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Friends latest news and announcements
Carols in the Park - December 2023

A week before Christmas, some of the Friends of Saltwell Park enjoyed sharing in a Christmas carol sing-along around the Park bandstand.


This was hosted by Grace Church Gateshead and Hope Community Church Low Fell, who provided the musical accompaniment.


There was a good turnout, and popular carols and mulled apple juice provided plenty of Christmas cheer!

Snow in Saltwell Park Gateshead December 2023
‘Frets on the Tyne’ Entertain us at 2023 Christmas Event

Plenty of seasonal food and cheer were accompanied by guitar music and songs from local band ‘Frets on the Tyne’ at the Friends’ Christmas event that took place at Side by Side Arts next to St Chad’s Church.

A group of talented guitar players and singers, the Frets sang a variety of well-known rock and folk songs from
across the decades and encouraged us to join in.


Our thanks go the band and we hope they will perform for us again one day.

Frets on the Tyne entertain at The Friends of Saltwell Christmas event December 2023
Sculpture Walk for Brighton Avenue Primary School - November 2023

In November, 29 Year 6 pupils from Brighton Avenue Primary School in Bensham visited the Park to find out more about its heritage and learn about its sculptures.


Their visit was part of the ongoing partnership between the Friends and the school. Brighton Avenue pupils have already helped with planting crocus corms and with tree care in the Apple Bee Community Orchard, and its choir memorably entertained us with their singing at our Apple Day celebrations in October.

The group of 10-11 year olds learned about the history of Saltwell Park and how it originally belonged to stained glass manufacturers William Wailes. Although the Park is now managed by Gateshead Council, the children learned how everyone is responsible for helping to care for it by disposing of litter correctly and keeping dogs under control. The sculpture tour encompassed the Chrysalis, the Rise, the Pavilion for Cultural Exchange, Foliate Carving, Language Stone (picture), Seedling and the Poppy.
The pupils were informed about the sculptors and their work and asked what they thought about each piece.

Back at the Shelter in the Grove the pupils designed their own sculptures using themselves as the materials and explained what they represented. The structures will be reconstructed in actual materials back at school.


We hope the children will come and present them at a Saturday talk which the Friends hope to give on Gateshead public art this year.

Sculptures in Saltwell Park - Friends of Saltwell Park News
Update from Gateshead Council - 2023 Saltwell Park Review

The Park was busy during the summer and autumn months and it was good to see large numbers of visitors making the most of its facilities for recreation and relaxation, particularly during the school holidays.

Some of the buildings and structures have been repaired and ongoing maintenance continues. The Almond Pavilion, now home to popular cafe Prism Coffee, has been repainted and its gullies repaired, with more refurbishments to come. Both the North and South shelters have had interim repairs and timbers will be replaced in the spring, as will the broken and missing stones on the Belvedere Walls.  Architects are working on designs for replacing the vandalised Avenue Bowling Pavilion with a building that can be a focus for volunteer groups in the Park.


Our Dog Wardens have been educating owners about the need to avoid fouling in the Park and keep their dogs under control. Incidences of anti-social behaviour typically decline when the weather cools. I am pleased to report that we have seen fewer problems this year. The police and fire brigade have been using the Park for training and this should continue moving forward.

Cleaning out the Dene has been completed and the pump is now ready to be be turned back on. More ferns and bulbs will be planted over the winter months which we hope will provide a stunning display next year.

The Fields of Remembrance took place as usual with displays remaining until 19th November. When you are next in the Park please do visit the new RAF memorial seat, a lovely tribute to Flt. Sgt. Lawrence Allen.

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to the volunteers who give their time to help us look after the Park. I am delighted that the combined hard work of our volunteers and maintenance teams saw us retain both the Green Flag Award and the Green Heritage Award this year and we achieved our highest score ever. The judges were overawed by the Park, which they said was a stunning example of a Victorian park with many outstanding features.

