Geographically the single most significant factor about Newcastle is that it is on the River Tyne making it easy to cross from the north bank. It has become known as Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. As the undisputed capital of the north between York in England and Edinburgh in Scotland, Newcastle is located at the map reference 54.97o North and 01.62 o West of the Greenwich meridian. It is separated from Cumbria and Lancashire to the west by the Pennine Hills, from which the River Tyne raises. Economically, apart form being a thriving industrial and commercial center, it is an important ferry port for travelers to and from Scandinavia. In total Newcastle has a population of some 260,000 and covers an area of about 113 square kilometers.
Geologically the bedrock on which Newcastle is founded on is sedimentary and consistants of Carboniferous Limestone – 300-360 million years ago, Also present are Millstone Grits from the latter part of the Carboniferous era and out toward the east of Newcastle there is some Oolitic limestone Originating in the Jurassic period – around 200 million years ago. It was, of course, during the Carboniferous period that the vast deposits of coal were laid down for which Newcastle became so famous. The coal would have been formed when the site of Newcastle would have been in an estuary swamp with shallow and warm water, when the whole of what is now the British Isles would have been sitting on the equator.
Being in the UK, Newcastle has a temperate climate. Despite being on the east side of the country it still benefits from the warm effects to the UK of the Gulf Stream and is, therefore, warmer than many cities located on or around the same latitude. However, Newcastle does have a lower average temperature than many UK cities which in winter averages 3oC and in summer rarely achieves higher than 18oC. On average it has 290 days of precipitation (rainfall) giving it around 100mm per month, compared to a national average of 150mm per month. Its weather pattern is attributable to three main factors: its northerly position; Being in the rain shadow of the Pennines making it drier than might be expected and the winds which blow through it. Whilst the continuing wind is south westerly, from the North Atlantic Currents, Newcastle is also susceptible to blasts of icy air arriving from the North Pole. At its highest point Newcastle is some 80 meters above sea level, but it also has areas less than 10 meters above sea level.
The City of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is part of the Tyneside Metropolitan District. It has 26 electoral wards, the following are worthy of some note. Byker, located in the east of the city, is one of the less prosperous wards. It is blamed for the 'Byker Wall'. This is a single continuous block of 620 maisonettes. In the 1960s the whole of Byker, a run down area of mainly Victorian buildings, was in desperate need of rebuilding. In 1969 the City of Newcastle council asked the architect Ralph Erskine to plan a 'new' Byker. In collaboration with the then tenants, one of Erskine's features was the Byker wall. Having ended years of ridicule for social problems arising out of it, the Byker Wall is now seen as a unique venture in community involvement in town planning and in 2003 was rated as a Grade II listed building. Gosforth, is accepted to be one of the more affluent suburbs of Newcastle, Fenham is a popular area for the Asian community with increasing numbers of young professionals also moving into it. Heaton and Jesmond both have quite large student communities; Newburn contains the church where George Stephenson, of railway fame, was married.
Newcastle is noted for the bridges joining north and south Tyneside; Of these bridges the city of Newcastle is responsible for four of them, three of which are famous in their own right. The High Level Road Bridge, opened in 1849, is actually a two tier bridge. The upper tier carries railway traffic and is maintained by Network Rail, the lower tier carrying road traffic and pedestrians is managed by the city council. The swing bridge was built in 1879 to allow ships to carry on up the Tyne and of course the landmark Tyne Bridge opened in 1928. There is also a cycle and pedestrian tunnel under the Tyne between Howdon and Jarrow. The newest bridge on the Tyne is the Gateshead Millennium Bridge which is a direct link between Newcastle and the Baltic Flour Mill gallery, in Gateshead. The Millennium Bridge is now seen as the new 'signature' bridge for the river Tyne.
With the coal mining industry actually shut down and the heavy engineering companies in decline, in the 1980s the economic prospects for Newcastle were bleak. However, the city rallied itself through the 1990s and has emerged into the 21st Century as a renovated and vibrant city. Whilst more dependent on service and retail industries than before, it has an unemployment rate below 5% and is generally considered to be economically sound. This is reflected in its privately owned house prices, which average £ 145,000 and range from £ 330,000 for a four bedroom detached house to £ 120,000 for a three bedroom flat.