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May 2nd 2016
Published: May 9th 2016
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I went to a presentation by Simon Reeve the other night. Simon who?

Simon Reeve and I quote is an adventurer and New York Times bestselling author and TV presenter who has travelled to more than 110 countries”. He is best known in Britain for making really interesting travel programmes, wandering the world as he puts it “thanks to the licence payer”.You should watch them, if you never have. If you have watched them, watch them again! In the US he is perhaps better known as a best-selling author and pundit by virtue of having written a book about a bloke called Bin Laden, before the rest of the world had become conscious of him and his group. The old copies gathering dust in the far flung corners of bookshops everywhere flew of the shelves after the events of 911.

Anyway, back to the evening with Simon Reeve. It was a bit of a stage managed event courtesy of Kuoni, but inspirational all the same. The obvious idea was you would be inspired and then ring Kuoni for help. Simon spoke with an infectious enthusiasm followed by a short question and answer session. Topics. Wildlife. Islands. He never got around to asking how many people in the room have been to Transnistria. Simon’s essential message – travel! Mortgage the house, sell the car, whatever – but get out there and explore the world! I haven’t done any of the latter since because it wasn’t necessary, but I find myself this Bank Holiday weekend exploring ………… Redcar!

Redcar - or Red ker, as it would be more commonly referred to in the local dialect – has had a hard time recently. After 100 years of steel making, the latest owners finally gave up the ghost and closed the steel plant down for the last time. There is a current campaign in the UK press to keep a UK based steel making industry, after the recent announcement by Indian company Tata that their UK operations were all for sale. The focus has been very much on the plant at Port Talbot, with a side interest in the Scunthorpe. Redcar no longer warrants a mention. SSI, the Thai owners, slipped out the back door under the radar and only the local politicians seemed to raise an eyebrow. The latest Tata situation has seen the national government figures scurrying to offer assistance to the steel industry. There has even been talk of a bail out with government cash for Port Talbot. A similar offer was not possible for Redcar, apparently. It is too late now. The blast furnace stands idle. The only activity in the plant appears to be the security guards driving round the perimeter in their pick-up trucks, keeping an eye on the remaining assets. A scrap man’s heaven lies just inside the perimeter fence. A security guard kept a watch on me, as I pointed my lense through the fence to take a photo for the record.

I drove on down to the Gare – the southern extremity of the Tees Estuary. My Dad liked to sit and watch the ships enter the river mouth. Giants. The tiny tugs making sure the entry and exit went smoothly. There would be no more arrivals at the deep water ore terminal to serve the steel plant. The last time I was down here, it was a hive of activity. Today was very quiet. The fishing vessels were largely at anchor in Paddy’s Hole. The blades of the new wind farm just offshore were not turning in the calm weather. The dog was bored to tears by this point, so we set off across the sand for a stroll. A large number of other dog walkers had similar thoughts, as they are forbidden on the main sections of beach in this area during the period from May to September. The sun was shining. There was no wind at all, which is highly unusual. It was even quite warm. As someone said to me later in the day, “you’ve caught the sun”. It doesn’t happen very often in north east England. We walked back across the dunes behind the beach and returned to the car.

