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Some aimless rambling

I’ve read Diamond Geezer’s blog for many years. He’s been blogging for a similar number of years to me, though is much better at it, not least in terms of consistency of posting.

For yesterday‘s post, on one of his many lockdown walks around his part of London, he decided to take a picture every twenty minutes. It sounded like a fun diversion, so I thought I’d do the same: an aimless ramble starting in Gosforth, my part of Newcastle, in somewhat less than clement weather.

20 minutes

Twenty minutes after leaving home, I found myself at Dentsmires Bridge across the Ouseburn. Just out of shot to the right are two men from the Environment Agency, looking concerned about the water level.

This bridge connects Woodlea Gardens, a residential street, to Heathery Lane, a now mostly pedestrianised track originally so-called as it cut across heathland, but which now mostly cuts across golf courses.

The proportion of Gosforth’s green areas which are given over to golf courses, serving a small minority of the population, is a topic I occasionally find irrationally aggravating. Not today, though: not only are golfers barred from enjoying the course by covid restrictions, the week’s rainfall has left the course so waterlogged that it may be some time before it’s usable again.

The Ouseburn is significant not just because I’ll pass it several times on my route today, and not just because I’ve blogged about it plenty of times, but also because it underlies the name “Gosforth” (though not obviously). The name comes from “Gese Ford”—a ford across the Ouse.

40 minutes

A flooded footpath on my rambling route beyond Heathery Lane meant some unplanned doubling back and a diversion through Whitebridge Park, a relatively recent addition to Gosforth which started to be built in the 1980s.

When house-hunting, Wendy and I were put off this area because of the slightly uncanny quietness of its many cul-de-sacs, and this remained true today: the only evidence of human life as I ambled through was a man eating a sandwich in a broadband van.

Whitebridge Park is also home to a play area which I think may be in the running to be Britain’s most depressing.

1 hour

After meandering through the 1960s Melton Park and past the thousand-year-old ruins of North Gosforth Chapel, burned down some five-hundred years ago, I found myself in Newcastle Great Park. With a grand plan from the early 2000s to build more than 4500 homes over a forty-year period, Great Park is a massive development—and not without controversy.

Here at Warkworth Woods, the first bit to be developed, the developers decided to cobble parts of the roadway, presumably to add to a ‘village-like’ aesthetic.

1 hour 20 minutes

Having crossed the A1, I reached the newer part of the Great Park development. Here, the world headquarters of the software giant Sage occupies a huge office—though not for much longer—and a school catering for thousands of pupils is due to open later in the year.

I skirted around most of the housing in this part of the development, sticking with the paths through the green areas (or, as the developers would have it, the “diverse mosaic of woodland, meadowland and network of drainage systems with hills, vales and streams”). These include a few patches of reedy bodies of Ouseburn water. On nicer days, this area is frequently busy with dog-walkers.

1 hour 40 minutes

With unfortunate timing, twenty minutes of further walking brought me to this rather unexciting pedestrianised route across the area known as Brunton Bridge. Speaking of bridges, however, I did have to cross the raging Ouseburn once again to get here.

2 hours

The two-hour mark saw me crossing the Metro line near Fawdon, with an excitement only slightly tempered by having previously crossed a different part of the line only ten minutes earlier. This track route dates back to the Ponteland railway constructed in the early 1900s, which closed to passengers in 1929. It continued to serve freight, however, including the then-Rowntree now-Nestlé factory which is just behind the trees on the right of the photo above. It now makes Toffee Crisps. It might also make other things, but Toffee Crisps are unbeatable in my book.

The line carried passengers once again from 1981, when the Tyne and Wear Metro started operating along this stretch.

To get here, I also had to nip across the A1 again. The history of the A1 in the North East is surprisingly involved. When this section opened in 1993, it was the third bit of road on this latitude designated as the A1 in just sixteen years.

2 hours 20 mins

Red House Farm is an area whose history is all in the name: a residential development on what used to be a farm, of which essentially all that remains is an eighteenth-century farm house, which today’s route didn’t pass.

The Red House Farm Junior Football Club does what it says on the tin gates, having started in 1990 and since taking on hundreds of 6-19 year-old players, many of whom have gone on to be professional players.

2 hours 40 mins

Twenty minutes earlier than DG, I’m back home and slowly drying out.

