20. 08. 21

Riverside Branch Line.
Walker Riverside Park, 20th August, 2021

The path is shaded here, overhung by Chestnut, Hazel, Hornbeam, and Poplar, the old railway boundary wall overgrown with ivy, still visible through the trees. Ripples in the tarmac, ruptures where roots have broken through. A scarred and melted patch, probably caused by a stolen motorbike, abandoned and set alight.
Just before the path crosses over Pottery Bank there’s a gap in the boundary wall, leading to a narrower path over rising ground, gloomy, even on sunny days. Remnants of fencing scattered along the path as it rises and then drops to a capped shaft, like a traffic Island in the middle of crossing tracks, and then carries on down to Hadrian’s Way and the River Tyne. 

Up here the ground opens out on the right to an area of rough pasture: Rosebay Willow Herb and Knapweed, Creeping Thistle, plants of rough grassland, waste ground. There’s a breeze, but not strong enough to dislodge thistle down. 
Enclosed by woods, dissected by paths, this was the site of Locke and Blackett’s Lead Works (St. Anthony’s Lead Works), from its establishment in 1846 until it finally closed in 1932. By then the site covered 2.5 hectares, from the banks of the Tyne, to the railway boundary wall behind me. The land lay derelict until the 1960s when it was bought by Newcastle Council, eventually becoming part of the Riverside Park in the 1980s.

Walter White, in his mid nineteenth century travelogue, Northumberland and the Borders (1859), visited Locke and Blackett’s Lead Works on his way down a very different the River Tyne. He was impressed with the Lead Works but thought that St. Anthony’s, is not in appearance an inviting place. The bank is rough, the paths are rough and stoney; and the cottages, which display many a broken pane, and the groups of dirty, half naked children playing or squatting about, harmonise with their environment. […] what with the prevailing smoke, and the vapours from Pattinson’s chemical works on the opposite side of the river, […] Not for a thousand pounds a year would I live in such a spot.
In the midst of this desolation, just inside the entrance to the Lead Works, he met an old man tending carnations in his small garden.A brief respite from the squalor.

Watching a cormorant skimming over the water on its way up river, it’s difficult to comprehend the scale and noise, the chaotic nature, of the Tyne that White travelled, it’s so quiet now. Well, it would be peaceful, if it wasn’t for the constant din of International Paint on the opposite shore. But then there’s also the raucous cries of Kittiwakes colonising the waterfront buildings.

First posted on: https://hortusludi.wordpress.com