I would like to wish everyone a happy festive season and all the best for 2024.


Kevin Hills, Gateshead Council

New signs in Saltwell Park - Friends of Saltwell Park news
Friends Visit Little Theatre - October 2023

The Friends’ October event took place at the Little Theatrethe only theatre in England to be built and opened during World War II. Archivist Judith Carruthers talked us through the history of the theatre, which is located opposite the Park’s main entrance in Saltwell View. Home to the Progressive Players, the Little Theatre was the brainchild of the three Dodds sisters – Hope, Ruth and Sylvia. Three plots of land were purchased for its construction, one of which was requisitioned by the RAF and used for a barrage balloon.

The theatre’s first production in October 1943 was Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Judith recounted some fascinating historical facts. After the 1959 production of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, Anne’s father Otto wrote to express his thanks and asked for photos and reviews of the production which were displayed at the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam. A letter of appreciation was also received from playwright J. B. Priestley after the Players performed ‘An Inspector Calls’.


Ten years ago a generous bequest for ‘a project’ from member Jim Ord enabled the theatre to extend the foyer and the bar. Other grants and donations from many sources were used to build the studio.

We would like to thank Judith very much for such an informative presentation of one of Gateshead’s treasured gems. Judith is very keen to collect and catalogue information relating to the Little Theatre’s past. If you come across anything relating to its history while you are having a clear out please do contact Judith and give her first refusal. She can be contacted at

Archivist Judith Carruthers talked us through the history of the Little Theatre - Friends of Saltwell Park news
Bird Walks for all Seasons

In 2023, local ornithologist Michael Turner led four informative and entertaining bird walks around Saltwell Park for the Friends of Saltwell Park members.


During the spring, summer, autumn and winter walks, Michael helped us identify the diverse resident and seasonal visitors that can be spotted or heard in the Park at different times of the year. His talks were replete with visual aids, amusing anecdotes and bird folklore.


Many of us went on all four walks as we encountered different species on each. It made us realise just how much is going on around us and how much we miss as we walk round the Park chatting or absorbed in our own thoughts!

Michael has also written a book entitled A History of Birds in the Derwent Valley. It is an eclectic compilation of texts and gleanings from the 19th century to post Covid and is a personal look at some of the people, books and events that inspired him. His book is the latest publication from the Land of Oak & Iron Trust and is illustrated with stunning images from local photographers and artists. It retails at £20 and is currently available to buy from Gateshead Central Library and the Land of Oak & Iron Heritage Centre at Winlaton Mill.

A History of Birds in the Derwent Valley by Michael Turner - Friends of Saltwell Park news
Poetry in the Park - October 2023

The theme for this year’s National Poetry Day on 5th October 2023 was ‘Refuge’.


Hilary Shaw led a small group around different parts of the Park and invited participants to share how certain statues, objects or vistas made them feel secure or increased feelings of well-being.


In spite of the persistent rain, our dampened spirits were raised as we collectively wrote a refuge-themed haiku poem.

More about National Poetry Day can be found online at

Poetry in the Park - October 2023 - Saltwell Park Gateshead
National Apple Day 2023 Goes Down a Storm!

After two very wet and windy days, Saturday 21st October 2023 dawned somewhat drier, enabling the Friends to celebrate National Apple Day in the Park with around 100 local people. Although the trees in our Apple Bee Community Orchard are still too young to produce a crop, plenty of apples of different types were on display. 

Leaflets illustrating a map of the Orchard and its new logo designed by local school children were handed out to visitors. We also enjoyed apple cakes, kindly donated by visitors, as well as apple tea and apple juice made on-site in an apple press loaned to us by Jesmond Community Orchard. There were plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. Lots of people had their photos taken in our photo board and children completed puzzles, quizzes and word searches and coloured in orchard-related pictures.


The highlight of the morning was listening to 27 pupils from the Brighton Avenue Primary School choir who raised our spirits with fruit and vegetable themed songs to celebrate harvest festival.

