The first couple of months of the year can be a frustrating time from a hill-walking perspective and last year was no different. As January peeped over the horizon I was eager to be out of my blocks like a super-charged greyhound and, with a head full of bright ideas, I would normally have expected to slip at least one walk under my belt by the middle of the month. However, the hill-walking gods in their infinite wisdom had other less active plans in store for me. The wide open spaces of Northumberland were, it seemed, out of the question so I considered my options.
Back in 2005 and 2006 I had written a series of seven heritage walks for publication in leaflet form by North Tyneside Council, and whilst these had been very successful they were no longer in print. In those walks I had highlighted, along with a host of other interesting facets of the local landscape, various pieces of open-air art which had caught my eye as I had wandered around the area. With time on my hands, it seemed like a good idea to re-visit some of my favourite pieces.
I started my journey close to home, at Monkseaton Metro Station, where there are, at either end of the curved canopy, two stained glass artworks by Mike Davis. The ‘ Beach’ artwork refers to the immediate locality and to holidays by the sea, whilst the more abstract ‘Shipyards’ echoes the business of the river and the coastline. These are both beautiful additions to a very fine station concourse.
From there I headed down to the new Whitley Bay seafront piazza where the wonderfully functional ‘Sandcastles’ artwork by Richard Broderick sits close to its original position, gazing out towards the sea and distant St. Mary’s Island whilst sheltering its occupants from the prevailing wind. This hugely relevant artwork must surely bring a smile to any first time visitor to the coast.
Before leaving the town I wanted to visit the 1910-opened railway station to admire the eye-catching wall-mounted mosaic triptych by Ian Patience called ‘Passing’. The central panel of this colourful artwork features a nocturnal seascape, whilst the two outer ones show a young family enjoying a day on the beach. What better way to greet arriving day-trippers to our lovely golden sands, I thought.
My next port of call was North Shields where I headed straight down to the riverside and the Prince of Wales public house; not, as you might think, for a quick half but to admire once again the shapely and brightly painted pavement-mounted ‘Wooden Dolly’. Made out of oak by Martyn and Jane Grubb, this 1992 artwork was created in the form of an old ship’s figurehead and stands in the spot where a wooden dolly has traditionally stood since the early 1800s.
There was much more I wanted to see so, resisting the temptation to pause for a quick cappuccino and a tasty muffin in one of the riverside cafés, I headed off to my next piece of North Tyneside open air artwork.
Part 2 of Geoff’s artistic journey appears next month.
by Geoff Holland © 2016
Geoff Holland is a regular contributor to a number of magazines and the author of four books of self-guided walks, ‘The Hills of Upper Coquetdale’, ‘The Cheviot Hills’, ‘Walks from Wooler’ and ‘Walks on the Wild Side: The Cheviot Hills’. All books can be purchased online from www.trailguides.co.uk. Geoff, who has lived in Monkseaton for over 40 years, also operates the award-winning website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. His poems have appeared in a number of publications.