Sew Near, Sew Far – Along the River Derwent

Land of Oak & Iron - Red Kite  

The Heritage Centre and café shrub is a lovely place to meet friends and family or stop off for refreshments while out for a walk, run or cycle ride.  If before lockdown, you ever visited café  shrub on a sunny afternoon, you may have noticed when the sun shines from the south, rather too much light illuminated the tables and customers – but not any more!

Gibside Sewing Group have created 10 stunning textile panels, which are now hanging in the windows of café shrub. The talented members of the sewing group were approached by Land of Oak & Iron to come up with a creative solution and through several discussions (over coffee and cake at both café shrub and Gibside’s café) an idea was formed to create a textile art installation that would also help filter some of the strong sunlight.

Covering the full length of the windows at the end of café shrub would block out the wonderful countryside views and make the area too shaded.  The group’s solution was to create a 10 panelled textile art installation to fit across the upper section of the panoramic windows, leaving the lower area open, allowing for uninterrupted views across Derwenthaugh Park.

The group’s inspiration was the 30km long journey of the River Derwent, from the North Pennine moors, flowing down to the tidal Tyne – showing the river’s changing character as it meanders through the Derwent Valley. The landscape, natural history, seasons, history and culture, bridges and industry providing a rich resource to guide the group’s themes and ideas as the project evolves.

The group had started to make progress, but then lockdown happened and the group became a virtual sewing group.  Calling themselves ‘Sew Near, Sew Far’, they carried on with the project – with each member working in their own home, no longer able to meet at their regular venue in Gibside’s café.  Thankfully the panels were completed in August and now hang proudly in the windows of the Heritage Centre (viewed from inside).

Next time you call into café shrub for either a take-out meal or table service, be sure to take a closer look at the textile panels.


The 10 panels illustrate the journey of the River Derwent from it’s source on the moorlands above Blanchland, past the Derwent Reservoir, through the Muggleswick Gorge to Allensford, passing Consett and Shotley Bridge before meandering across the flatter valley floor towards the more urban area of Rowlands Gill, Winlaton and Blaydon, where the Derwent meets the Tyne.  Along the way there are representations of the natural history of the valley: birds, butterflies, animals trees and wild flowers.

Scenes from the history and heritage are shown – the keel boat men of Newburn, the swords of Winlaton Rapper Dancers and the forges of Shotley Bridge; Gibside Chapel and the Monument to Liberty. The industrial heritage is shown through the Cowan bricks from Blaydon, the cogs of Pathhead Water Mill, the red dust of Consett, Hownsgill Viaduct, the anvil and davy lamp.

Tying the whole story together is the theme of recreation and leisure with walkers, cyclists, sailors and anglers using the surprisingly quiet and picturesque area for recreation.

There’s so much to see in the details – when visiting, see if you can find:
Red Kite, Green Woodpecker, Brambles, Roe Deer, Fungi, Oyster Catchers, Hedgehog, Wildflowers, Cyclists, Walkers and of course the River Derwent.


The sewers of the Gibside Sewing Group have used many fabric art techniques to create this work ranging from felting to crochet, hand embroidery to cross stitch, beadwork to hand dying, patchwork, landscape quilting, applique by hand and by machine, photo transfer of images, free motion machine embroidery and fabric painting. We have enjoyed learning new techniques and revisiting old skills.

If you have visited Gibside in the past, you may have come across some of the group’s beautiful work – for example, the Chapel Curtain, created to prevent birds accidently flying into the Chapel.  You can find out more about the Gibside Sewing Group via National Trust Gibside’s website.