The village of Wark stands on the west bank of the River North Tyne some ten miles north-west of Hexham and five miles south of Bellingham. It is sometimes referred to as Wark-on-Tyne, to distinguish it from Wark-on-Tweed (also usually just known as "Wark") in the far north of Northumberland, not far from Coldstream.
Wark is a remarkably attractive village, and one it is one worth spending some time getting to know. Fortunately you can quite easily. If you are approaching along the B6320 from the south one of the early buildings you come to on your left is the Battlesteads Hotel. This offers an attractive mix of comfortable accommodation, great food and a friendly welcome, and as a result can be recommended unreservedly as a base from which to explore a large part of western Northumberland. And as the hotel stands just a short walk south of the centre of Wark, a tour of the village makes a perfect after dinner stroll.
The origins of Wark date back to the presumed presence of an Anglo Saxon lordly residence or meeting hall (or moot) on the mound now known as Moat Hill. This overlooks the River North Tyne at what is now the south end of the village. It can be found a short distance to the east of the main road on the opposite side to the Battlesteads Hotel. This same strategic site was then used by Prince Henry of Scotland for a motte and bailey castle after he was made Earl of Northumberland in 1139. In the 1300s a pele tower was built here, though this was destroyed in 1538. Moat Hill later became the site of a manor house, built in 1676, but almost nothing remains of this today. Part of the site is now occupied by farm buildings.
If you walk into the village from the south along Hexham Road, you pass a series of houses and attractive cottages before the main road takes a sudden turn to the left, then turns right to return to its original course as it passes out of the village as Church Lane. You can think of this double turn as forming the western side of the core of Wark, with Wark Village Farm Store on the corner on the east side of the road.
Carrying on east from here along Main Street you pass the village shop and post office on your left, near an abandoned petrol station, while on your right is an unusual sight: with the Grey Bull Inn immediately next to and adjoining the Black Bull Hotel. We've yet to discover how to neighbouring village pubs could have ended up with such similar names, or when: but it seems fair to suppose that this must have caused untold confusion ever since.
Main Street then opens out to form a large village square, fringed with houses made from the same attractive honey coloured stone as is used throughout the village. This is home to Wark's war memorial and to a large horse chestnut tree. It seems a fair bet that Wark is a village in which the old tradition of conkers has been maintained. Walking a little further brings you to Wark's town hall, an unexpected find in a fairly modestly sized village. This was built as the Mechanics Institute in 1873.
A little further still, and you descend to the west end of Wark Bridge. This is an unusual iron road bridge supported by eight stone pillars. The river is fairly broad here, and the roadway of the bridge is very narrow, with a passing place or pedestrian refuge at its mid point. The bridge, and the bank of the river at its eastern end, give great views back towards the village of Wark itself. The bridge has undergone considerable repair in recent years, and it can only be used by vehicles up to 2m wide and 3 tonnes in weight: plus, from what we saw, anyone with a heavier vehicle who feels they can fit it, however tightly, between the width barriers.
Half a mile further east is the course of the Border Counties Railway, which opened in 1862 and had a station called Wark at its closest point of approach to the village. The line closed to passengers in 1956, and was dismantled in 1963.