The GardenDespatches from The Satyrs’ Forest

Posts tagged as “Newcastle”

A walk down to the Quayside
This article comes equipped with its own optional soundtrack for those who want to follow along with my listening habits as well as my walk.
A decaying building’s brick-arched frontage contrasts with a concrete underpass.
We begin at the Holy Jesus Hospital, whose site served as an almshouse for the poor for seven hundred years.
More brick arches, trailing off into the background.
The current 17th-century building now serves as office space for the National Trust. No noseys allowed (shame!)
The frontage of a shop by the name of “Tile World” (with a globe replacing the O), its shutters now covered with graffiti.
Anyone need some tiles?
I’m pretty sure this is either “Hallelujah” or “Jerusalem”, but i have absolutely no idea which.
A hulking grey concrete building scrapes the sky.
Only a scant few BT-branded trucks occupy the parking lot of this hulking concrete husk, surely far too big for its intended purpose.
Four floors of brick flats.
Ahhh — reminds me of home, back in Hoorn.
A worn European Union flag hangs over a balcony.
The tragedy of Brexit.
Quayside Pharmacy
An advert for Greggs’ all-day coffee, reading “Every Hour’s Happy”.
Is it, Greggs? Is it?
Leafy trees and paths cover another brick flat.
A diagram of the flat of St Ann’s Close has been vandalised with a hammer and sickle, a blurred-out website link, and “1312”.
There’s a lot of commie graffiti scattered along this road, though all of it seems to be by the same person — you can tell because they can’t draw a hammer and sickle.
Walls upon walls absolutely covered with artisan graffiti.
Bloody showoffs. (That reminds me — i have a massive unpublished gallery post of a walk down the full length of the Ouseburn, but never did get around to finishing it… maybe soon?)
Your author’s hand holds a nice ice cream.
The most important meal of the day.1
A ticket to see “Top Gun: Maverick” at the Tyneside Cinema.
I’ve decided to join the Sea Org and give my life’s savings to the military-industrial complex. (In all seriousness, it was a bloody brilliant film — everything a blockbuster should be!)

Dispatches from a coastal walk

I had some time to kill after buying my mam a present from Tynemouth’s station market and decided to spend it by taking a walk in the golden hours of the day, now that spring is coming around and the weather isn’t quite so permanently miserable. I thought i might show you some photos.

These are not the warm, jade waters of the Mediterranean — the North Sea is (usually) grim, cold, and trying to kill you.
St Mary’s Lighthouse, off the coast between Seaton Sluice and Whitley Bay. Fond memories of many a school trip.
A very long series of public benches
Oh shit i took both pills and now i’m stuck in the Bench Dimension

Chvrches at City Hall

I swear this is fair dealing.

I went to see everyone’s favourite synth-pop act Chvrches a few nights back, and i must say they put on a hell of a show. Even at the City Hall — quite a stuffy venue by most standards — the crowd went absolutely mental for “Clearest Blue” at the end! (I barely know what came over me.)

Great staging, too — i counted three costume changes throughout the night, including a delectably bloody “FINAL GIRL” shirt for the encore. (Their latest album has a horror-movie gimmick crafted entirely to let them swap remixes1 with John Carpenter — not that i’m complaining.)

Now imagine the same distorted whingeing and generic melody for half an hour straight.

The opening act were an Ozzie band called HighSchool who, being brutally honest, should go back to PrimarySchool. They’re one of those acts that basically only know how to write one song over and over, and it’s alright at first, but by take number five of the same sludge you’re praying for it to end, you know? (See also the inexplicably successful 1975 cover band Pale Waves.)

9/10, would stand in line for several hours again.

Eulogy for a food court

I was on my usual city constitutional the other week when i noticed that my favourite bubble tea place1 had shuttered. Hm, that’s odd, i thought. Last time that happened was lockdown. Don’t know why they’d do it again. I assumed they’d be back again swiftly, and went on with my day.

