In recent years the development that first started around the central part of Newcastle’s Quayside has spread eastwards. And the area around where the smaller Ouseburn flows into the Tyne, in particular, has benefitted from regeneration. It makes a great destination for a stroll along the river, and there’s plenty to see when you get there.
It’s only about a 15 minute walk from the Tyne Bridge to the mouth of the Ouseburn, although you’re bound to stop along the way. I shared the first part of this route in an earlier post about the famous bridges that span the Tyne, A City and its River. So I will pick up this Monday Walk near the Millennium Bridge.
Just before that bridge, the Quayside walk becomes pedestrianised, with the road veering away to join City Road. This runs parallel to the river just above the apartment blocks that line the banks here. You could follow the road, but the riverside walk is far pleasanter. It’s worth a detour however when you reach Horatio Street, where you can climb a short distance to two interesting sights.
The Sailors’ Bethel
At this point in your walk your eye is very likely to be drawn upwards to the sight of the slim spire of the Sailors’ Bethel.
Climb cobbled Horatio Street for a closer look. You will find that this spire sits somewhat incongruously on a solid-looking brick chapel. It was built in 1877 to serve non-conformist sailors, mainly Danish, from the many ships that used to dock in Newcastle’s busy port just down the bank from here, bringing butter, eggs and meat, and returning with Tyneside coal. But the port fell into disuse as ships became too large to navigate this far up river; and as the trade in coal declined. Today’s ships carry huge containers and dock at the Port of Tyne near the river mouth in South Shields.
The chapel is no longer needed by sailors and today has been converted into offices. You can’t therefore go inside. But the Sailors’ Bethel is nonetheless worth a quick visit to see that unusual lead-clad spire and what is said to be Newcastle’s only gargoyle.
The artist L. S. Lowry painted the Sailors’ Bethel in a painting called ‘Old Chapel’. It is now on display in the city’s Laing Art Gallery: see here how Lowry depicted it.
Statue of William L Blenkinsop Coulson
This imposing Victorian statue stands on City Road just above the Quayside and a little east of the central area. It commemorates a local benefactor who, as the inscription explains, was noted for his efforts on behalf of not only the weaker members of society but animals too. Appropriately therefore the statue incorporates two drinking fountains. There is a large one for humans at the front, and a smaller one for animals round the back!
The inscription on the plinth reads:
‘William Lisle Blenkinsopp Coulson 1841 – 1911 erected by public subscription in memory of his efforts to assist the weak and defenceless among mankind and in the animal world’
On the back is another inscription, a quotation from the man himself:
‘What is really needed is an allround education of the higher impulses true manliness, and womanliness justice, and pity. To try to promote these has been my humble but earnest endeavour, and until they are more genuinely aroused, the legislature is useless, for it is the people who make the laws’
Coulson was born in Haltwhistle, Northumberland, in 1840 and, as I think his pose and expression suggest, was a colonel in the army before retiring in 1892. Later he served as a magistrate and on the boards of many charities concerned with child and animal welfare. He toured schools and borstals giving lectures on morality, and published essays on the welfare of women and children. He is depicted wearing the distinctive plaid cloth that he was in the habit of wearing.
The statue is of bronze and double life-size. It was sculpted by Arnold Frédéric Rechberg and stands on a stone block, underneath which is a slab of red granite from which the two drinking troughs are carved. It commands a lovely view of the river. But Coulson is perhaps surprisingly positioned to face away from the view, and is looking instead at the Sailor’s Bethel church across the road. Surprising that is until you remember his devotion to the welfare of others.
The mouth of the Ouseburn
You could carry on from here along the main road which soon crosses the Ouseburn on the Walker Bridge. To do so will save you repeating the climb up the bank, but I recommend retracing your steps to the riverside and following the path to the mouth of the burn. At low tide the boats will be stranded on the muddy banks, or at high tide bobbing at their moorings. Either way, they make a colourful scene.
Turn left here and the path will take you to a smaller bridge. Cross this to reach a small boatyard which if open is a great place for photos.
Ahead to your right is the Hub, a focal point for keen cyclists in the area, especially those following the cycle route along the Tyne to the sea. But you don’t need to be a cyclist to grab a sandwich and drink in its welcoming café. It has seating by the water for good weather visits and views.
Alternatively, there are a couple of pubs on the other side of the road, overlooking the Ouseburn. The lower one is the Tyne Bar; and above it on a small hill is the Free Trade Inn, our favourite choice for a break on the walk. This characterful pub isn’t fancy and it’s not smartly decorated. But it oozes atmosphere, serves a great selection of beers and has great views of the Tyne from both the pub itself and the small garden area opposite.
Following the Ouseburn
From the mouth of the burn you can follow the footpath called Riverside Walkway along the eastern bank. Or you could take Ouse Street and Lime Street along its western bank. The latter is the recommended route if you like to spot street art. Either will bring you to the heart of Ouseburn.
Here you will find lots to do. There’s a nationally acclaimed museum devoted to children’s literature, Seven Stories, which has loads going on for families: crafts, author visits and exhibitions of original work by illustrators, for instance. There is a city farm here too; an acclaimed music venue, the Cluny; and another traditional old pub, the Ship Inn. And there are several small galleries on Stepney Bank, where you will also find a working stable.
From here you can return by the same route; or catch a bus back into the city centre on New Bridge Street a few minutes’ walk away. Alternatively, you can continue your walk and follow the Ouse all the way to Jesmond Dene, a couple of miles to the north of the city.
I visit Newcastle very regularly. The photos in this post were taken on visits between 2012 and 2019.