Rowlands Gill embraces red kite heritage with signs

Red kites were reintroduced into the North East in the Rowlands Gill area of the Derwent Valley between 2004 and 2006

One of the red kite signs in Rowlands Gill
One of the red kite signs in Rowlands Gill

It's a sign of the times for a valley village which has taken a bird of prey to its heart.

Red kites were reintroduced into the North East in the Rowlands Gill area of the Derwent Valley between 2004 and 2006.

The spectacular birds, with their 5ft wingspans, are now an attraction of the valley, which is served by a branded red kites bus service.

Now new village destination signs have been installed at the east and west approaches to Rowlands Gill in Gateshead.

They feature steel sculptures of a red kite and the message Derwent Valley Red Kite Country.

The sculptures were fashioned by Sunderland-based artist blacksmith Craig Knowles, who worked with the Friends of Red Kites group on the making of the metal birds.

Blacksmith Craig Knowles
Blacksmith Craig Knowles

Craig said: “I have very much enjoyed working on this project, which was a chance to do something different and special with road signs.”

The birds weigh in at 30 kilos and each was created from two sheets of steel which were forged, shaped and then joined together.

“It was an enjoyable challenge,” said Craig, whose work also includes five metal beams from which cormorants gradually emerge in flight at St Peter’s Riverside in Sunderland.

June Atkinson from Friends of the Red Kites said: “Several of the committee have visited Craig in his workshop and we are impressed with the way in which he has interpreted the task of incorporating a red kite in the signage design.

“The people of Rowlands Gill are justifiably proud of these majestic birds which grace their skies each day. These these signs will welcome both residents and visitors.”

Keith Bowey was manager for the Norther Kites project, which marks its 10th anniversary next year.

He said: “The sculptures are fantastic and are a great addition to the area’s red kite bus service, Red Kite pub and red kite shop.

“It all shows how strongly the birds have become part of local people’s consciousness since their introduction.

“They are delightful signs and the whole project has been positive for the Derwent Valley, Gateshead and the North East.”

The red kite population of the valley is around 80 birds.

A total of 53 were counted at the weekend in their winter roost at the Nine Arches Viaduct between Gibside and Winlaton Mill.

Financing for the signage has come from Gateshead Council’s local community fund, which is administered by ward councillors.

Council cabinet member for environment, John McElroy, said: “The red kites project has caught people’s imagination ever since the first fledglings were released in 2004.

“Now it’s only fitting that this success should be highlighted in the area where they were so successfully reintroduced.”

Red kites disappeared from the North largely because of persecution.

A national programme of reintroduction began in 1989.


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