The Winds of Change

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October 16th 2018
Published: October 24th 2018
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I normally venture further afield at this time of the year. Alas, circumstances dictated that the Other Half had caring responsibilities and I was once again destined to be bound for County Durham. I surveyed the map and realised that I was running out of destinations of note that were achievable by public transport. The bus pulled into Sedgefield, which didn’t look as prosperous as last time I passed through. It hasn’t been in the headlines recently, but was once quite prominent as the parliamentary seat of former PM, Tony Blair. He even brought the then President, George W Bush, for some grub in the Dun Cow in 2003. The “C” had slipped on one of pub signs, so I guessed they weren’t expecting any Presidents today. I would watch the TV news later only to find that smiling Tony had actually been in town a couple of hours after my bus. He was visiting a local school and casting doubts to the assembled media on the impact of the Brexit “plan” on the North East and how it would distract from the wider problems. If only such rhetoric had not surfaced in greater quantities before the referendum, more people might have thought about what they were doing rather than make a pointless protest vote aimed at general authority. I crossed the A1 by Coxhoe. A surprising number of students boarded in Bowburn, which seemed a very surprising place to bed down for your 3 years at Durham Uni. The campus, including the Bill Bryson Library, is just about the first thing you encounter on this approach road. I was in two minds about whether to record this outing, but I figured it would be a bit disrespectful not to having just gone past a building with the name of one of the greatest modern day travel writers emblazoned upon it. I swapped bus in the interchange at Durham and headed further North. The Service 21 is branded the Angel and eventually passes the monument as it approaches Gateshead. Just outside the northern fringes of Durham city is a village with a name that evokes all sorts of thoughts. Pity Me. Yes, you read it right first time. It would be easy to dream up a bleak windswept spot and there are suggestions that the name derives from such a thought, but it was no worse than many a functional mining village and better than some. The bus pressed under skies laden with menacing black clouds. I alighted in Chester-le-Street.

As the name sounds, Chester had Roman origins. I say Chester, because that was how the locals referred to the town. The le-Street didn’t seem to be worthy of a mention. Why would you confuse this Chester with that other one down in Cheshire? I am not sure whether I would take a chance on that theory in a rail booking office, but listening to gossip that will be closing down in Chester (le-Street) very soon anyway and as we all know, machines don’t make mistakes. Ha! The powers of the internet suggest that the very same mistake was made by a Canadian Sea Cadet leader in 2013, who having become detached from his group on the London Underground, boarded the train to Cheshire in pursuit of his fellows. A mere 170 mile mistake. I chanced on this fact, after learning that the area at the top of the market place was called “Canada”. The area of town apparently had some connection to John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, who first put forward the idea that the “Colonies” (including Canada) could govern themselves. I surveyed the Market Place. Stalls were all laid out, but I counted 3 occupied plus a mobile food van. The weather might not have been too kind, but surely it was busier than this on other days? I returned later to find all had packed up and gone home – except the food van waiting patiently for any possible customers. I checked out the War Memorial on the edge of the square or should I say the new War Memorial. A striking red granite structure, it stands on what was a site of a Civic Arch. The inclusion of poppies, a battleship and bomber aircraft gave it a distinctive look. I would later find another War Memorial near St Cuthberts Church, which was a more basic structure and without the addition of any of the names of the fallen. The lower end of the market place featured some black bench seats designed to look like lumps of coal. They were inscribed with a tribute to the history of the black gold, which brought prosperity to the town. The upper – Canada end – of the market place is dominated by the red brick railway
Emirates Riverside Cricket GroundEmirates Riverside Cricket GroundEmirates Riverside Cricket Ground

......a view of Lumley Castle behind
viaduct. The East Coast mainline towards Newcastle and Edinburgh uses the bridge and every few minutes a high speed express roars across. They usually only stop at Darlington or Durham on the approach to Newcastle, so most are going at high speed. The viaduct was commenced in 1862. The 11 arches span 750 feet and rise 90 feet above the valley beneath. A Tesco car park sits below.