“Thank you to everyone who made our Apple Day celebrations such a success,” said Diane Ward, Honorary Secretary, Friends of Saltwell Park. “As well as pre-event planning, a lot of work took place on the day including making and serving refreshments, shifting furniture in the ReCoCo Centre and clearing up afterwards. Particular thanks go to the pupils, parents and teachers at Brighton Avenue Primary School for such a lovely performance. I would also like to thank Jayne Calvert from Gateshead Council and Tesco Extra at Trinity Square Gateshead who generously donated apples and juice, as well as Hobbycraft of Team Valley who provided material for the photo board."

Friends attend National Apple Day 2023 at Saltwell Park in Gateshead
Our Community Orchard has a Logo!

Community - Wildlife - Biodiversity - Pollinators - Orchard - Trees - Apples  

These were the themes we presented to students from St Peter’s Catholic Primary School and Kells Lane Primary School who created many excellent designs for graphic designer Paul Rea to work with. 

Here’s what Paul had to say: “Choosing the right elements for the logo was no easy task as the children came up with so many interesting and varied creative ideas. The Friends and I felt it best to combine a number of individual designs into a memorable logo. This approach also enabled us to include inputs from many children.

The children can be proud of what they have achieved and I hope it will further their interest in caring for the Apple Bee Community Orchard, Saltwell Park and the wider environment.”

Apple Bee Community Orchard - Friends of Saltwell Park in Gateshead
Gateshead Once Housed World’s Largest Telescope - Friends event September 2023

At the Friends’ September 2023 event Stewart Fraser gave a very interesting and well-researched talk about
Scottish engineer and astronomer Robert Stirling Newall. How many of us knew that in the second half of the 19th century the largest refracting telescope in the world (at that time) was located a mere stone’s throw from Saltwell Park?

Born in Dundee in 1812, Newall established a factory in Gateshead for making wire ropes for mining,
railways and ships’ rigging before realising his vision for a large telescope. Scientific instrument maker Thomas Cooke was commissioned to build the 25-inch-diameter-lens refracting telescope that no doubt impressed distinguished visitors to the private observatory at Ferndene, his Gateshead residence. 
Our photo shows Newall in around 1872 looking through the eyepiece.

After his death in 1889 the telescope was donated to the Cambridge Observatory. Eventually it was transported to the Penteli Astronomical Station in Athens where it is still used in an educational capacity to this day.

Stewart’s research took him to Cambridge and he corresponded with the Penteli Observatory Public
Engagement Manager, Nicolas Matsopoulos, who wrote about the telescope in an email: It is a vehicle with which I and my son had the opportunity to travel far into the universe and admire its greatness. . . I also feel very proud because I had the opportunity to keep alive and active such a wonderful piece of human craftsmanship.

Thanks Stewart for a fascinating insight into this interesting man and his vision.

Scottish engineer and astronomer Robert Stirling Newall using his telescope - Friends of Saltwell Park news
Sharing Memories of Saltwell Park

At our August 2023 event people talked about time spent in the Park in times gone by.


We learned about childhood fascination with the stuffed birds, goats head, penny farthing bicycle and the other Victorian artefacts in the musty-smelling museum that, unusual for its time, allowed children in without an accompanying adult.


The Park provided freedom to explore, entertainment in the form of fishing, collecting tadpoles, paddling, riding on the swings, roundabout and ‘shuggy boat’ and playing hide and seek in the maze – all under the watchful eye of the ‘parkies’ (park wardens).


Many remembered hours of fun ‘flying’ in Saltwell Airways, the old Vickers Viscount plane stationed on the Northern Fields between 1982 and 1993.


The Park has undergone extensive restoration in the past 20 years but throughout its evolution it has remained true to our memories. If you have a memory of the Park that you would like to share, please get in touch.

Then and Now in Saltwell Park Gateshead
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