Discover Brightwater #GemTrail

#GemTrail in Shildon, County Durham, UK.
#GemTrail Commissioners Logos

Funded by Heritage Lottery Fund

Supported by Groundworks, Locomotion SHD, Durham County Council, and Shildon Town council

The GemTrail was commissioned by Discover Brightwater and Groundworks North East and Cumbria, with funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund, to celebrate the landscape and the people of the River Skerne. This river runs from the Trimdons to the Tees.

Original cyanotype artwork used in the #GemTrail Artwork by Jo Howell 2021

What is the #GemTrail?

The Gem Trail is a collection of 9 art installations in the town of Shildon, which celebrates local women and their contributions to industry, the suffragette movement, science and nature.

As part of the Discover Brightwater programme, artists Emma Biggins and Jo Howell were commissioned to do a series of creative workshops with families, young people and local heritage groups. These sessions informed the creation of the sculptures, and were the starting point for our research about the untold stories of local women.

Communities across the local area created blueprints (also called cyanotype photography or sun prints) and photographs which feature in the installations along the trail.

The installation designs are made by collaging together blueprints and photographs. Pieces combine community stories, old photographs, paintings and drawings. Flowers and leaves collected from the local landscape are incorporated to celebrate local women, and mother nature.

Design on the Women’s Banner group created by women from the North East to take to the miners gala

The Gem Trail highlights stories like that of Jane Hackworth who fought for the education of girls. The Aycliffe Angels who worked in the munitions factory during WWII. The Darlington suffragettes and their fight for women’s equality. The women who supported the miners and the colliery communities during the strike. And, modern day legends like Dr Margaret Bradshaw for her ongoing contributions to botany in the area and to all of the women now, and in the future, who will continue this great legacy.

The GemTrail was commissioned by Discover Brightwater and Groundworks North East and Cumbria, with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project was made possible with support by Locomotion Museum, Shildon Town Library, Shildon Council, Durham County Council, Discover Brightwater trainees, Shildon Railway Institute and Shildon Town Councillors.

Download your map here:
Or collect one of our printed maps from Locomotion SHD or Shildon Town Library.

#GemTrail Shildon Map and Directions for Route

Handmade map of Discover Brightwater #GemTrail in Shildon, Co Durham, UK


Gem 1 and Gem 9 are located in Locomotion Museum and Shildon Library. These are your start and end locations. When you reach Shildon Library you can return to Locomotion Museum or return home.

  • From Locomotion Museum, walk towards Spout Lane heading past the trains on your right and head underneath the bridge.
  • Once past Spout Lane Bridge continue walking towards Station St, you will pass Shildon Station and The Coal Drops on your right. Once you reach Quinn’s Memorial Garden turn right onto Station Road.
  • Walk along the pathway on Station Road towards Hackworth Close, pass Soho Engine Shed and Hackworth House and head towards Alma Road. Be careful when crossing roads!
  • Once on Alma Road turn right and pass the roundabout, cross the road safely and head towards Surtees Rail Trail.
  • Walk along the Surtees Rail Trail roughly 250m and then turn right into Hackworth Park (the playground will be on your left).
  • Continue walking along the path up a slight hill towards Central parade.
  • Exit Hackworth Park and turn left onto Central Parade, walk along the path until you reach the roundabout.
  • Turn right onto Church St with St John’s Church on your left, enter into the town square.
  • Exit the town square and cross the road at the designated crossing and head towards Shildon Library.

Health and safety tips for your walk:

Activities you can do on your walk:

Brook the bee #GemTrail mascot
#GemTrail Shildon challenge
Make an eco print on your walk
Facts that inspired #GemTrail

What to expect?

From Locomotion our trail begins….

through the landscape, from Locomotion and up in to the town of Shildon itself. The GemTrail was commissioned by Discover Brightwater and Groundworks North East and Cumbria, with funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund, to celebrate the landscape and the people of the River Skerne. This river runs from the Trimdons to the Tees.

Skerne means Brightwater in old Norse. Our ancestors are quite clear about why they love it. And, Discover Brightwater is all about the different ways we can cherish all of the assets that the River provides.

River Skerne wetlands near Bishops fen.

Our process…

We used blue prints (also called cyanotype photography or sun prints), a process connected to water, both in the blue colour, and water is used to set the image. We took art workshops into the Trimdons, Shildon, Locomotion, and Hardwick Country Park.

We invite you to think about why people settled here. Why the river is important in many different ways. We wanted to highlight the contribution of the womenfolk, whose stories are harder to find.

Silhouette of Jane Hackworth

Discover Brightwater GemTrail

Get outside and power up your creativity with fun family activities and learn about incredible local women as part of the Discover Brightwater GemTrail. Do our suggested creative activities, and explore the outdoors in new ways!

Celebrate your heritage by walking with us.

#GemTrail sculpture 1

Gem number 1 is located inside the Locomotion Museum. Can you find it to tick off from your activity sheet?

#GemTrail sculpture 2

Gem number 2 is situated near the heritage coal drop site. Can you get a nice photograph? Find the letter. And count the faces on the artwork?

#GemTrail sculpture 3

Gem number 3 is next to a beautiful community memorial garden. Can you find a letter or two? And how many bees are in the garden?

#GemTrail sculpture 4

Gem number 4 is on your way into Hackworth Park. Can you find a letter or 2? Can you find Jane Hackworth in the artwork?

#GemTrail sculpture 5

Gem number 5 is near some trees and a wildflower garden. You are near the end of the Surtees Rail Trail, another heritage trail you can check out another day!

#GemTrail sculpture 6

Gem 6 is under going some maintenance and will be installed near the wildflower garden at the entrance to Hackworth Park. Install soon.

#GemTrail sculpture 7

Gem number 7 is currently under going maintenance. Find all 5 of our birdhouses that honour motherhood.

#GemTrail sculpture 8

Gem number 8 is a blue plaque for Jane Hackworth. In view of her grave, and not far from her husband Timothy Hackworth’s sculpture. Can you find all 3?

#GemTrail sculpture 9

Gem number 9 is situated in the foyer of Shildon Town library. It is a decorated mirror. Look into it and see the future of the land near the river Skerne. (It’s you!)

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