I was loosely following the Chester-le-Street Heritage Trail, although in all honesty it wasn't the easiest route to follow. The standout features of the walk were the Emirates Riverside Cricket Ground and the St Mary & St Cuthbert Church. It was a little damp to say the least for cricket. I passed the older Chester-le-Street Cricket Club on the road down towards the newer venue ofr County Cricket in these parts. The Emirates stands in the bend of the River Wear surrounded by acres of parkland. There was no need for the Man in the Middle method of entry as all gates were wide open and I just wandered in. there was nobody around save for a few going through their paces at the fitness club that is in the back
Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1 Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1 Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1

The Stan Canine Crew are everywhere
of one of the stands. I wandered over to the players section and gazed out across the sodden turf towards Lumley Castle on the other side of the river. It was 15 minute meandering walk by the river and back across the parkland to town. A heron happily fished as I walked. There was little to see at the site of the original Roman encampment. The St Mary & St Cuthbert Church probably doesn't jump out at you as being significant. However, it was once the centre of the Christian faith between edinburgh and Teesside and was the location for the oldest surviving translation of the Gospels into English in the late 900s. The Church was originally built on this site to house the remains of St Cuthbert and bothe Gospels and Cuthbert's coffin remained here until they were taken to Durham. The Gospels eventually found their way to Londona nd are now in the British Museum.

As it was such a miserable day, I had a couple of swift refreshments before catching the bus up the road to Birtley. I was after football, not scenery which I think was just as well. I had a brief orientation tour
Chester-le-Street War MemorialChester-le-Street War MemorialChester-le-Street War Memorial

......near St Cuthbert's Church
of the main Durham Road for later reference. I alighted the bus near the biggest employer in town - Komatsu - the Japanese industrial giant, who make construction equipment and industrial diggers. There used to be a Royal Ordnance Factory, but that has apparently cleared off to a purpose built factory at nearby Washington. In between Komatsu and the Railway Hotel, I counted no less than 6 barber shops. Male grooming is clearly bigger than I thought in Birtley. Food takeaways were also dominant, so I wasn't going to starve. I presumed that the enormous, but now subdivided building, half way along was the former Co-op building. I saw the Reptile Hotel - which wasn't where I was staying. The shopping mecca was the enormous Morrisons supermarket set back behind the main road. I checked out the Turkish restaurant on the corner of Harras Bank. It was an old Victorian pub and the website indicated a 2 course special for happy hour. I would be back, after locating my bed for the night. There was accomodation in the old pub rooms above, but I opted for the known quantity of the Campanile. I had claculated I could walk it in 20 minutes. Sadly, it was all up hill. The Birtley Golf Club described itself as a hidden gem. This was the Portobello area of town, which sounded positively cosmopolitan but had no visual resemblance to the Edinburgh seaside suburb. The only other point of interest I spotted was the Lord Lawson Academy. I figured that it would be a bit red in the locality for such as Nigel Lawson to be worthy of a school naming, but I had to double check to find out that it was actually after Jack Lawson – ex-Labour politician and trade union activist. My search also revealed none other than Captain Marvel himself had been a former pupil before his footballing exploits. In need of a sit down meal. I steered away from the takeaway selection and called into the Turkish restaurant in good time to take advantage of happy hour pricing before 6 pm. I initially seemed to be the only customer, which seemed a bit odd in the cavernous interior of the old Prince William Victorian pub. A few others soon wandered in pursuit of their own bargain. The 2 course special passed the test and I was on my way to
Chester-le-Street Chester-le-Street Chester-le-Street

