The GardenA blog by yours truly

Walking the Blyth and Tyne, part two: Oh, Delaval is a terrible place

Last time on The Garden: A strip mall turns out to be a place of immense historical curiosity, i am interrupted by a rude troupe of boy racers, and find myself caught up in the lyrics of a pro-union folk song.

Leaving Seghill, going past a house with a conspicuous Northumbrian flag, the landscape once again slips swiftly back into ruralia 鈥 a common occurrence on this leg of the journey. No sooner had i left behind the station house than i found myself on a dirt path which i wasn鈥檛 quiiiite sure i was meant to be on.

This was the small hamlet of Mare Close, essentially a farmhouse surrounded by a few cottages. I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone living there has been friends since primary school, though i'll never know for sure. Opposite the cottages, by the next leg of my route, lay a small village church and graveyard which i dared not enter. Onwards.

Seaton Delaval sits at the heart of the valley. Turning one way, there lies a charming local co枚perative store, a genuine lordly manor (owned by the town鈥檚 namesake De la Val family, who came over after 1066), the previously-blogged village of Holywell, and, eventually, the seaside settlement of Seaton Sluice. Unfortunately, we鈥檒l be turning the other way, by where once stood a colliery.

The former site of Delaval鈥檚 station can hardly be considered a sight for sore eyes. Cars and lorries pass by, horns blaring, trying to weave their way between those turning into the nearby petrol station. The location of the station itself is an uninspiring gravel pit on one site with an overgrown nettle-filled path on the other; next door is a chain pub whose car park will be getting embiggened to accommodate the extra traffic once the railway reopens.

It doesn鈥檛 get much better. A few interesting-looking eateries (a grimy-looking caf茅 called 鈥淥nly Fools and Sauces鈥, a venue by the name of the Secret Garden with a wonderful hand-painted sign) added some initial spice, but soon i was back to the same industrial wasteland: Auto recycling! Furniture wholesalers! Caravan storage! Chemical producers! The works!

...I said something about a colliery, didn鈥檛 i?

16 January, 1862. It鈥檚 half past ten 鈥 or, at least, it might be. You鈥檝e been labouring away in the coal pit since two in the morning, and you鈥檝e not seen the sun since. The shift is almost over, and it鈥檚 time to swap over with the next group.

One by one, your comrades file in line to get out. A huddle of people enter the rusting lift. The familiar ketter-ketter-ketter shudders through the cave 鈥 but then, for a fraction of a second, all falls silent.

Your heart races. A drop of water falls from the ceiling. Nobody makes a sound.

And then, all of a sudden, it is as though Thor鈥檚 hammer has crashed into the ground. The earth around you shakes in terror, lets out what can only be described as an otherworldly scream, as ten tonnes of blood-red steel smash into the floor.

This was the Hartley Pit disaster, and its shockwaves can still be heard across town.

Just across from the telltale jackhammers and yellow tape of a housing estate so new Google Maps hasn鈥檛 caught up yet sits a lovely memorial garden, explaining the story of the tragedy, with a poem to contemplate as you ramble along the path.

In terms of stations, the town has had two 鈥 Hartley and Hartley Pit 鈥 both right next to each other, and neither seeming to have any chance of reopening.

I was a bit anxious about continuing on, because there were several serious-looking men in hard-hats and high-vis jackets, but they didn鈥檛 seem to mind. They really, really should have tried to stop me from going to where i was going next.

Coming up on The Garden: your author tries not to disturb some horses, desperately tries to avoid going to fucking Blyth, and accidentally sneaks in a brief trip to Durham. I promise, it makes sense in context.

1 comment

  1. Xanthe says鈥

    I promise, when i get to it, i will explain why i hate Blyth so much. I have my reasons.

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