Updated: Mar 26, 2021
By Joanna Pullan and Mark Turner
Joanna and Marks Heritage Trail – Ovingham, Northumberland
We live in Prudhoe and enjoy walking down to the River Tyne and having a little wander around Ovingham on the other side of the river. This walk is easy and fairly short, but manages to pack in quite a bit of heritage and history!
We start from Prudhoe Castle (there is a little bit of parking here on the road to the castle). It’s a picturesque castle overlooking the river, partially surrounded by a moat and mill pond. The castle was built in 1100’s in this defensive position to guard over the ford, today it is hidden by woodland as it peeks above the treetops.
"The castle is owned by English Heritage, so worth a quick look around if you have time"
Leaving the castle behind us, we walk down the bank towards the river. When we get to the train tracks the barriers are down to let a train on its way to Carlisle pass; to save waiting we head over the footbridge. Last year it underwent a £500,000 restoration when it was removed and taken away for a number of months.
The footbridge dates from the 19th century and is Grade II Listed.
Once over the railway bridge we cross the River Tyne on Ovingham Bridge. There are two bridges sitting side by side here- one vehicular, one pedestrian. You’ll notice that the openings to the vehicular bridge are very narrow, and its interesting to watch cars navigate on and off the bridge!
Ovingham Bridge was opened in 1883 and replaced the previous ford that the castle watched over, and a ferry link. Apparently a link between Prudhoe and Ovingham had been longed for for centuries, a main supporter of the bridge link was Thomas Bewick the famous engraver.
On the far side of the bridge there is a commemoration plaque explaining that the bridge was originally opened as a Toll Bridge and operated as such until 1945.
St Mary the Virgin church stands prominently in the middle of Ovingham village and is a pleasant welcome when you arrive in the village after crossing the bridge. Bearing to the left of the church, we entered the churchyard through the pretty little lychgate. The church dates back to the 13th Century and is the tallest Saxon church in the Tyne Valley.
The churchyard makes for an interesting explore; head round from the porch to the left and there you’ll find Thomas Bewick's burial spot. Thomas Bewick grew up in Cherryburn (another English Heritage property located on the south side of the Tyne about 10 minutes away) where you can see some of his engravings and marvel at just how tiny some of them are.
A quick wander around the churchyard will uncover generations of Bewicks buried here.
In the top left corner of the churchyard there is a small statue on a plinth; erected by the workmen of Prudhoe Colliery the memorial is for John Wormald who, in 1874 at the age of 59, was crushed by a set of tubs on the engine plane while working as an overman in Prudhoe Mine.
Retracing our steps back through the lychgate we turn right and head down the bank, past the Old Post Office on the right, and the derelict Bridge End Inn on the left.
The road carries on over Whittle Burn where the original bridge sits to the left of the road. The bridge dates from 18th Century and is Grade II Listed. The construction of the bridge limited the width to 5 feet to prevent vehicles from using it; the low rise walls are to accommodate pack horses crossing it with their load hanging over the walls.
We bear off to the left once over the bridge and head down to the stepping stones which are always fun to cross.
We carry on round to the left and back up towards the church and back to Ovingham Bridge. From here you might get a glimpse of Prudhoe Castle peeking out of the trees. We retrace our steps back up to the castle, and sometime stop off at Big Licks Ice Cream Parlour on the way back up for a little takeaway treat!