Subterranean Redcar

Disclaimer – Subterranean Redcar is quite a dramatic title, you may possibly be a little disappointed.

During lockdown I’ve been taking occasional walks from Redcar to Saltburn, setting myself the challenge of never following the same route home twice. About a month ago C. had told me that she had heard that there was an underpass that ran beneath the railway line linking Redcar with Marske.

There are not many accessible underground spaces around here so I resolved to find it. I had a look at the maps but couldn’t find any trace of an underpass. A couple of weeks later I was chatting to a friend at work and mentioned the underpass “oh you must mean the one in East Redcar, we used to call it Piss Alley.”

C. was heading to Redcar today so I scrounged a lift. I grew up in Middlesbrough and my knowledge of the geography of Redcar is quite poor. I asked C. to drop me off on West Dyke Road, which she did, unfortunately the road I thought was West Dyke Road is actually called Redcar Lane. Between Redcar Lane and West Dyke Road lies Redcar Racecourse. The racecourse cuts a large swathe through central Redcar and is surrounded by a high perimeter fence. I asked C. if there was any way to get from one side of the racecourse to the other without having to walk all the way around it, she didn’t know, I set off to find out.

I walked across the playing fields towards the racecourse and noticed a woman in the distance walking purposely along a footpath that led towards the racecourse fence, I decided to follow the same path.

To my great delight I came to a tunnel that ran beneath the racecourse. As tunnels go it wasn’t particularly long and possibly only qualifies as an underpass. but if this were a football ground, a passage to the pitch of a similar length would definitely be called a tunnel. The dictionary defines an underpass as a road that goes underneath a railway or other road, no mention of racecourses so I’m going to claim it as a tunnel.

Leaving the tunnel I found myself a few hundred metres away from Redcar Lane so set off to find my next target, the railway underpass.

I finally found the narrow cut between two houses, it would have been quite easy to miss. I walked along the cut and there it was, Piss Alley. To be honest, after the joy of finding the unexpected brutalist corrugations of the racecourse tunnel this was quite a let down, it was short, had second rate graffiti, and didn’t smell of urine. Although the latter may be due to pubs being closed for many months.


Lockdown walking

The terrier is quite old now, he is happy enough but his days of traipsing across moors have come to an end. The path between Slapewath and Boosbeck is ideal for him, it runs along the bed of an old railway built to service the local ironstone mines. The path is wide with no inclines, just right for a half blind, half deaf border terrier who likes to do things in his own time.

Slapewath is a strange place, at first glance it looks fairly rural but peer into the woods and along the tracks you’ll see scrap and storage yards, workshops and plant yards, most built over old ironstone mining sites. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries at least half a dozen mines operated locally, extracting ore to feed the furnaces of Teesside.

Ironstone wasn’t the first extractive industry to leave its scars on this valley. Jet has been quarried from the escarpment edges for millennia, jet is only found in this corner of North Yorkshire and was highly prized by our prehistoric ancestors. Beautifully carved jet objects have been found in high-status prehistoric burials throughout our islands.

Another industry that left its mark on the local landscape was alum production. During the seventeenth century, thousands of tons of rock were quarried and processed to produce alum.

The pathway is very muddy in places, local footpaths have taken a hammering during lockdown. Beneath the footpath is a tunnel /culvert. It’s empty apart from some beer cans and a pair of knee-high ladies boots.

With the summer foliage gone, it is possible to get a better view of the remnants of Carr’s Tilery at Margrove.

Slape Wath – Slippery Ford’ from ON sleipr and vao

Aysdale Gate – Asi’s valley’ from ON Asi and dael