The Land of Oak & Iron

About

Land of Oak & Iron Heritage Centre

Our Heritage Centre is set within the beautiful steep-sided Derwent Valley, with an abundance of natural woodland, rare and iconic wildlife and a hidden heritage of British sword making and a world leading iron and steel industry.

The Land of Oak & Iron are proud to host a wide range of wonderful events and activities, from exciting seasonal children’s trails and school holiday activities, to music events, creative workshops and heritage talks. Keep up to date with our current events on our social media pages and ‘what’s on’ page on this website. 

We also host exhibitions of local artist’s work in the windows of our Inside Out Gallery, most of which is available to purchase.

The Heritage Centre Café is also the perfect place to fuel up before or relax after a day of exploring. From hearty breakfasts and seasonal lunches to delicious home-bakes, all made with locally sourced ingredients, there’s something to suit all tastes.  Our ever-changing menu offers a mouth-watering selection. Whether you are looking for a family brunch, a catch-up with friends over coffee and cake, or a quick snack to take into the park with you (and one for the dog too!), you’re bound to find a tasty treat at the café.

Our menu is suitable for the whole family, with a dedicated ‘shrublings’ menu for the little ones, along with sandwiches and hot food for the whole family, all made fresh to order. Our sweet treats, pie, quiche and soup change daily!  There are always vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options too.

Browse the range of artisan gifts on offer in the shop, all sourced from north east suppliers.

We also sell a range of children’s books & toys, for a little treat at the end of your walk. Along with children’s toys, we also sell a range of local history books, locally sourced honey & jam, gifts and art.work Make sure to have a browse of our shop the next time your here! 

Authentic Heritage, History, Heroes & Habitats

The Land of Oak & Iron covers a 177 kmarea surrounding the Derwent Valley including Consett, Rowlands Gill, Prudhoe and Whickham.

This beautiful steep-sided valley has an abundance of natural woodland and riverside meadows inhabited by thriving wildlife, including the iconic Red Kite.  It is hard to imagine just how heavily industrialised the area once was.  Abundant good-quality and accessible coal reserves led to the valley being heavily mined; waggonways, built to get the coal to market, criss-crossed the land.

Europe’s largest iron manufactory was established here in 1691 by the great industrialist Ambrose Crowley, at the same time as a secret colony of expert sword makers from Germany set up home in Shotley Bridge. For the next three hundred years, the valley was an important centre of the iron and steel industry: Derwenthaugh coke works belched its last fiery dragon into the air only in the 1980s!  It’s all so difficult to believe when we look around this area of outstanding natural beauty!

Such industry brought wealth to the area, notably to the Bowes family of Gibside, where George Bowes created one of the finest C18th landscape gardens in England, including a Palladian chapel designed by James Paine, who was also the architect of Axwell Hall. Despite her dramatic personal story, Mary Eleanor Bowes became one of the foremost patrons of natural science and the first woman to win back her property after divorce. Other luminaries of the area include naturalist and printmaker Thomas Bewick, Tommy Armstrong the ‘Pitman Poet’, oarsman Harry Clasper, composer William Shield, and the world-famous exponents of the traditional local rapper dancing who once appeared at the Albert Hall!

Land of Oak & Iron Celebration Film

We’ve succeeded in breathing new life into the history and heritage of the region for future generations to enjoy.  We are excited to see how our team of volunteers led by the Land of Oak & Iron Trust further develops all that the area has to offer people living locally and those travelling to the area from afar in the future.  The Trust will continue working closely with Groundwork and strategic partners in Local Authorities including Gateshead, Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council to identify opportunities and collaboratively achieve aims.

Take a look at our short film to hear all about some of our work.

Local Communities and Partners

We are a not-for-profit organisation, which has been working with local communities and partners, to celebrate, conserve and enhance the natural, industrial and cultural heritage of this area, which stretches from the Derwent Reservoir to the River Tyne.


Our aim is to create a legacy for regeneration and local economic development, which enhances heritage and increases prosperity.


Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, our partnership has worked together on initiatives beyond the immediate scope and resource of current funding, adding value and impact to the scheme.

Land of Oak & Iron covers 177 square miles of the beautiful and historic Derwent Valley and its surrounding areas. This is one of the North East’s most rewarding and exciting areas to explore.


The Derwent Valley hasn’t always been the tranquil place you’ll find today. It was a cradle of the Industrial Revolution, with a booming iron and steel industry, that lasted from the 1690s right up until the 1980s.


You’ll find the legacy of metalworking throughout the Land of Oak & Iron. Industry left its mark on the landscape with forges and furnaces. It also shaped local communities, influencing traditions such as rapper dancing, and the writings of Tommy Armstrong, known as the pitman poet.


Nowadays, the old industries have fallen silent. Nature is reclaiming the valley, creating a rich patchwork of woodlands, riverbanks and grasslands. These habitats support a wide range of species such as otters, kingfishers and red kites, which are making a comeback. Exploring this wonderful landscape is easier than ever before, thanks to an extensive network of paths and trails. Whether you want to walk, cycle, ride a horse or paddle a canoe, the Land of Oak & Iron has something for you.


Our next challenge is to fundraise for a play area for our visitors at the Heritage Centre.
If you’re able, please donate via the button

We are a not-for profit charity, hosted by Groundwork NE & Cumbria, with a mission to support our local communities, mobilise practical community action on poverty, the environment and climate change.

We’d especially like to thank the local community who regularly visit us, attend our events and make donations at the Centre. Your contributions make a big difference. In the last year we fundraised enough to purchase and install a defibrillator at the Heritage Centre for use by the full local community.

Key Partners

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