Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In praise of muck

On my recent walk around Battlefield (the name I give to the piece of open land close to where I live) I meant to record the journey from the mouth of the Ouseburn Culvert from one end to the other:

But, as I strolled I saw that many things have happened since my last visit, last year around autumn. So I took more photographs, ones that would not sit so well with my original theme, distracting perhaps.

Now I've had time to produce another slide show of my walk.

Dirty old town

What I once feared (well, hardly, it was such a racing certainty given who was in charge) would happen to the gloriously inchoate accretion of the Lower Ouseburn, that particular crumminess that immediately makes me feel at home, was happening, even extending.

Some of the new build I welcome; the Housing Association flats being constructed alongside the Byker Bridge (it's not as bad as it sounds) is an interesting, potentially energising initiative. The site has been imaginatively carved out of the steep, well wooded dene. It is also social housing rather than the kind of developments favoured by the over promoted estate agents who run development agencies.

Other sights were far less encouraging.

Whoever thought stainless steel 'street furniture' was a good idea? The Toffee Factory (oh, why do they dream up these stupid names for offices? Is anyone taken in?) has a 'courtyard' lined with tasteful machined cobbles that will never feel a horse's hoof and given a sort of Mr Teasie Weazie vintage quiff of landscaping (nothing is straight), lined with seats no one uses, stainless steel bollards and hand rails (that don't grip when wet) and mediocre garden 'features'. They know their target audience.

More of this smarming to come one fears. The grasp of the Council, Development Corps and their henchmen in Corporateland is tightening round the throat of Lower Ouseburn …

But not quite, and at least, not yet.

I found relief from the embalmers art in piles of fly tipping as I never thought I would, the defiance of it spoke to me. I hate graffiti art, but somehow here I wanted to kiss those who have fought back against this tide of 'taste' washing away history, atmosphere and imagination. Like the landscape artist John Constable (1776-1837), it's the muck I want; reactionary old East Anglian he was, but he spoke truth about Nature. It needed, he said, no varnish to make it beautiful.

"…the sound of water escaping from mill dams … willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts and brickwork, I love such things."

Precisely what the Ouseburn had and will one day, lose.

If you have any questions about these images, please drop me an e-mail and I'll try my best to answer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Out with the old and in with the old. No, wait a minute …

Newcastle (and Gateshead – don't forget) have cobbled up a Great Leap Forward plan and I have tried to read it, but frankly, …


… you read it.

I did manage to get to this before the will to live began to slip away:

"Protection and Enhancement of Natural Heritage Assets

The Plan recognises that the natural environment is an essential component of quality of place in NewcastleGateshead. The strategic importance of green infrastructure and the many ecosystem services that it offers (such as climate change adaptation, flood attenuation, water management, biodiversity conservation etc) is also fully recognised.

The strategic importance of the River Tyne is highlighted.

The Plan aims to address these issues as set out in Policy CS18: Green Infrastructure and the Natural Environment, through:

 protecting the integrity and connectivity of the strategic Green Infrastructure Network;
 making sure that new developments conserve and enhance green infrastructure;
 maximising the potential that green infrastructure has in adapting to the effects of climate change (e.g. flood water storage, carbon sinks, urban cooling etc); and
 protecting and enhancing biodiversity and geodiversity."

"The importance of the Tyne".
Low Water mark: The Ouseburn Barrage (defunct). A six million (approximately) quid Council Tax payer funded device to ensure that putative upwardly-mobile occupants of loft-style apartments that were not built should not have to look at mud when the tide went out.

The environment is that bit of their 'estate' Newcastle (and Gatesead) as yet have not found a way to either flog off, give away or build over.