......original Roman camp location
the Robinson Plumbing & Heating Stadium for the Northern League Division 2 local derby between Birtley Town and Chester-le Street. The grandly named Stadium was wedged in between the main road and the East Coast main railway line. The 2 covered stands backed on to the railway and the calm was disturbed very few minutes as an express train roared past. I say the “calm”, but the weather was going downhill by the minute. Wind and really strong winds made me wonder at one point whether the stand roofing would remain in place. The corner flags were bending at angles akin to horizontal. A large proportion of the biggest crowd for years- if not the biggest crowd ever at Birtley - stayed as close to the bar by the entrance for as much shelter as possible before kick off. The game itself was dominated by the weather. Good football was a struggle and arguably both Chester goals in the 1st half were wind assisted. Both teams struggled with the wind, as the ball ran away in the direction of Gateshead when attacking and all the goals were scored against the gale. The large Chester support went home happy, but Birtley could be proud of the 2nd half onslaught that so easily could have resulted in an equaliser. I got seriously wet on the way back to the hotel.

Saturday morning arrived and there was a brief respite from the weather. It lasted as long as it took me to get up and dressed, before a steady torrent fell from the sky again. After a very good breakfast at the Campanile, I waited around in the vain hope that it might stop raining. I gave up and retraced my steps across the A1 footbridge to intercept a bus to Newcastle. I had identified a bus shelter location, as I wandered past the previous evening after the match. I put all my plans on hold for the day and opted for the driest place in town i.e. Eldon Square Shopping Centre. My 2nd game of the weekend was at Heaton Stannington. The ground was just round the corner from the Freeman Hospital, which made getting a bus easy enough. Grounsell Park holds a few surprises. How many times do you find an allotment behind the goal? The slightly better find came in the form of the Newcastle CAMRA Club of the Year being the clubhouse. Three fine blonde real ales adorned the bar. It was Non League Day – the day when none of the so called big teams were playing due to the international break – so the club were hoping to break the 200 attendance barrier. The “Stan” thoughtfully play in black and white stripes to appeal to the local masses. The 200 barrier was indeed broken, although I am not sure whether the local canine crew were included in the declaration of 204. Heaton Stannington is the land of Non League Dog royalty, where the four legged are positively encouraged and some have their own season tickets. The leader of the pack – Harry the Dog – wandered in and greeted his mates, as was presumably his normal pre-march routine. After the “mighty” Redcar Athletic had secured an early lead, the match was pretty much one way traffic once they were reduced to 10 men in the 1st half. It finished 3-1. The good news was that it had finally given up raining.

Appendix 1

Northern League Division 2

Birtley Town FC 1 Chester Le Street Town FC 2

Date: Friday 12th october 2018 @1930 Hours

Venue: Robinson Heating & Plumbing Stadium, Durham Rd, Birtley, Chester le Street DH3 2QW

Attendance : 244
Scorers : 0-1 Megran (Chester Le Street) 11 Mins, 0-2 Robson (Chester Le Street) 39 Mins, 1-2 Soulsby (BIrtley) 48 Mins

Appendix 1

Northern League Division 2

Heaton Stannington FC 3 Redcar Athletic FC 1

Date: Saturday 13th october 2018 @ 1500 Hours

Venue: Grounsell Park, Newton Road, High Heaton, Newcastle. NE7 7HP

Attendance : 204
Scorers : 0-1 Calvert (Redcar Athletic) 7 Mins, 1-1 Wear (Heaton Stannington) 42 Mins, 2-1 Campbell (Heaton Stannington) 56 Mins, Kerridge (Heaton Stannington) 86 Mins

Additional photos below
Photos: 64, Displayed: 31


Birtley Town FC 1 Chester-le-Street 2Birtley Town FC 1 Chester-le-Street 2
Birtley Town FC 1 Chester-le-Street 2

Attacking the green portacabins, Birtley Town pull a goal back
Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1 Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1
Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1

The "Stan" Crew. Harry the Dog .... leader of the Stan Canine Crew waits in the wings
Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1 Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1
Heaton Stannington AFC 3 Redcar Athletic 1

Grounsell Park ..... the allotment corner

24th October 2018

Not a very colorful place but I do love the viaduct!

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