Inside the Pedestrian Tyne Tunnel, the retro walkway that demarcates Durham and Northumberland

The walk to Bamburgh from Sunderland in January 2024 involved an inevitable crossing of the River Tyne. The course of the route determined this would take place at the Pedestrian Tyne Tunnel, the quietest and least well known tunnels at Jarrow that span under the riverbed.

A dual foot and cycle route with two separate channels, the pedestrian Tyne Tunnel was built in 1951 effectively making it the first operational Tyne Tunnel. The era it was built in gives it a retro feel with its famous wooden escalators, the longest in the world and tiled interior that gives it some London underground vibes.

Despite this, the area has been given a recent refurbishment, a repainting and over the years several lifts have been installed. They were closed for at least half a decade prior to this.

To walk through the pedestrian Tyne Tunnel is an unsettling experience as it has an empty and eerie atmosphere due to the lack of people present and being an underground passage of sorts. In this particular instance there was nobody else around.

One notable feature in the tunnel however was its demarcation line, placed right in the middle point of the River Tyne, which serves to separate the historic counties of Durham and Northumberland.

Long before the artificial construct of “Tyne and Wear” was created, the River Tyne was in fact the natural border between these counties which lasted for hundreds of years. It thus makes it an interesting walk through the tunnel to see it preserve this subtle legacy.