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Saved from demolition and now a key recreational asset
In 1969, Kielder Viaduct passed into the ownership of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society. Purchased for a nominal sum of £1.00 from the Forestry Commission, the viaduct was subsequently listed as a scheduled Ancient Monument and the Society was instrumental in acquiring grants and funds for remedial strengthening work to be carried out.
The viaduct was engineered in 1862 to carry the Border Counties Railway over the North Tyne river as the railway followed its course from the Border Counties Junction, west of Hexham to meet up with the Waverley Route at Riccarton Junction in Scotland. The need to maintain a parallel course up the valley meant that the viaduct had to be skewed with the line of the river. This required the construction of complex arches with the stones of the arch gradually changing from aligning with the skew piers to lying at right angles to the line of the bridge at the crown. The system used was devised by Peter Nicholson, a Newcastle mathematician in about 1840, whereby each stone had to be cut and dressed individually.
The resulting structure, 130yds long and 55ft high has seven skew arches, and is decorated with battlements to compliment the nearby Kielder Castle. With the closure of the railway line in 1958, the bridge, then under the ownership of British Railways, fell into disuse. It was subsequently acquired by the Forestry Commission and was about to blown up before the Northumberland and Newcastle Society stepped in to rescue it. It now forms part of a network of paths around the Kielder Reservoir.
In 2004, the Society worked in partnership with Kielder Community Trust, on a project to create eight iron panels to be installed between the parapets. The panels were forged by six master blacksmiths, who interpreted designs by community groups in Kielder Village and pupils from Kielder First School.