Tuesday, 28 April 2009

C&C day-1

I am riding the Coast and Castles cycle route from Newcastle to Edinburgh. Day one took me from Newcastle, along the river through Wallsend to Tynemouth, then up the coast through Whitley bay, Seaton Sluice, and Blyth to Amble and Warkworth.

Some of these places are not obvious holiday destinations, so why not skip them, and start at Warkworth, where a more conventional tour of beautiful Northumberland might begin?

I have two reasons. One is that I like to see things completed, and now that Sustrans have included this part of the route I feel compelled to cover it. If I skipped the first day, I would never feel that I had done the job properly. I also have personal reasons, in that my father's family came from this part of Northumberland, and I have been visiting some places with family connections.

Perhaps this first day doesn't need justifying. Most of the ride is pleasant enough for an everday outing, and there are interesting places to visit en route. But after 40 miles or so, I didn't feel that I could make a convincing case to somebody else against skipping the first day, and starting at Warkworth.

Then in this morning's newpaper I saw a letter from someone in Kent who describes Britain as a "bankrupt and derelict Brown-created wilderness".

This is someone who really needs to get out more.

A hundred years ago North-East England was an industrial power-house, but for most of my working life chunks of it have been in economic decline. It wouldn't have been ridiculous to describe parts of the region as a "derelict wilderness".

I don't know the current figures for the local economy (and I'm on holiday so I'm not going to look them up). But my impression yesterday was not of a region in decline.

For sure, the former Northumberland coal field is still not a particularly prosperous part of the country. Some industries now only exist as museums, and as the picture shows, I rode past the demolition of the Swann Hunter shipyard. But at the same time I saw new housing, new factories, and new offices. There's a whole mix of good stuff and bad stuff going on out there, as there always has been.

If our letter writer is really looking around Kent and seeing a derelict wilderness, perhaps he should now consider migrating to Blyth.

On the other hand, it could have just been empty rhetoric. If it was, then riding the first day of the C&C might help our angry letter writer chose their words more carefully.

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