This weekend I took a bike ride. Nothing unusual there, but instead of heading down the coast or into the countryside I decided to take one of the national cycle routes that goes through the middle of Newcastle.
The route takes you through Tyneside right into the city centre, then back round in a loop of about 30 miles via a tunnel under the Tyne? Having thought I knew the city pretty well taking this roman inspired route (Hadrian’s cycleway) provided a totally different perspective.
The national cycle route is pretty well maintained but the first thing you notice is there’s smashed glass everywhere.
On the paths, the roads, in parks on the cycle routes the glitterof smashed vodka bottles seems to be the new, all pervadingstreet furniture that won’t go away. Why?
Apart from that it was a fantastic morning out and the cycleway is really well used by so many different people like dog walkers, mums with prams, joggers and ramblers.
Going through North Tyneside I saw loads of things that I didn’t even know where there including Roman ruins and loads of parks and bridges. Despite being in a really built up areas the route takes you into peaceful green spaces packed with birds and rabbits.
Once into Newcastle it takes you right past a pretty, small harbour that I didn’t even know was there. You also go right through Ouseburnwhich is becoming really interesting. I’m really impressed with the way they’re developing and marketing the area as a sort of boho collection of artworkshops and creative spaces.
Once passed that I was right on thequayside next to Baltic and the Sage and got the chance to see Flow – a kind of floating HeathRobinson style art installation on the Tyne.
One of the highlights was cycling over the millennium bridge to cross the Tyne, but more exciting was coming back under the river through the pedestrian Tyne Tunnel that runs beneath the water. It was originally built in the 1950s as part of the Festival of Britain and was once used by thousands of people to get to work, feeding the needs of heavy industry.
The other thing I learned is that almost everyone I passed said hello or good morning (felt a bit like the 1950s) and when I got a puncture every cyclist who went by offered to help.
The South side of the river was less interesting in terms ofthings to see, but one thing it did bring home is the level of industrial decline the region has suffered over the years.
People talk about the current recession but on this bike ride, taking in most of the heart of Tyneside, there’s plenty of evidence of that we’re still suffering symptoms of the last one…and the one before that.
Boarded up warehouses, demolished factories and long closed ship yards are all pretty depressing sights that are in stark contrast with the shiny new Quayside and up and coming areas like ouesburn.
Having said that I’m guessing lots of people who did thatsame ride in the 1980s would be amazed at what’s been achieved on the Quays and how it’s been transformed.
So despite the boarded-up totems of our industrial past and all the broken glass, I suppose it tells us that recessions come and go – but here we all are still having bike rides, jogging, pushing our prams or just walking along the river.