Natural Environment

Ebchester lies on southeastern slope of the valley of the Derwent River, which rises in the high moorland of Co. Durham and flows northeast into the Tyne at Swalwell. The underlying coal measures formed the basis of extensive mining activities in the valley in the past while the overlying glacial deposits of sand and gravel have attracted more recent quarrying. The village and its immediate environs include a variety of natural habitats which support a rich diversity of plants and animals.

There are numerous public footpaths through the woods and fields around the village. On the SE side of the valley, the Derwent Walk Country Park, based on line of the old Newcastle to Consett railway, includes more than 10 miles of well-maintained footpath and provides magnificent views of the valley. An additional woodland walk follows the banks of the Derwent within the Ebchester Woods, owned and managed by the National Trust.

The northwestern side of the valley accommodates a mixture of farmland and a number of ancient woodlands, most notably the Heugh Woods. These once-coppiced woods contain a wide mix of plant and tree species and are home to deer, badgers and squirrels as well as many smaller mammals and many species of birds. In recent years, these have included the magnificent red kites, introduced so successfully in Rowlands Gill, which have spread upstream and are now frequent visitors to Ebchester. An important part of these woods has recently been incorporated into the newly established Broad Oak Nature Reserve, managed by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust in collaboration with Lafarge Tarmac as part of their restoration scheme for the Broad Oak – Hollings Hill quarry sites. In time, this reserve will provide additional footpaths to facilitate public access.

The Derwent River is part of the Tyne river system whose well-being is the concern of the Tyne Rivers Trust. The river supports a rich population of aquatic plants and animals including numerous species of fish which attract herons and otters. The Ebchester weir, which has crossed the Derwent for hundreds of years, was originally built to provide water power for several mills along what is now Mill Lane. The long pool upstream of the weir is frequently visited by a variety of water birds, particularly during cold winters. It has also supported popular water sports activities, particularly rowing and kayaking. Efforts are underway to upgrade the existing boathouse to enhance access to these activities.