The northern coastal plain provides one of the main roots in and out of Scotland both in times of peace and war. Although no major rivers reach the North Sea between the Tweed and the Aln, small streams flow out through harbours which provide havens for the local fishing boats known as Cobles.
Scotland lies to the North, specifically the Counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire and Dumfries and Galloway. Near the sea, the border largely follows the river Tweed. however the town of Berwick lies on the northern bank and is formally part of England.
Between the hills and the industrial areas of south east Northumberland, much of the county is thinly populated farmland.
The Cheviot is the highest hill in the North-East. Some of the streams flowing down the English side feed into the River Coquet which drains into the North Sea around the middle of the Northumberland coastline. The remainder make their way northwards to the Tweed along with the streams which flow down the Scottish side.
In former times, the English Scottish border was a fairly lawless area and the riever families lived largely by their own codes. When Newcastle was growing due to its industrial development, the Freemen of the city were not allowed to take the inhabitants of Redsdale and Tynedale as apprentices. The upper reaches of Coquetdale beyond Alwinton, shared something of this reputation.
The coal shipped out from the Tyne and Wear built the wealth of the region. Eventually, almost every port from the Coquet to the Tees was involved in the trade.
The route of Roman wall runs from Wallsend in North Tyneside, westwards through Newcastle and Northumberland over the the watershed into Cumbria to the southern shore of the Solway Firth.
The 19th century saw a massive development of the area around the lower reaches of the Tees. Early in the Century, the first passenger carrying railway in the world stimulated the area and subsequent discoveries of iron ore nearby made it into one of the premier iron and steel areas in the world. The twentitieth Century saw the growth of a huge chemical industry in the area.
The upper reaches of Allendale, Weardale and Teasdale constituted the Lead mining centre of the region. Some iron ore was found in this area and it also produced some iron-ore and fluorospar which became extremely important in the late 20th century with the growth of the use of chemicals containing Fluorine.
Travelling up the river Tyne from the Sea the River Derwent, flowing down from Durham, is the first major tributary. Refugee Hugenot cutlers settled at Shotley Bridge, Ambrose Crowley's Ironworks at Winlaton and Swalwell equipped the British Navy in the 18th Century. Later, Consett developed as an iron town noted for the red dust cloud which hung over it.
Hexhamshire was a county in mediaeval times. It was removed from the Palatinate of Durham to weaken the power of the Bishop. Despite having been part of Northumberland for nearly 500 years, it still shares the geographical attributes of County Durham which may account for some of its distinctive feel.
The County Palatinate of Durham was established as a buffer state against the Scots. It is said that a Bishop of Durham invented the mace so that he could fight the Scots without killing them. (...Go figure) The legal battles between the Bishop and the Hostmen of Newcastle over the shipping of coal are a significant feature in the history of the region.