This post was filed under: Photos, Travel, , , .

Cruise ships and me

Last week, I read this remarkable story about a new cruise ship by Oli Franklin-Wallis in Wired, and have been thinking about it ever since:

Symphony of the Seas – which, on its maiden voyage from Barcelona in March 2018 became the largest passenger ship ever built – is about five times the size of the Titanic. At 362 metres long, you could balance it on its stern and its bow would tower over all but two of Europe’s tallest skyscrapers. Owned and operated by Miami-based cruise line Royal Caribbean, it can carry nearly 9,000 people and contains more than 40 restaurants and bars; 23 pools, jacuzzis and water slides; two West End-sized theatres; an ice rink; a surf simulator; two climbing walls; a zip line; a fairground carousel; a mini-golf course; a ten-storey fun slide; laser tag; a spa; a gym; a casino; plus dozens more shopping and entertainment opportunities.

Cruise ships mean two things to me.

Earlier this year, I went on a ‘mini-cruise’ from Newcastle to Amsterdam aboard a DFDS ship. The journey was an overnight 15 hour or so thing, so certainly not equivalent in any way to spending weeks at sea on the world’s biggest cruise ship. The rationale for this was that I fancied a last-minute break and couldn’t find a cheap flight from Newcastle, so went on a cheap boat instead, spent a day in Amsterdam, and took a cheap flight from there. This worked remarkably well, and I’d do it again.

This was the first time I’d been on an overnight boat since our annual family camping trips to France when I was a child. Prior to going, I’d sort of thought in the back of my mind that I might be the sort of person who might one day enjoy a proper cruise. This experience put me off.

The ship was lovely, and I was particularly impressed by the cabin. I had expected a pokey bunk-bedded hovel but was actually rewarded with a fairly large space which looked not unlike a Travelodge room, with an en-suite bathroom. The food on board was also much higher quality than I would have expected. But I am somebody who likes to wander—and even with only 15 hours on the ship, I was itching to get off and explore. Exploring the ship felt a bit constrained.

It was silly of me not to realise this in the first place. Wendy and I ruled out going to an idyllic holiday resort last summer for the sole reason that it was located on a main road along which walking was not advised, so we couldn’t ‘go for a wander’ without catching a bus or taxi somewhere first. I hadn’t really clocked that ‘going for a wander’ wasn’t really a go-er on a ship.

While the Symphony of the Seas is ridiculously bigger than the ship I was on (it’s more than twice as long and can take four times as many passengers across twice as many decks), I still think I’d feel ‘cooped up’ pretty quickly. So I don’t think I’ll be going cruising anytime soon.

My other relationship with ships is professional. One of the more esoteric parts of my role as a Consultant in Health Protection is that I am the designated Medical Officer for a number of ports. This gives me certain legal responsibilities relating to ships and the health of their crew—most of which are thankfully delegated to people much more expert than me. But just imagine how complex an outbreak of norovirus or Legionnaire’s disease could get on a ship as huge as Symphony of the Seas. I was fascinated to read in Oli’s article about some of the steps taken to mitigate the risks:

“The level of hygiene is extreme,” Yrjovuori announced, as we passed a hand-washing station. Though ship-wide outbreaks of sickness make the news at least once a year, the total number of passengers who fall ill is a fraction of one per cent. But close quarters enable outbreaks, so sanitation regulations at sea are stringent. Every part of the ship, from lift buttons to the casino’s chips, are sanitised daily; interior materials have to stand up to the high level of chlorination from the constant cleaning. Rubbish is frozen in vast storage containers to slow bacteria growth and is only removed in port.

Fascinating stuff… perhaps we could even try and replicate some of it on land!


The pictures in this post are my own from the above-described ‘mini-cruise’ adventure. The pictures in the Wired article are a great advert for the power of print, looking far more arresting as double-page spreads than as on-screen images.

This post was filed under: Health, Posts delayed by 12 months, Travel, , , , , , , , .

Photo-a-day 103: Glazed portico

image

This is a terrible photograph of the newly glazed portico at Newcastle Central Station. It has turned out to be a really rather lovely space, transformed from a dingy taxi rank to a light and airy entrance way. Although the excessively large copper boxes containing the ticket machines do make it feel a touch claustrophobic at points and needlessly block sight lines.

This post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2014, , , .




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