Some interesting facts about the Riverside Park and the Wansbeck river
Wansbeck Riverside Park covers approximately 112 hectares of woodland, grassland and the river. The site is located to the south of Ashington between the A1068 and A189. In 2003 Castle Island gained status as a Local Nature Reserve, Wansbeck Riverside Park Local Nature Reserve status was gained in 2007.
Club members have been privileged to see Otters feeding in the river as well as a wide variety of birds including Mallard, Moorhen, Heron and Kingfisher, Geese, Swans, Lapwings. We are told by experts that they have seen Red Squirrel, Rabbit, Bank Vole, Fox, and Roe deer are possible along the river as well as Pipistrelle and Daubenton's bats. In the rest of the park you may see or hear Blue Tit, Chiffchaff, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Robin, amongst other birds. In the spring and summer plants such as Red Campion, Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Forget-me-not, Buttercup, Foxglove, Lesser Celandine, Sweet Woodruff, Meadow Crane’s-bill and Yarrow. Within the woodlands are species of Scots Pine, Oak, Beech, Silver Birch, Hazel, Rowan, Sycamore, Ash, Elder, Hawthorn, Whitebeam and Willow. The area of woodland at Blackclose Dene is listed as Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland and is of significant importance supporting a wealth of birds, mammals and insects. New woodland has been planted on the south side of the river at Stakeford.
The waters that formed the river, start flowing after the last Ice Age melt about 10,000 BC. The very early river would have been as large as the River Tyne is today, but due to erosion in the North Tyne Valley area, most of the water started flowing south and formed the North Tyne, this reduced the size of the River Wansbeck.
Today the water in the river starts in a number of areas to the far west of the park. The river flows from Sweethope Loughs area, beside Ridsdale and the A68 road, through Kirkwhelpington, it’s then joined by the Hart Burn, which flows from an area around Ottercops Moss and through Scots Gap. The River Fort at Mitford joins the River Wansbeck. The waters flow from the Harwood Forest area down the Fallowless Burn into the Fontburn Reservoir and from Rothley Lake down the Eweyley Burn to the Font.
Within the Wansbeck Riverside Park areas have been use for industrial activities, such as quarrying of sand stone for local use, blacksmith forge, limekiln and coal mining. Two early river crossing points were located within this area, Stakeford; the old road down to it is called Eastford Road, a fording point only available when the tide was out, Now the Stakeford Bridge stands at this location. Orchard Ford was located upstream of Stakeford but no evidence remains.
In more recent times the eroding riverbanks have been reinforced by wire gabions (wire boxes filled with stone) and back filled, providing large grass areas on both banks. At the river month a barrage was installed retaining a water body which is used water activities
Wansbeck Riverside Park Caravan and Camping Site is located within the country park.