River Blyth Crossing at Cowpen

Greenwood Map of Northumberland 1828
Greenwood's 1828 map of Northumberland shows a quite prominent crossing point of the River Blyth near Kitty Brewster farm in Cowpen. The map is an relatively early example of cartography and not totally accurate or detailed. But was it a prominent crossing point? The only other crossing points of the river are bridges and fords both upstream and downstream at Bedlington and Blyth about one mile away. A crossing at this point would have been desirable.

Ordnance Survey 1895

The 19th century Ordnance Survey maps do show a ford at this place. It does not cross the river in a most direct course though. The path moves North direct across the river then turns NW in a new direction across the channel.

The river is still tidal at this point. The crossing would have only been possible at low tide. But even so, the river bed is covered in thick mud. Was there a structure in place to give a firmer footing? And was the diagonal course a necessity to avoid the staiths built on the North bank of the river in the early 19th century. If the ford was constructed in earlier times than the 19th century did it go in a more direct route across the river channel. The crossing was not shown on Armstrong's map of 1769, but absence of evidence doesn't necessarily indicate it wasn't there.

Aerial Photo from 2009 Showing Linear Features

Aerial photography does seem to indicate that there is a linear feature, or structure, at the fording point. I went to investigate and underneath the seaweed now covering the linear feature was a raised platform made of stones, each the size of a hand. The platform was at most only a couple of feet in width, just enough room for one person to walk across.

OS Plan of 1960

The Ford looking North from Kitty Brewster

The feature is not shown on the 20th century Ordnance Survey mapping, however, once again, absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence, but it clearly fell into disuse especially after the A189 was constructed in the 1950s. The river channel also altered its course slightly with an island developing by the time of the 1960 OS plan. The channel at the point of crossing seems to have become deeper after this date.

The Ford looking NW
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