This morning we went for walk. But instead of heading out of the city as we usually do, we decided to explore much closer to home. And alongside the Tyne, heading under the famous bridges, out of the light, and hugging the muddy water-line like a shadow, was a path.
Walking down this path felt ridiculously intrepid and exciting. All these years I've lived here and I've never known of this path's existence. Have I never been curious enough to wonder if it's possible to walk beside the river, towards the horizon, past the glamorous quayside with its galleries, cafes and restaurants?
The Tyne is a romantic sort of river, but away from the centre of the city it is mysterious and a little formidable. The life which surrounds this part of the river is much more private; strange objects tossed into the shore-line quagmire speak of adventures, games and sometimes things more sinister. A bike entirely submerged apart from its pedals made me wonder why someone would come this far to dispose of junk in such a dramatic way. While we found a place to turn around, the path headed onwards destined for the Tyne Valley, destined to leave even the dregs of the city far behind. Along this path you can walk or cycle coast to coast - I'm taking my blue bike along there one day soon.
But on the way back we turned directly up the steep riverbank, trying to take a shortcut home, and followed a narrowing path into the depths beneath the foundations of the train bridge. In the rusting, shadowy iron hollows which form the giant girders of the looming bridge lay pools of strange and rotting detritus. As the undergrowth closed around us, now I urgently wanted to get away back to the civilisation which we could hear around us but could not see. It didn't feel a good place to be with the kids - discarded clothing lay around as well as other pieces of 'equipment' which we recognised but thankfully the kids did not. A padlocked clearing, covered with barbed wire and rickety corrugated iron to keep out intruders, looked threatening and dangerous. Quickly, we retraced our steps back down to the muddy riverside and walked back along the path we'd left, once more hearing the echoing bridges far above us.
Back at home, realising that this derelict and forbidding place awash with the reverberations of the city is only a moment away, has made me feel disorientated. I feel as if I have newly arrived here - all that seems familiar is for the moment superimposed on top of my new sense of the river, winding nearby and possessively keeping safe its secrets.
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