Covering an area of over seventy square miles, the Land of Oak & Iron follows the beautiful steep sided valley of the River Derwent from its source at Gibraltar Rock to its confluence with the River Tyne and wraps around to Prudhoe, further west along the Tyne valley.
There are tranquil rural villages in the upper reaches of the valley, with busy residential and commercial areas around Consett and Prudhoe. It is easy to forget that the woodlands and river once provided the fuel and energy that powered the industrial revolution.
The area has an abundance of natural woodland, rare and iconic wildlife and a heritage to be discovered. However, the natural beauty that you see today was not always as tranquil as it appears. Not so long ago the area hosted a world-leading iron and steel industry in various forms from the 1690s up until the 1980s; in the early 18th Century Shotley Bridge was the heart of British sword making; and Winlaton Mill was home to the iron works of the great industrialist, Ambrose Crowley. Such industry attracted wealth and culture to the area, including the Earls of Strathmore at Gibside Hall, the artist Thomas Bewick, and the poet Tommy Armstrong. The area is famed across the globe for the local traditional rapper dancing.
The Land of Oak & Iron Trust is a group of enthusiastic volunteers who focus on the preservation of the heritage, culture and landscape of the area, building on the fantastic work done by partners and volunteers during the four-year, Heritage Lottery funded, Land of Oak & Iron project. Our volunteers work on cultural projects with young persons; map the landscape and history of the area; revive out-of-print books; and, through links with Durham Wildlife, help to manage local woodlands. The results of much of our work will be available at the new Heritage Centre at Winlaton Mill; the Lodge in Blackhill; the Tyne Riverside Café at Prudhoe, and also online at www.loit.org.uk