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Amazing volunteers - May 2024

The wood chippings pile has now gone, distributed around the bases of the Orchard trees, thanks to the work of these young people.

Why not join the Friends of Saltwell Park and help out with our activities, gardening and also the maintance of our Apple Bee Community Orchard. Find out more - click here


Cygnets - 16 May 2024

This year's cygnets have made their appearance on the lake in Saltwell Park, Gateshead.

Normally the adult swans will look after their cygnets for about 5-6 months, before encouraging them to fly the nest.

Swans reach maturity after about 3-4 years and can often live for up to 20 years in the wild, some living in captivity have lived for 50 years.

Swans and their cygnets in Saltwell Park Gateshead 16th May 2024

More volunteers helping out -Thank you

More willing volunteers help Friends of Saltwell Park with essential maintenance in our Apple Bee Community Orchard, thank you from us all.


If you would like to help out, volunteers are always welcome. Contact us for details of when and where we meet. 

Vounteers in Saltwell Park Gateshead Apple Bee Community Orchard

“Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May be out”

…….is a proverb familiar to many of us. “Clout” is an old English word for clothing. Some say this proverb warns us to keep wearing warm winter clothing until May has ended, as this month often brings a surprise cold snap. Others will tell you that the true meaning of “May be out” is in relation to the flowering of hawthorn blossom. Once blossom turns the hawthorn hedges white it is safe to discard your winter clothing. However the end of May and the appearance of hawthorn blossom do not always coincide! Fluctuations in temperature, rainfall and sunlight determine when the hawthorn flowers.

Perhaps we could look out for hawthorn blossom this year and see if it appears before or after the end of May before we decide which interpretation of the proverb is correct!

On a serious note, hawthorn blossom provides nectar and pollen for insects in spring and hawthorn berries feed birds during the cold winter months.

Hawthorn Blossom

Falklands adventure

In March, Friends committee member Emma Fulton talked to us about living in the Falkland Islands where she worked for 18 months heading up court and tribunal services in all jurisdictions. Some 8,000 miles and 18-19 flying hours from the UK, the Falklands is made up of 778 islands and has around 3,600 residents from 71 different nationalities, almost 80% of whom live in the capital, Stanley.

While the weather is similar to north east England, albeit with less rain and more wind, the fauna and flora are very different. Penguin species King, Gentoo, Magellanic, Southern Rockhopper and Macaroni, together with many other land and sea bird species, including 70% of the world’s population of black-browed albatross, are found in the British overseas territory which is two-thirds the size of Wales. Marine life is plentiful and sei whales, orcas, dolphins, elephant seals, and sea lions can be spotted. There is no public transport on the islands and outside Stanley most roads are gravel tracks. Air and sea services are often disrupted by the strong winds.

Fishing and sheep farming are the Falklands’ main industries, with tourism also an important part of the economy. Emma’s role encompassed most elements of the legal system, including legal adviser to Justice of the Peace in the Summary Court, Registrar to the Supreme Court, Commissioner for Oaths for all probate applications and Legal Aid Administrator. She was also responsible for managing the budget, paying bills, recruiting and training Justices of the Peace and issuing liquor licenses and summonses.

Emma provided some other interesting insights into Falklands life: There is no dairy; fresh milk is sold direct from the farmer and normally in used vodka bottles; mail arrives only twice-weekly on military flights and has to be collected from the central post office (no home deliveries); hiking is a key leisure activity but there are no trails to guide walkers, only military maps, and no mobile phone signal. Patients are flown to Chile or Uruguay for more complicated hospital treatments as medical care is limited on the islands.

Thank you Emma for a fascinating account of a place that all of us have heard of but few have ever visited!

Falkland Islands

Volunteers enjoying the fresh air and friendly atmosphere - 17th April 2024

These young people are helping Friends of Saltwell Park dig out metre squares around the Orchard trees and cover the soil with wood chippings. They work very hard and are cheerful all the time! We couldn't do it without them so a big thank you to them all.