Then the week after i noticed that the entrance to the über-hip shipping-container food court of which it was a part was blocked off. Hm, that’s odd, i thought. Ah, well. It’s probably just construction. These things happen all the time.

It was only yesterday that i saw the crane lifting one of the shipping containers away and realised something (other than the container) was up. Sure enough, one quick google reveals the flashy new development that’ll be taking its place — originally it was going to be mixed-use, but covid crunch caused them to scale back to the thing that covid really, conclusively proved was absolutely 100% necessary and in demand, definitely: offices.

“Pilgrim’s Quarter” is part of a broader redevelopment of the neglected Pilgrim Street, which may or may not include a pedestrianisation — i don’t know; it’s all in jargonese and i can’t make heads or tails of what Enhancing The Public Realm is meant to mean. (Or, for that matter, why they’ve misspelt it as “Pilgrim’s Quater” on the official brochure.)

The permission slips are all in place — so here’s to you, Stack. You might have had some exorbitant prices (sorry, Korean place, but i’m not paying £12 for a few chicken wings and fries), but otherwyze you were a shining beacon of small businesses in the city centre — you were too good for this world. *Pops open a bottle of champagne*

The mystery of Newcastle’s vampire rabbit

Down a narrow alleyway to the back end of St Nicholas’ Cathedral, in Newcastle, one can find a rather curious decoration garnishing a door on the opposing façade. The “vampire rabbit” has stood watch over the cathedral for at least half a century; while records are scarce (a quick search of Google Books doesn’t bring up anything until the twenty-first century), it could well date back to the building’s construction in 1901.

Here’s a noticeably brighter bun, as it looked in 1987.

Here’s the thing, though. Nobody knows how it got there. Indeed, even the name “vampire rabbit” is a misnomer; its jet-black fur and red claws were added on some time in the 1990s,i as were its distinctly batty ears. Some say it was put there to scare away wannabe graverobbers, but i have my doubts that twentieth-century crooks would be so dumb.

Yet others posit that it represents a mad March hare, arising at the time of Easter, or that it refers to Thomas Bewick, a nearby engraver who had a fondness of all things lagomorphic. Most fascinatingly, a theory advanced by one Mr Adam Curtis suggests a Masonic pun in reference to one George Hare Phillipson, a local doctor (hence vampires) and active Freemason, as was the lead architect, one William H. Wood. It being a secret society in-joke would also explain why it’s located around the back, rather than the front, which faces onto one of the busiest streets in town.

Perhaps we might never know for sure. In any case, it’s a fascinating little secret — what do you think is most likely?

Other people's posts

The Victoria Tunnel

The Victoria Tunnel runs beneath the streets of Newcastle, from the Tyne up to the Town Moor. It traverses not only space, but time, through nearly every corner of England’s history: built to transport coal in the Industrial Revolution, on the site of an old Roman spring, it was used during the second world war to house those fleeing German bombs. It was even considered for use in the cold war, before the government realised that some musty old coal tunnels would probably not provide the greatest protection against a nuclear blast.

And now you can go down it. In 2007, Newcastle City Council decided to refurbish the tunnel and open a small stretch of it — the rest is either unsafe for sending humans down or currently in use as a sewer — up for public tours. Entry is via a side street along the Ouseburn, where the guides will cheerfully show you a map and some old photographs of the entrance. Once you get inside the tunnel itself, hard hats and torches are compulsory, and covid restrictions are still in full force. This was both a benefit and a malefit: yes, the tour was shorter than it would otherwise be, and masks get quite uncomfortable when you’re wearing them for an hour in a dank, dark tunnel, but on the other hand, our small group of family and friends got the place practically all to ourselves, without having to be shepherded alongside other members of the public.

The water from the ancient Roman spring is directed through a side channel, to avoid it getting all over the tunnel floor. Sometimes it even works!

The tunnel is just barely wide enough to fit three people side-by-side, and if, like me, you’re of a certain height, bumping your head on the roof is practically guaranteed. By every blast door, there’s a plaque about what’s above you, and how it factors into the tunnel and the city’s history, stories with which the guides will gladly regale visitors (including some rather grim tragedies).

