The Black Path

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The Black Path is a track that runs for most of its route beside the Middlesbrough to Redcar railway line. It starts just behind the Navigation Pub in Middlesbrough and runs to the mouth of the River Tees. It also makes up the final stretch of the Teesdale Way, a long distance footpath that follows the river Tees from its source on Cross Fell to the sea. Although it is now seen as a leisure path it has a legacy that predates the formation of England itself.

The path follows the southern bank of the Tees, from the crossing point at Newport, to the mouth of the river. It is a route that has made up a boundary between many kingdoms, the earliest of which may have been that of the Celtic Briton kingdom of Gododdin or Hen Ogledd, a name which means ‘the old north’1039px-Northumbria.rise.600.700

In the late 5th century it followed the boundary between of the Anglian Kingdom of Deira to the south and the rival Kingdom of Bernicia to the north. These two territories were later combined to form the Kingdom of Northumbria.

England_878

Later, the Vikings founded the Kingdom of York, which stretched from the Humber to the Tees, so the paths route once again marked a significant northeastern boundary. The final ruler of the Kingdom of York was the wonderfully named Eric Bloodaxe, a Viking who could claim to have been the last true king of the North. The Kingdom of York gradually became the county of Yorkshire and the path marked the final land section of its northeastern corner.

Middleton Warrior

During the Norman Conquest, the English rebel’s camp of refuge was situated close to the path on Coatham Marshes. It may well have been the route that the rebels used to escape from William the Conqueror when he and his army rode to the camp to in an attempt to wipe the rebels out, an action that eventually led to the infamous Harrying of the North.

Camp

From the Medieval period onwards the path was used by sailors to travel to and from ships at the ports of Coatham, Dabholm, Cargo Fleet and Newport, the path then became known as the Sailors Trod. The name appears in the early histories and maps of the new town of Middlesbrough.

Sailors trod OS 1853 enlarged-2

During the industrial age, the path was used by workers as a convenient route to many industrial sites that had grown up along the railway track and river bank. This is when it became known as the Black Path, named for the industrial grime that lined the route.

a memory

Today the path is only used for leisure purposes. I believe that it is probably one of the most interesting public footpaths in the county as it winds its way through the industrial hinterlands of Teesside. I have walked the path many times and have recently noted the re-wilding of the area, I have seen foxes and hares on the path even once saw a deer at clay lane. The slag surrounding the path has decomposed to form lime-rich soils which support plants that you cannot find anywhere else in our area, their seeds were carried through the narrow corridor by trains arriving with cargoes of limestone used as flux in the iron industries along the track.

Black Path Train 2

If you have never walked the path I suggest you give it a go, it provides a wonderful insight into our industrial heritage and takes you to places that you cannot reach by any other means.

Coke oven triptych

 

Paintings –

The Black Path by Bob Mitchell. 2016

Coke Oven Triptych by Kirsty O’Brien. Painted as the Clay Lane Coke Ovens were closing in 2016

Maps

Northumbria Map Attribution – A compiled visualization from various public sources, CC BY-SA 3.0, link

England Map Attribution – link

Other Maps – Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Teesside Steel – The Final Years

Teesside Steel

Teesside’s steel industry was born in the 1850’s and died in October 2015. Steelworker Mike Guess took it upon himself to record the final few years of iron and steel making on Teesside.  ..the mothball, restart and eventual closing of iron and steelmaking on Teesside was something that I was not going to fail to record. It was almost an obligation to future generations..

As well as Mike’s beautiful book there is currently a new exhibition, Steel Stories at the Kirkleatham Museum.

MIMA Exhibition -Teesside World Exposition of Art and Technology

Teesside World Exposition of Art and Technology is an urgent reaction to the recent closure of Redcar’s steelworks and a bid to make a positive contribution to the future of industry in the North East region.

Capturing the industrial character of Teesside, the exhibition shows how it has formed, from the extraction of raw materials to production, as well as the import/export of goods.

The gallery features the activity of various regional companies alongside a makerspace, archival material drawn from Teesside Archives, the Central Library and the Dorman Museum, and works from artists such as Aikaterini Gegisian, Adrián Melis, David Mulholland, David Watson, Eva Fàbregas, Farid Rasulov, Goldin+Senneby, Hackney Flashers, Mikhail Karikis, MVRD, Norman Appleton, Philip Boville and Len Tabner.

Teesside has always been defined by its industry and has history of making. The eminent past and economic future of the area is explored through historical documents and artefacts, contrasted with a showcase of new industrial technology and works by artists who have portrayed Teesside’s steelworks.

The Exhibition runs until the 9th of October

Link to MIMA

Mural

Death of Steel 1875-2010 Ray Lonsdale

Death of steelii

High and dry in twenty ten. The options roll out but none appeal. he needs his son to feel alive

Seven Pounds of Hope and Five Ounces of Fear by Ray Lonsdale

Death of steeli

They may be men of steel but they are men with loves, responsibilities and nowhere to go. They are men who make things…things that have built countries.

Wipe Clean with a Soft Cloth by Ray Lonsdale

Death of steel

No more smoke, dirt, noise or ugly views and peaceful in the job centre queues.

An Arm Full of Sharp Things by Ray Lonsdale

When I see a blast furnace..

The Blast 2 sml

When I see a blast furnace, I see a thing of beauty . .I see something that has given thousands and thousands of people a way of life, a good, honest wage, the ability to pay their mortgages, go on holidays, and bring up their families. That to me is fabulous, that is a beautiful thing. When you come to Middlesbrough and see that skyline . . . that blast furnace is the heart of Teesside. As long as it pumps, there is life in Teesside. ICI were massive around here and they fell to pieces. When the hard times come, people just pull out. But you can’t just pull out of the steel industry.

Geoff Waterfield