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Rising Sun Country Park

We are very lucky living in Newcastle Upon Tyne as one of the great things about the city is that it is surrounded by green areas. I live within a few minutes walk of the Rising Sun Country Park which is a park covering 160 hectares (400 acres) of green space. It contains woodland, ponds, wetland, grassland and organic farmland.

Interestingly the Country park is on the site of the Rising Sun Colliery and the Scaffold Hill Isolation Hospital.  Scaffold Hill Isolation Hospital was officially opened in 1914 and was built to house sufferers of tuberculosis, scarlet fever and measles. The main cause of admission in the first forty years of its life were diphtheria and tuberculosis. In those days scarlet fever and measles could be fatal and many families lost one or more children to these infections.  We are lucky today that we have inoculation to prevent these diseases.  The hospital finally closed its doors in 1986. There are two theories as to why the hill is called Scaffold Hill. The first is that there was a scaffold there for hanging people. The second is that a scaffold was mounted there to watch the steeplechase that used to run from Murton to Benton in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The Rising Sun Colliery first produced coal in 1908 and was closed in 1969. There was also a brick works and a quarry on the site. In 1960 it produced 475,871 tons of coal so it was a very busy pit. After the colliery was closed the pit heap was landscaped into Rising Sun Hill.

Through the middle of the park runs the Waggonway. At the height of the pit working this transported coal from the local collieries to the river using horse-drawn wagons.  In 1813 it was the site of the first steam engine trials and the Rocket was trialled on this waggonway.

Looking at the park today it is really hard to believe that this used to be a really heavily industrial area. As it was a lovely day yesterday we went for a walk to see what we could find. This is the start of our walk, looking back at the houses.

We walked quite a long way and found woodland trails, and dipping ponds

At this time of the year the ponds are teaming with wildlife. We saw little fish, tadpoles, dragonflies and rather a lot of pond skaters. If you had a fishing net and a jam jar this would provide an interesting distraction for children. My son nearly fell in as he was leaning so far over the rails trying to see things. Fortunately he managed to stay on dry land.

In the middle of the park is the visitor centre, which contains toilets and a restaurant. There is also a rather good climbing frame and a rather interesting statue. We stopped here for a well deserved cold drink and a sandwich.

We only scratched the surface of the things you can do in the park. There are areas with bird hides so you can spot lots of different kinds of birds.  There is also a working farm you can visit. The park runs different activities though the year, from nature walks to den building so there is always something to do.

If you come to Newcastle you will find the Rising Sun Country Park signposted from the A191 Whitley Road. The turning is right next to Asda’s carpark.

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3 Comments

  1. Sally W
    July 25, 2011 / 8:41 pm

    Thanks for that. Lovely thought provoking article. You’re very lucky to have such rich history right on your doorstep and it’s good to be able to tell the children how life used to be – fantastic!

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