THE River Tyne is at the heart of an award-winning walking guide, designed to help support cancer patients around the North-East.

River Tyne Trail: Sources to Sea is the brainchild of Daft as a Brush cancer transport founder Brian Burnie who since the late 80s has devoted his time to providing free transportation for cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy treatment.

The charity, with a fleet of 29 ambulances and 300 volunteers has so far provided free transport to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital for 40,000 cancer patients each year.

A keen walker himself, Brian pioneered the 135-mile route spanning from Deadwater on the Scottish Borders, considered to be the source of the North Tyne, following the river through the scenic views of Tynedale, and finishing at the sea at South Shields.

He decided to publicise the route through River Tyne Trail as a means of raising awareness of Daft as a Brush, and help fund extra work, with all royalties of the guide going to the charity.

The book was written by experienced walkers and writers Peter Donaghy and John Laidler, who Brian reached out to after spotting their work on previous walking guides in a local newspaper.

“Me and John both loved the route,” Peter said. “It had great scenic views, and a huge variety of interesting history, plus it was for a good cause so we were happy to volunteer.

“A pilot walk between the three of us was the first step we took – covering the entire 135-mile trail – but altogether we walked at least 800 miles through all the scoping out of paths.”

The pocket-size guide splits the Deadwater to South Shields route into 12 convenient stages which allows walkers to complete the mammoth walk in smaller stages, and makes the guide more accessible for people of all ages and abilities.

Through forests, farmland, chocolate box villages, Roman ruins and seaside fronts, River Tyne Trail takes walkers on an experience of all things Northumbrian.

Beginning at Deadwater, the 15-and-a-half mile route follows the river through Kielder village, reservoir, the famous Kielder Forest, and the 1st Duke of Northumberland’s stomping ground at Kielder Castle, which he had built in 1775 to be used as a plush shooting lodge.

From Kielder, the route takes walkers through to Bellingham, Barrasford, Warden and Hexham, passing through the picturesque Chollerton on a riverside path before reaching one of the best examples of a Roman cavalry fort in Britain, Chesters, which was built around AD123.

Corbridge is where trekkers can follow the river closely for around 13 miles to Wylam on a historic route, passing by the 19th century pumping station, the picturesque 1876 Hagg Bridge and the house where the ‘Father of the Railways’ George Stephenson was born.

Alternatively, the Alston to Haltwhistle route gives an insight into some of the county’s most historic train stations and train routes, spanning around 13 miles.

Beginning at Alston station, and following the historical South Tyne Railway original route for three and a half miles, the walk goes past the picture postcard Victorian Lambley viaduct and the remains of the Second World War prisoner of war camp known as Camp 18, only a mile north of Lambley, bordering the South Tyne.

This camp, once one of the largest in the country, was built in 1944 and housed both US troops before they embarked on Normandy, and German prisoners of war.

“What makes this route one of the best in the country for walking is that every stage is steeped in history,” Peter said. “There isn’t a dull path in my opinion.”

One reader who expressed his love for the guide was international rock star, and native of the banks of the River Tyne, Sting, who said that Peter and John “honoured the river’s rich and varied history, its vitality, its twits and turns and its surprises.”

Sadly in 2015, just months before River Tyne Trail was published, John passed away suddenly.

“I had lost my writing partner, and a very dear friend,” Peter said. “So naturally the news came as a huge blow.”

John will continue to be remembered through his great work however, as it continues to grow in success. This year, the guide was awarded the silver award from the Great Outdoors in the ‘Book of the Year’ category, along with being officially recognised by Ordnance Survey mapping agency, meaning the route will feature on OS maps from May, 2019.

“It’s been a great personal achievement for John and myself, made much better by knowing our efforts have gone to help a amazing cause,” said Peter.

River Tyne Trail: Sources to Sea can be purchased from