Rambling through picturesque Northumberland

Causey Arch was built in 1725.

Causey Arch, in County Durham, is the oldest surviving single arch railway bridge in the world.

It was built in 1725 for a group of mine owners to transport coal from Tanfield Colliery to the banks of the River Tyne, from where it was loaded at Newcastle upon Tyne for shipment to London and other markets.

The Tanfield Waggonway, which ran over the bridge, was a railway with wooden rails with horse-drawn coal wagons. It was converted to iron rails in 1839. Tanfield Railway is still going and is said to be the world’s oldest railway.

An artist’s painting of Causey Arch.

Causey Arch was built by Ralph Wood, a local master stonemason. Since it was the first stone arch bridge to be built anywhere in the world since Roman times, he had no prior experience of this type of construction and little confidence that it would not collapse.

In fact he was so worried he took his own life, jumping off the bridge before it was completed.

An artist’s painting of the bridge, which in its heyday, carried 930 wagons daily with an interval of only 20 seconds between them.

In its heyday, the bridge carried 930 wagons per day with an interval of only 20 seconds between them.

By 1770 the bridge was little used and it fell into neglect for 200 years until it was restored from 1975 to 1981.

A section of the Tanfield Waggonway is currently being recreated, scheduled for completion in time for its 300th anniversary in 2025.

A replica of a wagon.

Apart from the bridge itself, other attractions here include the Tanfield Railway. This is a volunteer-run heritage railway with preserved steam trains stopping at four stations.

A pleasant, three kilometre circular walk starts at the car park, taking in Causey Arch and through the woods alongside Causey Burn.

This article first appeared on Thrifty Traveller.