MORE waggonways which once underpinned the industrial North East are to be turned into 21st-century leisure routes.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, a huge network of waggonways in the region transported coal from collieries to the North East’s rivers and ports for shipment.
North Tyneside has turned miles of its surviving waggonways systems into cycle and walking routes.
They have also been the focus of educational projects with schools.
Now Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle has launched its Waggonways and Waterways project in conjunction with the Heritage Lottery Fund.
A consultation process is under way to decide on the routes which will be developed.
These include the route from the Bowes railway site at Springwell Village between Gateshead and Sunderland, which transported coal through Jarrow to the Tyne staithes for loading on to collier vessels.
Another targeted route is the waggonway which ran from Fawdon in Newcastle to Seaton Burn and the Tyne. Project officer Yvette Martin is talking to local historical societies and is appealing for individuals who worked in the mines, railways and on the river to come forward with their memories.
She said: “Industry not only shaped our landscape in the North East but also the lives of the people who lived and worked here. Both Newcastle and South Tyneside have a number of key routes that form such a large part of our social and industrial heritage. “
The project plans improvements to old waggonway routes, such as installing way markers and heritage information boards documenting the history of the waggonways and the collieries in the area.
“We would love to hear from people with personal memories of working on the riversides or collieries or who have family members who may have worked transporting coal along these waggonways,” said Yvette.
“It is very important that this history and these stories are available for young people and future generations.”
Yvette Martin can be contacted on 0191 428 1144 or by email at Yvette.martin@ groundwork.org.uk
The Government’s Liveability Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund provided the cash to improve North Tyneside’s waggonways and turn them into fully interpreted green paths, which provide the space for leisure, exercise and day-to-day travel.
North Tyneside Council successfully bid for more than £2m worth of funding to transform more than 30 miles of routes. Now the waggonways are used by cyclists, horse riders, runners, joggers and walkers.
Heritage and orienteering trails were developed and included signposts and information boards telling people about local history and wildlife.
Full lighting was installed along 14km of the most urban sections of the waggonways.
Where appropriate, new planting was introduced to encourage biodiversity to benefit wildlife in the area. Wildlife underpasses and bridges were also installed at appropriate points.
Pupils also researched the history, flora and fauna of individual routes and helped to write interpretive panels, and carried out archaeological digs at Seaton Burn and Killingworth waggonways.
It is very important that this history and these stories are available for young people