Exploring the East Coast Mainline – Manors, Newcastle & Chester-Le-Street

Given that both were explored in the same day, it makes sense that this Exploring the East Coast follows on the from the last (read about that here). This Exploring the East Coast had me starting at the least used station in Tyne and Wear, Manors, before continuing into Newcastle itself and then visiting the oddly underserved Chester-Le-Street.

Manors Railway Station

As with Morpeth and Cramlington, Manors is served by an hourly service from Carlisle to Morpeth via Newcastle, with the very occasional service continuing north to Chathill. Despite only having this hourly service, Manors is on an extremely busy section of line, with all trains to/from Scotland passing through along with freight and empty passenger trains heading to/from Heaton Depot. Manors also has a station on the Tyne and Wear Metro, which is separate, but close to, the mainline station.

If I’m honest, I cheated a bit with Manors as given its proximity to the eastern side of Newcastle city centre, the ‘sights’ at Manors kind of merged into those for Newcastle Central station. However, there are a couple of places I visited that if you were on a train that called at Manors, it would make as much sense to jump of there compared to Central station.

The delightfully unhealthy Parmo from Parmogeddon

The closest of Newcastle’s attractions to Manors station is the Laing Art Gallery, which is completely free to enter and is open 1000 to 1630, Monday to Saturday. The building itself was designed in the Baroque style with Art Nouveau elements and is now a Grade II listed building. Along with conventional paintings and watercolours, the gallery is also home to a collection of glass, ceramics, and silver along with more contemporary works of art.

Having spent the morning exploring further north on the East Coast Mainline (ECML) it was time for some lunch and so I headed further into the city centre, along New Bridge Street West, to The Stack, a container village that was home to independent retailers and food traders along with being a community and entertainment hub. Unfortunately, whilst researching for this post, I discovered that The Stack closed permanently on Monday 2nd May to allow for redevelopment of the site.

By the River Brew Co’s container village in Gateshead

I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch at The Stack, opting for a Parmo from Parmogeddon Newcastle and the atmosphere within the container village was nice and relaxed. Whilst you won’t be able to visit The Stack if you visit Newcastle, an alternative is the By the River Brew Co. on the south side of Tyne in Gateshead. Owned and operated by the brewery, this container village also includes various food retailers and is a great place to spend an evening. I didn’t visit during this Exploring the East Coast but we did head over there during our previous stay in Newcastle, which you can read about here!

Having had an extremely delicious and unhealthy lunch, it was time to get back on my way, with time tight in Newcastle before catching the train to the rather awkward Chester-Le-Street. Heading down Blackett Street from The Stack, I arrived at one of Newcastle’s most historic sites, the 1838 Grade I lists, Grey’s Monument. The 41m high column and statue were erected to celebrate Earl Grey for his efforts in passing the Great Reform Act of 1832, with the works being paid for by public subscription. Interestingly the statue was created by Edward Hodges Baily, creator of Nelson’s Column in London.

Grey’s Monument

Heading down to the second station of this Exploring the East Coast Newcastle Central station (now just known as Newcastle), it was time to jump on a TransPennine Express (TPE) service towards Liverpool. Travelling just one stop to Chester-Le-Street, this would be the trickiest part of Exploring the East Coast so far, with only alternative trains on the hourly service calling at the County Durham town, meaning a 2-hour wait if I missed a train.

Unfortunately, this low level of service also meant that I had either just over an hour at Chester-Le-Street or just over three, and with a specific train to get back to Newcastle for I couldn’t really justify the longer stay. This was disappointing as with quite a long walk from the station to the Town Centre, I didn’t have time to head into Chester-Le-Street itself. However, I was able to visit the newly opened platform café at the station and, from the platforms, I could see the reason that most people visit Chester-Le-Street, the Riverside Ground of Durham County Cricket Club.

Chester-Le-Street station

The Riverside Ground’s history dates back to just 1990, when the building of a new test match standard ground was made a condition of Durham’s acceptance into first-class cricket. Opening in May 1995 with a match between Durham and Warwickshire, the ground continued to be developed, hosting its first World Cup match in 1999, several One Day Internationals in 2000 before graduating to host Test Match cricket in 2003. The culmination of both the ground’s and county’s growth in first class cricket was marked in 2013 when the ground hosted the fourth test of The Ashes.

Having spent the hour imposed by the TPE timetable at Chester-Le-Street station, I boarded a northbound service for the final leg of its journey through to Newcastle. Prior to Covid and the introduction of emergency timetable, a number of TPE services from Liverpool continued north beyond Newcastle to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, these services have now been split, with a regular Liverpool to Newcastle service and the segregated Newcastle to Edinburgh service only operating five trains per day.  

Newcastle Station as seen from the Castle – Ben Brooksbank via Wikimedia Commons

One of my favourite aspects of the railways around Newcastle is the location of Newcastle Castle which sits at High Level Bridge Central junction, where the ECML and lines across the High Level Bridge divide. This layout of railway and castle leaves both elements imposing on the other and has provided one of my favourite photos of the railway from 1960 taken by Ben Brooksbank which you can see above. The site has been home to a fortification since Roman times, however the castle that remains today was constructed in 1177 under the reign of Henry II. The castle is open to visitors 1000 until 1700, Thursday to Monday and costs £9.25 for adults and £5.75 for children.

Another important location in Newcastle that can be seen from just outside the front of the station is Newcastle Cathedral. The current Cathedral building was completed in 1350, with the previous Norman church having been destroyed by fire in 1216. Known for its 15th century lantern tower, the church was raised to cathedral status in the late 19th century and became known as the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas. Unlike many prominent cathedrals, Newcastle Cathedral is free to enter whether or not you are there to worship. It’s open 7 days a week between 0800 and 1800 (1700 on weekend), although there are obviously periods when services will be taking place.

A model outside the station depicting parts of Newcastle

With light fading, time short and my energy levels falling after a couple of long days exploring Britain’s railways, I decided to end the day there at the station and relax for the short time before my LUMO train back to London (read about that here). In conclusion, Newcastle is obviously a major city with plenty to do and to explore, however Manors station is probably a bit unnecessary given its proximity to the Metro and the Central station. Chester-Le-Street is unfortunately difficult to get to and visit unless you’re going to spend a few hours there, although looking at it online it seems like a nice town with lots of open space etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s