On the south side of the river are the banks of Ryton, richly wooded, and teeming with bird life ; on the north side is the old-fashioned house of the boatman, protected from the north winds by a belt of trees running east and west along thebank of the stream. Rising gracefully from the low lying ground, the southern hills, with their hamlets and woods, and pretty cottages, form a splendid background. Half a mile westward the river makes a graceful bend to the north, and eastward in the same direction till it reaches Newburn. Altogether the Ryton Ferry is one of the most delightful pieces of scenery on the Tyne.
Sykes informs us that formerly tremendous floods frequently caused the river to overflow its banks, the waters bearing destruction to the low lying grounds adjoining the river. In the great flood of 1771, Jos. Foster, the ferryman at Ryton, had to escape from a window in the second storey of the old house, to a boat sent to his rescue.
Sir John Lubbock tells us how easy it is for a river to change its course under the conditions already mentioned. He says : — "If the country is flat, a river gradually raises the level on each side ; the water which overflows during floods being retarded by trees, bushes, sedges, and a thousand other obstacles, gradually deposits the solid matter which it contains, and, then raising the surface, becomes at length suspended, as it were, above the central level. When this elevation has reached a certain point, the river, during some flood, overflows and cuts through its banks, and deserting its old bed, takes a new course along the lowest accessible level."
The object of the ferry in olden times would be to put the Cistercians of Newminster, near Morpeth, in direct communication with their land in Chopwell. At that time the ferry would be higher up the river, near to Wylam.