I drove back into town, passing the industrial units and second hand car dealers at Warrenby. A horse and trap trotted towards the Gare in the other direction. It was nearly lunchtime and the Majuba Road car park was busy with folks just gazing out to sea, waiting for those ships that might never arrive. The large amusement arcade was open for business. The Coatham Bowl was not. A former bowling alley, which turned itself into a Leisure Centre is no more. It will always be remembered in our youth, as the easiest place to access “live” music. In a previous generation, there were legendary nights at the Redcar Jazz Club with epic performances from such as The Who, Free, T Rex and Jethro Tull. The final curtain fell in 1973. The scene had moved on to the “Bowl” by the late 1970s, which coincided with the rise of punk or New Wave. These were the days before you were instantly allowed to play a 6,000 Ice Arena without having to go completely round the country twice in a transit van, playing in front of a combined audience of 322. Whatever happened to learning the art of stage craft as a musician? Good question, I say to myself. I think that the entrance fee was usually £3 or thereabouts and acts ranged from heavy metal to prog rock to the rising punks. Gigs were an accessible form of entertainment back then and we would regularly to watch whoever happened to be playing. There was always a good atmosphere and a queue for the bar! I can recall such diverse acts such as John Foxx fronting the pre-successful Ultravox, Howard Devoto shooting both sides with Magazine, the Adverts, Steve Hillage performing Motivation Radio through a haze (which was possibly self-inflicted)…. the Ruts and the homecoming of almost local boy made good David Coverdale with Whitesnake. If we move on a few years, it was Dr Robert singing his anti-Thatcher lyrics with the Blow Monkeys and Stuart Adamson blasting out those anthems with Big Country. Look Away, if you dare! The Coatham Bowl site is now as flat as a pancake, presumably awaiting yet another block of flats. The increased vision does have the advantage of being able to see if a queue of cars is building outside the ever popular Sea Breeze Fish n Chip shop. Well recommended, if passing. Tripadvisor never lies.

As usual, travels are with a purpose. Redcar Town were playing the imaginatively titled Sunderland Oddies FC in a top of the table Durham Combination Alliance League clash. The blue skies evaporated at this point and it began to rain. It then began to hail and I nearly changed my mind. I sheltered in a phone box..... with a phone that actually worked. I know this, because someone came to use it half way through the shower and I got turfed out in the wet. The dog was less than impressed. It then stopped. Onwards and upwards to the Mo Mowlem Memorial Park, just off the Trunk Road on the opposite from what was Cowies of Redcar in old money. Mo Mowlem was the town’s former MP from the late 80s. As well as trying to find a solutions for the good folk of Northern Ireland, she always had time for local people. She spoke to me once in Morrisons. The police security were probably casually observing from by the baked beans at the time, but I can't say that I noticed. At one point during her tenure as Northern Ireland Minister, she had an obvious security presence. The porch they added for the armed protection squad on her constituency house on the seafront still looks out of place. It can’t have been much fun before the porch with a bracing wind blowing at you from the North Sea.

The Mo Mowlem Memorial Park is a joint project between the money from the local Council and the Football Federation. The club house was quite substantial and laid out for some form of function. Cafe. TV area. Changing facilities leading out on to the pitch access. There were no stands, but plans on the wall in the corridor, suggested there was a vision. The dormant steel plant was visible behind the dug outs on the far side, as were the giant wind turbines out in the Tees Bay. Sunderland had a following of 7 in the 24 total crowd. I brought the 1 dog and she made friends with the Redcar contingent in the now warm sunshine. Redcar took and early lead - a left shot carefully curled low into the corner. The ref tried to balance things up with a rather dubious penalty award. The Sunderland forward slipped as he took it and it resulted in a comfortable save. Justice was arguably done. The forward spent the next minute staring in disbelief at the section of pitch by the penalty spot, which had caused his misfortune. His face probably matched the strange shade of pink in their shirts. The game remained close, but the dog had become bored by the time of the late equaliser and we had departed in her eyes for more interesting pastures.

Redcar Redcar Redcar

The old Olympia Health Club

Appendix 1

Durham Alliance Combination League

Date: Saturday 30 April 2016 @ 1400 Hours

Venue: The Mo Mowlam Memorial Park, Trunk Road, Redcar

Redcar Town FC 1 - 1 Sunderland Oddies FC

Attendance: 24 plus 1 Dog

Scorers: 1- 0 Poulter (Redcar Town), 1 - 1 Morton (Sunderland)

Redcar Town: Butters, Brookes, Balckburn, Morris, Taylor, Thompson, Lee, Porritt (Sub: Bell), Chueng, Sandie (Sub: Bennions), Poulter

Sunderland Oddies: Thornton (Sub: Hernborough), Taylor (Sub: Wasey), Swindle, Harding, Smith, Martin (Sub: Clark, Thompson (Sub: Morton), Allan, Bulmer (Sub: Liddle)

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


9th May 2016

I used to ride to Redcar on my bike from Middlesbrough. It wasn't particularly nice then, and I think it's got worse. But you've captured some great photos and the essence of this fading Northeastern town.

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