The third instalment of Graham’s Black Path Series. A 16mm film exploring the landscape around Warrenby Marsh and the Black Path on Teesside. Filmed using a vintage Ensign Auto Kinecam with ORWO UN54 16mm film then hand processed in Ilford ID-11 developer.
The Black Path
Benefits – Empire
The new single by Teesside band Benefits is loud and angry and for me captures the rage and fear felt by many at the current state of our society. The language may offend you, the noise may offend you, but the message is true and uncompromising, that is what is important.
Here are a few things that offend me
In our region, the HBAI figures indicate that 37% of all children and young people in the North East were living in poverty over the three years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic (2017/18 to 2019/20) – equivalent to more than 11 children in a classroom of 30 across the region, and up from an average of 34% in the three years before (2016/17 to 2018/19).https://www.nechildpoverty.org.uk/facts/
Record 2.5m food bank parcels given to people in crisis in the past year.https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/
The UK has the worst regional inequality in the developed world, with people in England’s North East worst-off overall.https://www.bigissue.com/latest/what-you-need-to-know-about-uk-inequality/
There are 171 billionaires in the UK, 24 more than a year agohttps://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/may/21/number-of-billionaires-in-uk-reached-new-record-during-covid-pandemic
Printing with Iron – Cyanotypes for Sale
I’m selling some original Cyanotypes of the Dorman Long Tower. Cyanotype is a photographic printing process where the paper is coated with light sensitive iron salts and then exposed to UV light. Once exposed, the image is washed and then left to dry for 24 hours.
Each cyanotype is completely original, due to the vagaries of coating, exposure and washing, no two cyanotypes are the same. The image is made onto A4 330gsm acid-free paper. I may need to trim the edges slightly so the final image may be slightly smaller than A4.
Posting framed images would be rather costly so I’m selling them unframed. I’ve added a picture of a framed print below just to give you an idea of how they look. The prints are £15 plus £2 p&p each, with all profits going to the Trussell Trust. If you’d like to buy one send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Black Path by Graham Vasey
Graham made the film during a recent walk that we took along the path. He filmed it using a 1930’s Ensign Auto Kinecam and expired Ilford FP4 Plus film which he processed himself.
The original soundtrack was created by Greg Marshall, the film was scanned by James Holcombe.
23 – The Black Path
Read a history of The Black Path here https://teessidepsychogeography.wordpress.com/2020/05/05/the-black-path-8/
The Black Path
The Black Path is a track that follows, for much of its route, the Middlesbrough to Redcar railway line. The final sections run across Warrenby Marsh and then along the South Gare to the river mouth. 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 may predate the formation of England itself.
The modern path starts just behind the Navigation Pub in Middlesbrough and runs to the mouth of the River Tees. The original path started at the ancient river crossing at Newport and followed the southern bank of the Tees to the river mouth at Tod Point. It is a route that has tracked a boundary between a number of ancient territories, 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’.
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.
Later, the Vikings founded the Kingdom of York, which stretched from the Humber to the Tees, so the paths route once again followed a significant north eastern 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 the counties north-eastern corner.
Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the north resisted the rule of the conqueror, prompting the new king and his Norman army to ride north to suppress the rebellion. Tradition has it that the English rebels had a camp of refuge on Coatham Marshes. If this is true, the path may well have been the route that the rebels used to escape from the Conqueror when he and his army rode into the district in an unsuccessful attempt to wipe out the rebels. This northern rebellion against king William would eventually lead to the Normans laying waste to much of the North during the infamous ‘Harrying of the North’.
From the Medieval period onwards the path was used by sailors and merchants 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. This name appears in the early histories and on maps of the new town of Middlesbrough.
During the industrial age, the railway was laid along the route of the track and the path was used by workers as a convenient route to the many industrial sites that had grown up along the river bank. This is when it became known as the Black Path, named for the industrial grime that lined the route.
As well of being used to move goods between the works along the river, the railway was utilised, along with boats and barges, to transport the materials being used to reclaim the land along the river bank, the reclamation of the land, coupled retaining walls being built along the river, resulted in the river bank moving further away from the route of the path.
I have walked the path many times and have recently noted the re-wilding of the area, I have seen foxes and hares along the path. The slag surrounding the path has decomposed to form lime-rich soils which support a variety 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 which was used as a flux in iron production.
Today the path is only used for leisure purposes. I believe that, as it winds its way through the industrial hinterlands of Teesside, it is probably one of the most interesting and dramatic public footpaths in the country. 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.
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
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
Foggy South Bank
Clay Lane Blast Furnaces
During the 1970s, the train ride home from a day out in Redcar passed between the three blast furnaces and the coke ovens at South Bank. It was a hellish vision, fire, smoke and steam, sparks flying everywhere, the smell of sulphur and benzene with the occasional glimpse of men emerging from the murk. I loved it.
I took these photographs in the late 1980’s during the demolition of the blast furnaces.