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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 1, March 2015

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Claire Everett
Northallerton, North Yorkshire, England


New Made Land

Leaving Park Head Station by way of the cinder path we're told it's all downhill to Sunderland and soon enough, we're whisking through vast moors purpled with heather and the iridescence of wheeling lapwings. With fritillaries rising from thistles as we pass and distant Waskerley Reservoir glittering in the morning light it seems that the landscape has stepped gracefully out of yesterday's shadow, but not so far as to slip completely free of its iron grasp.

Beyond Muggleswick Common, the winding gear of late summer's green carries the eye across the moor tops, back and forth along the squally vistas of Knitsley and High House Woods. We clatter along in the wake of the long dead Blackhill-Tow Law Railway, over the Howne's Gill Viaduct heft from three million white firebricks to span the ravine that was once the Derwent's course. The wind howls through the recently-installed suicide fences and the ghost of the riverbed makes no answer, like a throat made hoarse. We are glad to be across.

And then after Lydgetts Junction, the crossroads of the former railway paths, we are stopped in our tracks.

surveyors
of all they once mastered—
engineer's level
and theodolite,
giants on heraldic feet

long gone, the throngs
steeled for a life of graft—
no rusty angels these:
Cragg's monuments
to the industry of man

Like two mythologised relics, they stand as if they've just clambered down from their mighty shields to contemplate all that was won and lost, to say, without uttering a word, from whence it came, everything shall return. This marks the watershed between the austere beauty of the upland moors and the tarnished vestiges of a time when, if Britain had once been the workshop of the world then Consett was now surely the crucible. We stop for a bite to eat, take photographs. Shards of glass glint in the grass between the eagle's talons. A dandelion seed drifts across the palm of the primate's hand. We move on.

A gaggle of youngsters playing five-a-side, a wisp of a girl laden with Bank Holiday tabs and tinnies; all turn a blind eye to scores of cyclists passing by en route from sea to sea. Not even the tandem stirs them. It's old news. But the grimy-collared past, brought to its knees, cap in hand, with the salt of the earth under its fingernails, now that's a sight. And they live in its spectre, their forefathers not so easily forgotten as lead oxide's red haze that for decades had stained the daylight sky. Then, as the Works fell silent, the clouds ran clear, quicker than water from a wool-dyer's hands. When the path turns to soil, flanked by grassy banks and mounds, and begins to wind incongruously like a supine helter-skelter, little do we know we are riding the Jolly Drover's Maze, an earthwork sculpture reminiscent of the subterranean roadways that once served the Durham coalfields.

Then Miner and Ironmaster are upon us, sentinels of salvaged steel, whose corroded eyes still watch over the memories of men who dug the black stone.

150 years
testing the mettle
the Old Transformers
forged from the beast's last breath
when the axe finally fell

On, to pastures new from old, where the Beamish shorthorns, bred from JCB and tractor parts in the museum shed, graze and chew the cud of some imagined eternity.

And when we feel the weight of a gaze, we strain to see King Coal, crowned and bearded.

upcycled
from colliery bricks, shovels
and a fan impellor
the only piece left standing
from that one-sided game

Thirteen miles, or so, to Sunderland . . .

a shipyard crane
in a wind-shaped tree . . .
new fangles
cast from the wraiths
who cast their shadows, still


Author's Notes "Tabs and tinnies"—local dialect for cigarettes and cans of beer.

Artwork and sculptures on the national cycle route, part of the Three Rivers Cycleway and the Whitehaven to Sunderland C2C as follows:

The title of this piece is inspired by Tony Cragg's Terris Novalis 'New Made Land' (1996): a 6m high stainless steel survey theodolite and engineer's level—20 times full size. Cragg was commissioned by Sustrans to create a sculpture as a lasting memorial to the iron and steelworkers of County Durham. Ironically, due to the local industries' demise and the fact that Cragg resides in Germany, the sculptures were cast in Düsseldorf. Many believe Terris Novalis is a more fitting tribute to the industrial history of the area than Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North (1998)

Consett-Sunderland:
The Jolly Drover's Maze: Andy Goldsworthy (1989)
Old Transformers, David Kemp* (1990)
Beamish Shorthorns, Sally Matthews(1990)
King Coal, David Kemp* (1992)

Sunderland:
Shadows in Another Light, Colin Wilbourn, Karl Fisher, Craig Knowles & Chaz Brenchley (1998)

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