Coming back out the entrance, i felt more informed about this wonderful county’s industrial history — just in time to pop over to a gentrified vegan “superfood pub”. The wonders of modern life.

Information for prospective visitors

  • Tours can be booked on the Ouseburn Trust’s website.
  • Price: £9–11 per adult depending on the length of the tour; £4 per child
  • Address:
    Victoria Tunnel Entrance, Ouse St., Valley, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PF
    — just next to the CrossFit gym.
  • Accessibility: The tunnel was built in the 19th century and without accessibility in mind, so is not wheelchair-accessible. The Ouseburn Trust do, due to the pandemic, offer a virtual tour.
  • Getting there: The Q3 bus from the centre of town stops nearby; otherwise, getting there poses a bit of a hike, due to its location.

Notities van een wandeling door Newcastle

De verukkelijke vallei van de Tyne heeft geen gebrek aan uitstekende uitzichten, maar het mooist is mijns inziens dat wat gezien wordt door iemand die langs de Side loopt.α In de schaduw van het Monument, langs de klassieke zuilen van het Theatre Royal (Koninklijk Theater) en over Grey Street zodra zij Dean Street wordt, en eindelijk rechtsaf naar de Side op de bodem, dan zal de gelukkige reiziger zien dat de gigantische groene boog van de brug over de Tyne boven hem torent, als een kolos.

De Tyne Bridge, een hoge groene boog over de rivier, overeind gehouden door twee kolossale torens van zandsteen en baksteen.
Foto door Alex Liivet. CC BY-2.0.
Een krakkemikkige oude trap leidt naar een gebied dat verborgen is door overgroeid struikgewas.
De rottende houten trap, zoals te zien op Google street view.

Ik weet niet of een foto ooit kan weergeven hoe het is om onder die brug te staan. Maar een van de meest opmerkelijke dingen over dit uitzicht heeft niets te maken met het uitzicht zelf. Stel je voor dat onze reiziger nu langs de kade loopt, totdat hij aan een leeg stuk grond komt, en dan halverwege een stel rottende houten trappen oploopt. Hij zal zich vergapen aan het twééde mooiste uitzicht van de stad: een prachtige panorama op elke brug tussen de twee oevers van de machtige Tyne.

Zeven bruggen over de Tyne, geflankeerd door de oude gebouwen van Newcastle aan de rechterkant en de moderne regeneratie van Gateshead aan de linkerkant.

We verdienen deze stad niet.

Ik had geen fles water meegenomen, want ik wou aanvankelijk alleen maar naar het stadscentrum en terug: het roekeloze idee om helemaal naar Walls­end te gaan kwam spontaan in me op, al ver van huis. De hele weg gaan zonder fles bleek al snel een slecht idee, dus ik klom naar de lokale buurtwinkel — en, godenzijdank, zij hadden al het flessenwater dat iemand ooit zou willen!

Helemaal gehydrateerd, ik was klaar om verder te lopen… maar toen zag ik een wonderbaarlijke ding. Een klein parkje, een opening van groen met een paar banken en inscripties op de grond, verscholen tussen een woonwijk en een bouwplaats. Ik nam enkele foto’s. Ik zou ze graag laten zien, maar helaas, tussen dese reis en het schrijven van deze post werd mijn gsm gestolen.

Als je toch een bezoek wilt brengen, het is dat parkje naast 5 Bel­mont Street. Google weigert me een echt adres te geven, maar je kunt het niet missen!

Een kwaadaardig uitziend kantoorgebouw naast een gigantische witte kubus met het logo "TechnipFMC".

Een verslag van mijn denk­proces wanner ik het boven­staan­de gebouw zag:

  • Dat gebouw ziet er zeer diabolisch uit, maar ik kan niet precies zeggen waarom…
  • Ik ga het bedrijf opzoeken.
  • Ah, een fossiele-energie-bedrijf — ze zijn tóch diabolisch!

