At the present time, the Upper Rede Valley has only one major road through it, the A68 trunk road. Armstrong’s map of 1769 on the other hand shows three roads in use in the valley at that time. One ran from the North Tyne valley over the moors to link to the Ruken or Rooken road, which ran from Bellingham to the valley, at Blakehope just north of Rochester.
In turn this road linked with the main road through the valley, which ran from Otterburn over the Carter into Scotland, at Byrness. All evidence suggests that these were ancient tracks that had been in use for many years. In 1774, the road from Carter Bar to Elsdon was made into a Turnpike Trust by Act of Parliament.
This permitted the Trustees to improve the road by widening, repairing and altering it and then charging a toll for its use. The subsequent road was highly successful and up until the 1840s was heavily used. In 1833, it was linked to Newcastle by the opening of a new road that joined it at Monkridge just south of Otterburn. Suggestions were made about this this time that a railway might be constructed through the valley to Scotland, but nothing came of this scheme.
However, the opening of the East Coast line from Newcastle to Edinburgh, coupled with improvements in the road system, badly affected traffic on the Elsdon Turnpike. By 1880 local people were no longer prepared to see it remain in private hands and it was taken into county ownership. From this, it was gradually transformed into a national highway.
Of the other roads, the Rooken road was maintained by a local committee for much of the nineteenth century but was not taken into county ownership. Like the road from the North Tyne, it was eventually incorporated in the system of forestry roads for use in planting and harvesting trees.