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Exploring Smith’s Dock on two wheels

21/01/2020

With such an interesting and historic setting on the River Tyne, we’re often drawn to Smith’s Dock’s waterfront setting. The River Tyne is a busy commercial waterway, playing host to cruise liners, daily ferries to Europe and a range of fishing boats bringing their wares to sell at the local North Shields fish market; regular passing ships offer a constantly changing landscape for residents at Smith’s Dock to enjoy.

With so much happening on the water, it’s easy to overlook what’s happening on land but the river is a focal point for so much more than water-based activities. North Shields Fish Quay is actually one of the final stops on the famed Coast to Coast cycle route. Both the Hadrian’s cycleway and Reivers Route of the C2C either start or end in neighbouring Tynemouth, with the route passing through Smith’s Dock on the final two mile stretch to the finish point at the mouth of the Tyne.

Over ten thousand cyclists take on the challenging C2C route every year. They take advantage of the beautiful scenery and off-road paths for a 170+mile route that takes riders from Whitehaven or Solway in Cumbria to the North Sea coastline. For a portion of the final ride into Tynemouth, riders follow the River Tyne as it winds its way through the beautiful Tyne Valley to the post-industrial riverside of the Newcastle and North Tyneside suburbs – passing through Smith’s Dock on the way.

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The C2C route isn’t the only cycle path to take advantage of the industrial past of the Borough to create popular routes for riders. Riders of all ages can enjoy the waggonway network. This 30-mile network of paths stretch throughout North Tyneside and thanks to the area’s coal mining past, connects the river to key parts of the Borough.

The North Tyneside Waggonways network harks back to the industrial heritage of the area. The Great Northern Coalfield was one of the most important coal producing areas of the Victoria era and the waggonways were constructed to move coal from local mines to the River Tyne to be transported around the world. Initially used by horse drawn carts, the steam age brought small locomotives to the waggonways and in the year 2000, the paths were transformed by North Tyneside Council to form new cycle and walking routes throughout the Borough.

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The waggonways criss-cross North Tyneside and form a number of different routes identified by their start and finish location and distance. The closest start to Smith’s Dock is Royal Quays Marina where the waggonways link to Silverlink and beyond. Maps covering the major waggonway routes are available to download from North Tyneside Council.

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Coast and Castles

For those looking to venture further afield and hit the more northern cycle paths, coast and castles is a challenging route starting in Newcastle or North Tyneside and ending in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mostly following the Northumberland and Scottish coastline, it generally makes more sense to start South and head North to complete this 170-mile route and the stunning scenery makes it a highlight of the National Cycling Network.

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When passing through the North Shields Fish Quay, riders have the option of taking the ferry over to South Shields and carrying on further south or using the newly opened Pedestrian Tyne Tunnel to travel onwards to South Tyneside. The Pedestrian Tyne Tunnel refurb was completed in 2019 following a six-year programme and has opened up the North and South of the river to cyclists and commuters looking for a quick and easy route underground. The tunnel links to National Cycle Network routes and provides easy access to the South of the River for anyone wishing to live in Smith’s Dock but work in South Shields. The new pedestrian Tyne Tunnel means it is just a few short miles to the south of the river via bike and the tunnel is now open 7 days a week from 6am to 8pm.

The River Tyne may provide the views and the frequent ships the action, but Smith’s Dock is most certainly a gateway to exploring both the local area and further afield for those who prefer two wheels to a boat.