If you would like to come along and help us in the Apple Bee Community Orchard, then please get in touch

Volunteers helping Friends of Saltwell Park in the Apple Bee Community Orchard 17 April 2024

‘Saltwell Park Gates, Gateshead-on-Tyne’ by Charlie Rogers

Following our earlier article about local painter Charlie Rogers, we plan to feature one of Charlie’s works on a regular basis. This painting, signed and dated October 2014, shows the main gates, opposite the Little Theatre.

More examples of Charlie’s work can be seen at Come View My Art Gallery, 122 Sheriff’s Highway, or viewed online at . Brian Rankin is happy to talk to groups and can be contacted by clicking here. You can also read an article in the Chronicle about the gallery and Brian’s commitment to promoting great local artists and making art affordable to everyone

‘Saltwell Park Gates, Gateshead-on-Tyne’ by Charlie Rogers

Brighton Avenue school pupils explore park’s history and heritage

One morning in March 2024, 29 pupils from Brighton Avenue Primary School visited the park. They were keen to learn more about the buildings and structures in the park, why they were built and how they are used today. The children worked in three teams and followed a trail to identify key landmarks and learn about their history. William Wailes used octagon shapes extensively in the design and construction of the park and the groups were asked to locate octagonal structures as they walked around.

The children were fascinated by the antics of the parrots in Pets’ Corner who mimicked their actions. Another highlight of their visit was the maze where they were happy to get lost while enjoying the fresh air and physical activity. The children’s enthusiasm was a joy to see and it gave volunteers from the Friends the chance to chat to young people about environmental and conservation issues. Saltwell Park is very much the People’s Park and by sharing experiences we hope stronger connections will be made which will help preserve it for future generations.

Saltwell Towers entrance in Saltwell Park Gateshead

Fresh Air, Gentle Exercise, Good Company and an Edible End Result — What Could be Better?

You can get all of this by coming to help in our Apple Bee Community Orchard in 2024!  No previous experience is necessary and we can supply tools but you might like to bring some gardening gloves with you.

We meet every Wednesday from 11am –12.30pm in the Orchard (between the tennis courts and dog exercise area).  If this time is not convenient for you but you are interested in helping out please contact us as we may be able to arrange another time. There are always jobs that need doing!

Come and help the Friends of Saltwell Park in their Apple Bee Community Orchard

Update on Saltwell Park - Gateshead Council March 2024

As the Park starts to wake up from winter to spring the bulbs are showing signs of life. The Almond Pavilion, now home to the popular Prism Café, has had a face lift with the painting now completed and is looking great. We've also carried out some internal repairs and paintwork.

Elsewhere in the Park we have lots of maintenance planned in the coming months. The aviaries are going to be repaired, repainted and re-roofed. The raised beds next to the Apple Bee Community Orchard will be reconstructed and the Belvedere Walls repointed. We are also beginning to work on the next round of signage, this time focusing on the history of the park.

Work on the main toilets near the children's play areas will soon be completed. This will include the opening of a Changing Places accessible wetroom to provide space for wheelchairs and/or carers and will be a welcome addition for some of our visitors. During the next financial year we will repair and repaint the perimeter fence and undertake repairs to the North and South shelters.

Looking ahead to the summer, event requests are starting to come in, which we hope will lead to activities that will attract more visitors. This year we will be mystery-shopped for our Green Flag and Green Heritage Awards. The judges will visit, look around the Park and maybe speak to a few people. Once they've reported back, we'll get to see the results.

And finally ... watch out for a new sculpture in the rose garden! Thanks again to the Friends and all volunteers for everything they do in the Park.

Kevin Hills

Gateshead Council

Prism Cafe in Saltwell Park Gateshead - Friends of Saltwell Park latest news and events

Blossom in Saltwell Park

As the days gradually get longer with the arrival of spring we can look forward to flowers starting to bloom in Saltwell Park. The Apple Bee Community Orchard should give us a better show of blossom than last year as the trees are now bigger and there are more of them. Our crocus bed is bursting with colour as you can see in our photo. We put in more corms at the end of 2023 to add to the hundreds planted in 2022. The flowers are excellent for attracting pollinating insects.

