An excerpt from the book: Travels through History – North-East England
At first I wondered whether I was going the correct way. I had started heading over the Byker viaduct but realised I should be heading down into the valley so I could make a visit to the Victoria Tunnel. It didn’t look too promising as I headed down a street lined with brick walls topped with barbed wire. There was plenty of graffiti and some broken glass.
But then I spotted what looked like a large sheep painted on a wall and smelled a faint whiff of what seemed like horses – in this suburban setting, surely not? I was wrong, because close by were Stepney Bank stables. The sheep was painted on the wall of The Ship Inn near to Ouseburn Farm and the Cluny live music venue. On the opposite side of the street from where I was standing was the recently opened Arch 2 Brewpub & Kitchen. A large lime kiln that had been half knocked down during World War II to stop it being used a signpost for German bombers stood near the Seven Stories centre for Children’s Books, which was opposite the office for the Victoria Tunnel guided tours. All of a sudden there was a lot to see and do.
In the way of the coincidental world a few nights later I saw the opening credits of a TV Series called Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads and recognised the view of the lime kiln, the first time I’d ever known where that was.
The Stepney Bank stables are open 7 days a week to provide high quality riding lessons to both children and adults. They also operate as a charity providing opportunities for children and young people growing up in challenging situations to increase their confidence, develop their resilience and gain qualifications and experience that will enrich their lives. This applies to riders and the volunteers who work at the stables. Stepney Bank Stables is approved by the British Horse Society and the Association of British Riding Schools and are also a Pony Club Centre. This means they’ve passed rigorous checks to ensure that their horses, facilities and equipment are fit for purpose and that the staff are appropriately qualified and skilled.
There’s been a city farm in the Ouseburn Valley since 1976. Byker City Farm was set up by local people, who wanted children living in the city to have the chance of working with farm animals. Over the years, the farm grew from a caravan on the site of a derelict paint factory into a vibrant and popular green space. The farm was forced to close in 2002 when it was discovered the soil contained high levels of lead from the former paintworks. The land was cleaned up, the new visitors centre was built and the farm was renamed Ouseburn Farm. With the help of Tyne Housing Association and Newcastle City Council, the farm animals returned in September 2009, and here they are today. This is urban reclamation and regeneration at its finest and the educational possibilities are tremendous for the local children.