The best salmon river in england. There is much social and industrial history based around the River Tyne that it is often easy to forget that it is, first and foremost, a natural feature and home to a wide range of wildlife. As early as the eighth century, the river was described by the Venerable Bede as ‘abounding in fish, particularly salmon’ and despite centuries of industrial activity which reduced it to little more than an open sewer, this situation has ben totally reversed in recent years and the Tyne once again is one of the finest salmon rivers in England.
Between the rivers mouth and it’s source, high in the hills, the countryside is full of variety, including many sites which are of national and international importance for flora and fauna, and so there is a great deal to interest the naturalist. Here in North Shields, the steep bank sides between the upper and lower parts of the town, which were once packed with dwellings, have now been reclaimed for nature, to form a green backdrop to the river and create habitats for wildlife. The vegetation provides a landfall site for migrating birds such as the whitethroat, willow warbler and song thrush. To the east, the foreshore and river mouth abound with seabirds and waders.
It was the 13th century when coal began to be shipped from the River Tyne, that it began to be seen less as a natural feature and more as a highway for trade. Though the river became increasingly busy, it was of little benefit to most of the towns along its banks as all commerce was then controlled by the powerful burgesses of Newcastle. It was only after the River Tyne Improvement Act of 1850 effectively ended Newcastle’s monopoly that North Shields came into its own as a port.
The second half of the 19th century saw the rise of two great shipping lines in the town, both of which become known the world over. The Stag Line had its offices for many years in a building which now serves as a registry office for weddings. The ‘Stag’ emblem still adorns the gable walls. The companies roots on the Tyne can be traced back to 1817 and its fleet plied the world’s oceans, carrying a wide range of cargoes, right up until the 1980s. The Prince Line was founded in 1881 by James Knott, the son of a grocer from Howdon. It became on of the world’s major shipping lines with over 40 steamers, distinguished by their slate gray hulls and black and red funnels and white Prince of Wales feathers emblem. The company was held in the highest regard by the many passengers who used the Round the World Service.’