outlet into the tidal river being by a waterfall at Bill Point. His theory is not far from the truth, as there is evidence that prior to the last Ice Age, the River Wear did once follow the current route of the lower River Team, merging with the Tyne at Dunston. Ice diverted the course of the Wear to its current location, flowing east from Washington (virtually parallel to the course of the Tyne) and joining the North Sea at Sunderland.

River Crossings

River Tyne

River North Tyne

River South Tyne

Post 1944 fishery

Prior to 1944 the North, South and main Tyne yielded substantial trout catches, and these rivers held prolific insect biodiversity. There were also dace throughout deep pools. On several occasions trout weighing four pounds were caught, although the “average” adult fish was normally around It was suspected that some of the larger trout were escapees from private lakes. James Hall, a school teacher from Hexham, fished with fly for 50 years. His biggest trout was 33 ounces from the West Allen, a tributary of the South Tyne. Smolts were still caught in the spring in varying numbers.

In 1950 indiscriminate gravel extraction throughout the Tyne system left deep lagoons and stretches of sluggish water. A large population of pike built up, mainly in the Hexham area. At this time Guy Hall, the 12-year old son of James, bought a 30 shilling salmon licence. Between 1944 and 1952, Hall saw only two fresh salmon, and one sea trout.

In the late 1950s the removal of gravel below Hexham Bridge eroded its foundations to make, in effect, a high dam. Here a school boy, fishing for pike, caught a fresh spring salmon. Other anglers caught a number of fresh salmon and the run steadily increased from year to year. An employee of Tyne Metal Company caught 40 in a single season fishing only in his lunch hour! Without external intervention the salmon had returned to the Tyne. Killing of the fish was indiscriminate, and complaints about the "dam" eventually resulted in building a fish pass.

There were numerous disputes over the fishing rights of many reaches of the Tyne, some of which continue to the present day.

In the early 1960s the Tyne system was severely affected by ulcerative dermal necrosis (UDN). (A similar disease broke out in the 1880s, and lasted for at least 40 years. The exact duration is unknown due to the disruption caused by the first World War.) On the River Border Esk (to the west of the Tyne), UDN rendered the entire run of spring salmon extinct. The Tyne salmon were not affected to such an extent, but some suspect that UDN persists to this day, and that it may be involved in the summer estuarine deaths which occur in periods of low water from June through August.

Every autumn since at least 1985 after the first frost large numbers of dead and dying salmon and sea trout are found near the mouth of Newbrough Burn in the South Tyne, more than 50% have not spawned.

The North Tyne was dammed in the 1970s to create Kielder Reservoir, and a salmon hatchery was opened to compensate for a lack of spawning ground. Intermittent and highly unnatural surges of water now flowed down the North Tyne and into the main Tyne. This resulted in the drastic reduction in the population of crayfish, swan mussels and the insect population. Water abstraction exacerbated this matter. The water flow from the reservoir is now dark brown, peaty and floculent, and the river bed is slimy. The river fly population is a fraction of its former state. Concurrently the brown trout population of the entire system is in severe decline. In order to compensate for this, stock fish whose average size is unnaturally large for the system, are regularly added to the river. It is thought that many of these fish migrate and return to the river as sea trout.

At the confluence of the North and South Tyne 50 barbel were introduced c 1986. Although slow in showing, small barbel (6-8") are now being reported from various locations both in the two Tyne branches and the lower combined river.

Due to the heavy summer fish mortality, there is great discussion on the future of the Kielder hatchery. Many people consider that it is responsible for the steady improvement in salmon runs. The Environment Agency’s report has received little publicity locally, despite its potential contribution to the debate.

The Environment Agency are currently working with architects and cultural consultancy xsite, in collaboration with Commissions North, to create a travelling sculpture trail along the River Tyne in the North East of England.

The Tyne Salmon Trail will serve as a celebration of the river, its heritage and its increasingly diverse ecosystem. Historically a major symbol in the regional identity of the North East of England, the river plays host to a plethora of different species, the number of which is growing year on year in line with the rivers improving health.

The Tyne Salmon Trail looks to capture the imagination of residents and tourists visiting the area - providing them with the ultimate 'fact finding' design experience, which celebrates the salmon's migratory journey in the Northeast of England.

FINS, REFLECTION and JOURNEY were the first 3 cubes to be launched in December 2007 from a family of 10. Each cube is inspired by the textures, changing colours, movement and journey of the salmon. With each offering a 'modern day keepsake' to take away, in the form of a designed Bluetooth message.

The other cubes will be moving along the River Tyne over 1 year visiting different locations from Kielder to the Mouth of the Tyne in the summer 2008 before starting their long journey back to their birth place.

In 2008 a temporary bamboo sculpture was commissioned as the eighth bridge over the Tyne; the Bambuco Bridge was be open between the 18th and 20th July 2008.

Songs featuring the Tyne

See also

External links


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