The Park has other spring bloomers too, particularly its cherry trees, which are a wonderful sight when all the pink blossom appears, usually between March and May. In Japan they celebrate the cherry blossom trees coming into flower by picnicking under them.  This ancient celebration is called Hanami which means 'flower viewing' and is a traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. You can read more about cherry trees, their beautiful blossom and where to see it in the UK at:

Springtime Crocus in Saltwell Park Gateshead

Charlie Rogers - "Gateshead's very own Lowry"

Our February 2024 event was a talk about relatively unknown local artist Charlie Rogers (1930-2020) who produced more than 100 paintings of Saltwell Park and lived a few minutes walk away in Westbourne Avenue. Brian Rankin, who gave the talk and is owner of Come View My Art Gallery at 122 Sheriff's Highway, started collecting works by Charlie Rogers a year ago and displays some of them at his premises. Rogers was a self-taught artist and only started painting while recuperating from a sports injury in the 1960s at the age of 34.

Many of his paintings depict areas of Gateshead and Newcastle that have since been demolished. His works provide a fascinating historical record of streets, back lanes and buildings that we will never see again, such as the Avenue Bowling Pavilion shown here that was destroyed by arsonists in 2022.

Charlie Rogers was a close friend of famous County Durham artist Norman Cornish, although the latter was 15 years older. The two produced sketches of each other and collaborated on at least one known piece. Brian's research is still uncovering new facts about Rogers' life and work. Local councillors recently visited Come View My Art Gallery and agree with Brian that Charlie has largely gone unrecognised and his work should be promoted, especially among the younger generations of Low Fell and Bensham.

"Some people have called Charlie Rogers Gateshead's very own Lowry because of the quality and subject matter of his work", says Brian. "We need to ensure his legacy is never lost."

Examples of Charlie's work can be seen at the gallery or viewed online at Brian is happy to talk to groups and can be contacted by clicking here. You can also read an article in the Chronicle about the gallery and Brian's commitment to promoting great local artists and making art affordable to everyone.

The Avenue Bowling Hut (destroyed 2022 by arsonists) in Saltwell Park drawn by Charlie Rogers

'Pully String' Hancock - A forgotten hero of Gateshead 

In January 2024 retired history teacher Guy Falkenau talked to the Friends of Saltwell Park about his grandfather, Peter Strong Hancock, who was a pioneer of improving sanitation and public health for Gateshead residents from the 1920s until his death in 1963. Born in Boldon to a family of railwaymen, Peter was employed in Boldon Colliery at age 13 for almost two years before becoming an apprentice signalman. He became an active trade union member and soon grew interested in local politics.

On becoming a local councillor in 1922 Peter was determined to help eradicate endemic diseases such as typhus, cholera and diphtheria. His persistence and determination were instrumental in replacing unhygienic earth midden toilets, which were prevalent in the slums of Gateshead, with modern plumbing and flushing toilets – which you can see being delivered in our photo. Peter's success earned him the nickname 'Pully String' Hancock.

He was also the driving force behind the creation of the Queen Elizabeth in 1948, a general hospital that could cater for the full range of the population's medical needs, and was awarded an OBE for his outstanding services to public health. A modest unassuming man, Peter also served two terms as Mayor of Gateshead in 1939 and 1940. In 1959 he was made the 9th Freeman of the County Borough of Gateshead. 

When the 1940s Hancock Building in the grounds of Queen Elizabeth Hospital was demolished  to make way for the new Accident and Emergency Centre, Guy was offered one of its two foundation stones which bore the names of his grandparents. Guy's fascinating account of both his grandfather's life and of his contribution to improving public health resonated with many attendees who had grown up in Gateshead. Peter Hancock's ashes are interred in the grounds of the hospital ... but no one is quite sure where!

Pully Strings Hancock a forgotten hero of Gateshead - talk at Friends of Saltwell Park

‘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 - Nov 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 by clicking here.

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.

2024 Saltwell Park bird walks now available - click here for details


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.

Saltwell Park Gateshead - Saltwell Towers
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