The GardenA blog by yours truly

Walking the Blyth and Tyne, part one: Northumberland Park to Seghill

Last time on The Garden: the axe falls on the Blyth and Tyne line, and i foolhardily decide to walk its length

A modern looking metro station divided into two platforms, opening up to the sky above.

Our journey begins at North颅um颅ber颅land Park, in North Tyneside. Though it鈥檚 the first station we鈥檒l be visiting, it was the last to be constructed, having only opened in 2005 鈥 and it鈥檚 quite easy to tell, even after sixteen years of wear and tear; the place is outfitted with modern amenities, lifts, ticket machines flush with the wall, and, more lately, pandemic-themed graffiti opposite the platform. This unassuming metro station will, according to the county council鈥檚 plans, serve as the interchange between the old and new lines, heavy rail and metro meeting one last time before splitting apart and going their separate ways.

A colourful graffito of the word "Pandemik", spelt with a K for reasons unknown.
A modern car park with frosted glass panels juts into the cloudy sky.

Setting off from there, the first thing that caught my eye were twin giants: a frosted glass-covered car park and a red-brick Sainsbury鈥檚, unexpected icons of the modern British condition. It didn鈥檛 get much better from there; down the road lies an American-style strip mall lined with bookmakers trying to get people to piss away all their money.

A shopping trolley lies half submerged in a sorry looking scummy stream.
This sorry-looking trolley was, i presume, abandoned from the local Sainsbury鈥檚.

This southernmost tip of North颅um颅ber颅land is criss-crossed by innumerable public footpaths, cycle paths, bridleways, and other routes for non-metal-box-related transport; ducking onto one of the reclaimed 鈥渨aggonways鈥 once used to transport coal, i found myself on the site of the second station on the list.


Twin rail tracks stretch into the background.

The leafy suburb of Backworth has a habit of burying its history. A hoard of offerings from Roman times was found underground in the 1810s, the last vestiges of the colliery that once was are long gone, and the tale of this sorry ex-station is rather similar. Opened in 1864 to replace a nearby station closing the same day, Back颅worth station served its community for over 100 years, surviving the Beeching cuts. But when the Tyne and Wear Metro was announced to come to town, the old station finally closed鈥 for good. It wasn鈥檛 until the opening of North颅um颅ber颅land Park that there would be a replacement.

As i wandered through the village's verdant streets, i couldn鈥檛 help but think of its resemblance to the straight, cycle-friendly streets of my old hometown. A little greenery can go a long way.


Behind wire fences and train tracks, a van belonging to Network Rail is visible.
A jet-dark pedestrian underpass, its entrance covered in graffiti.
The graffiti reads 鈥淢onty Brown is a grass鈥. I would never say such unkind things about Mr Brown.

Network Rail were hard at work at the site of the aforementioned original Back颅worth station, whose plot of land now sits vacant, marking the city鈥檚 last hurrah; the further i walked along the dirt back roads, the further the sounds of bustling cars receded, until, ducking under a shady underpass, i found myself utterly alone amongst pastoral fields (and the overwhelming scent of manure).

Hay bales cover a rolling field of wheat.

That peace and quiet was swiftly interrupted by a troupe of boy racers on motorcycles and quad-bikes, but you can鈥檛 win them all, you know?


The border between Northumberland and North Tyneside is highlighted in the middle of an unmarked dirt path.
After the county borders were hacked up in 1974, this line became the divider between rural Northumberland and ostensibly-urban Tyne and Wear.

The (post-1974) border town of Seghill occupies only the tiniest fragment of the collective English consciousness, popping up briefly in an anti-scab miners鈥 folk song called 鈥淏lackleg Miner鈥:

It鈥檚 in the evening after dark,
when the blackleg miner creeps to work
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt
there gans the blackleg miner!

[...]

So, divvint gan near the Seghill mine
Across the way they stretch a line,
to catch the throat and break the spine
of the dirty blackleg miner

[...]

So join the union while you may
Divvint wait till your dying day,
for that may not be far away,
you dirty blackleg miner!

A corner shop by the name of "Station House Stores"

For our purposes, it鈥檚 chiefly notable for the fact that it鈥檚 the first disused station on the list whose buildings are still intact and in use, this time as a corner shop, from which i of course bought a copy of the local rag 鈥 prominently including a Q&A about the restoration of service on the line, which i thought a fitting reminder of why i set out on this silly old journey in the first place.

After getting some well deserved rest, i headed on off towards the next town over, awaiting what fresh stories i would find...


Next time on 鈥淲alking the Blyth and Tyne鈥: your author is reminded of her own mortality, finds himself in the company of a noble family, and shudders at the thought of having to go to Blyth, of all places on Gods鈥 green Earth

1 comment

  1. Xanthe says鈥
    2w8373gz

    My apologies if the writing here is a bit clunky; i was suffering from a severe case of writer鈥檚 block trying to get this done, and really just wanted to get something finished and out there.

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