Over een fiets- en voet­gangers­brug dichtbij kwam it wat graffiti tegen die echt de moderne Engelse psyche samenvatten: een poster van Extinction Rebellion", een doorgestreept „EDL”,β en een pik en kloten.

Graffiti op een blauwe brugmuur. Van links naar rechts: Een XR poster met 'Act Now', 'Kyle', 'EDL' (doorgestreept), 'Erok', 'FLK', en een lul en kloten.

Ik droeg een plaat van HMV (Hot Fuss, door de Killers, als je het zo nodig moet weten) de hele weg mee, en laat me je vertellen, mijn armen deden aan het eind ervan echt pijn! Tenminste kwam zij een tas…

Om af te sluiten, hier zijn vier foto’s die niet interessant genoeg waren voor een volledige sectie, en een kaart van mijn tocht. Bedankt voor het lezen!

Notes from a walk through Newcastle

The gorgeous gorge that is the Tyne valley has no shortage of winsome views, but the most beautiful, in my opinion, is that which appears to one who goes down the Side.α In the Monument’s shadow, after passing the classical columns of the Theatre Royal and descending Grey Street as it becomes Dean Street, finally taking a turn onto the Side at the bottom, the lucky traveller will find themself towered over by the behemoth that is the Tyne Bridge:

The Tyne Bridge, a soaring green arch over the river, held up by two hulking sandstone-brick towers.
Photo by Alex Liivet. Licenced under CC BY-2.0.
A rickety old set of stairs leads into an area obscured by overgrown shrubbery.
The rotting wooden stairs, as seen on Google street view.

I’m not sure any photograph can ever match what it’s like to be there under that bridge. One of the most remarkable things about this view, though, has nothing to do with the view itself, but rather what happens if one walks down the Quayside for a little while, reaches an empty brownfield plot, and clambers up a set of rotting wooden stairs to its right. Because, inexplicably, just a few metres from the most beautiful view in town, one can find the second most beautiful view in town, a glorious lookout on every bridge linking the two banks of the river.

Seven bridges across the Tyne, flanked by Newcastle’s old buildings on the right and Gateshead’s modern regeneration on the left.

We don’t deserve this city.

I had initially neglected to bring a water bottle along with me; i had only intended a quick jaunt to the centre of town and back, and the foolhardy idea of walking all the way to Wallsend came to me spontaneously. This quickly proved a bad idea, and so i made a trek up to the corner shop, who thankfully had all the bottled water anyone could ever want or need.

After leaving fully rehydrated and ready to walk back, i noticed the most wonderful little thing. A parklet, this small opening of green space with some benches and inscriptions, tucked between a housing area and a construction site. I took some pictures — i would have loved to show them to you, but alas, my phone got stolen in the intervening time between this trip and me writing this post, taking the photographs with it.

Nevertheless, if you’d like to visit (or live vicariously through Google street view), it’s that little park adjacent to 5 Belmont Street. (Google stubbornly refuses to give a proper address, but you can’t miss it!)

An *exceedingly* evil looking office building next to a gigantic white cube bearing the logo "TechnipFMC".

An account of my thought process upon seeing the above building complex:

  • That building looks exceedingly evil, but i can’t quite place my finger on why…
  • I’m going to look the company up.
  • Ah, a fossil fuel company — they are evil!

Just a few yards ahead, crossing a foot-and-cycle bridge, i happened upon some strikingly relevant graffiti, alongside some other pieces which really sum up the modern English psyche: an Extinction Rebellion poster, a crossed out “EDL”,β and a cock and bollocks.

Graffiti on a blue bridge wall. Left to right: An XR poster saying 'Act Now', 'Kyle', 'EDL' (crossed out), 'Erok', 'FLK', and a cock and bollocks.

I carried a record from HMV (the Killers’ Hot Fuss, if you must know) the whole way, and let me tell you, my arms were positively aching by the end of it! At least i had a bag…γ

To sign off, here are some photos whose stories weren’t interesting enough to make the cut, as well as a map of the journey. Thank you for reading this disjoint mess.