Blog on the Tyne

Tyne 1 WE have a favourite walk, my wife and I. If we have visitors, and they are new to the North-East, we shepherd them along this walk because it cuts through the social, industrial and cultural layers of the region like a knife slices through a little fishy on a dishy. And it fuses earth, water, sky, chips, tea and cakes into a day to cherish. It’s a walk of only three or four miles, with two rides on the Shields ferry thrown in, but we really enjoy it . . .

This is the itinerary for today. There are three of us on this cold and blustery Saturday morning – my wife, Anne, myself and the unruly granddaughter. We leave the car at the Customs House Theatre on the riverside in South Shields, catch the Shields ferry across the River Tyne to North Shields, then walk along Clive Street to Western Quay and the Fish Quay.

We buy fresh fish from one of the many fishmongers, shove our catch in the rucksack while devouring whelks, purchase a portion of chips to share between us, then follow the prom to Tynemouth and Whitley Bay where we partake of tea and cakes in the rather genteel surroundings of a teashop garden. We then return to the Fish Quay by the main road, dropping down the fascinatingly-named Correction House Bank to the riverside, then catch the ferry back to South Shields.

This walk can take all day because there are many digressions and points of interest. For instance, today we discover a new flea market on the Fish Quay. It’s 50p to get in, and the fee includes a cup of tea.

Then there’s Wight’s grocery store at the Fish Quay, which could fill an article in itself; Tynemouth Priory, where in the past we have observed native brassicas growing on the cliff tops; sandy beaches at Whitley Bay; a weekly antiques and bric-a-brac market on Tynemouth station; and backstreet pubs that haven’t changed since Admiral Jellicoe steamed off to the Battle of Jutland.

Tyne 3

In the 18 years we have been walking this route, the area has changed dramatically. Derelict shipyards have been swept away while revitalised yards have opened; empty warehouses have been converted into flats; the quaysides have been renovated; smart restaurants have opened; new life has been breathed into a part of Tyneside that could very easily have slipped into irreversible decline and ended up as a featureless business park.

Our only regret is that Bertea’s Teashop has been bought out and converted into something unsuitably modern and gastronomic. Bertea’s Teashop was an adventure into the senses. It was small, always busy, and the perfect place to slip into that state of semi-consciousness where awareness of the world exists while you drift pleasantly through dreams.

Bertea’s has gone but North Shields and Tynemouth remain rich in their heritage and attractions. This is a walk through that heritage. My words end here and the pictures take over. But not before I impart this final shard of knowledge.

Tyne 5

The abiding element, the jewel that remains undiminished in the years we’ve been crossing the Tyne, is the irrepressible Geordie humour. It manifests in conversations, actions, gestures, notices, advertisements and the most formal of places.

For instance, pictured below, on the Shields ferry, two staircases rise up from the lower deck. One is marked STEERAGE, the other POSH PEOPLE, but both lead to the same place. These are official signs on a vessel run by the local authorities. This is officialdom undoing its top button and loosening its tie in a manner that brings a warm and welcoming breeze on a cold February morning.

That’s Geordie humour. It doesn’t give a monkey’s. It just laughs at the world and the world laughs with it. So here we go, with apologies to Alan Hull – a blog on the Tyne . . .

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Apparently, this company struggled during the reccession but has since bounced back

Apparently, this company struggled during the recession but has since bounced back

There's a long story behind this pub and its wooden dolly, who is a very imposing woman and must have frightened many a drunken sailor over the years. If I knew how to put a hyperlink into a picture caption I would. But I don't. So for more information do a Google search on "wooden dolly North Shields". It's worth it.

There’s a long story behind this pub and its wooden dolly, who is a very imposing woman and must have frightened many a drunken sailor over the years. For more information, click on the image

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Same view as above only last summer with some nice bikes. I wish I'd kept hold of my old 250cc Aerial Arrow

Same view as above only last summer with some nice bikes. I wish I’d kept hold of my old 250cc Aerial Arrow

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This was taken on our previous expedition too. This is a fishmonger offering instruction in the art of charming a lobster before placing it on your head. I am always impressed by this sort of thing

This was taken on our previous expedition. This is a fishmonger offering instruction in the art of charming a lobster before placing it on his head. I am always impressed by this sort of thing. It makes the world go round

There are loads of fishmongers in North Shields but Taylors is one of the best because you get entertainment as well as fresh and inexpensivee fish

There are loads of fishmongers in North Shields but Taylors is one of the best because you get entertainment as well as fresh and inexpensive fish

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And finally . . . Admiral Lord Collingwood, who aboard the Royal Sovereign was the first to engage the Spanish and French fleets at Trafalgar, and assumed command of the British fleet upon the death of Nelson, stands guard, ever vigilant, over his native River Tyne

And finally . . . Admiral Lord Collingwood, who aboard the Royal Sovereign was the first to engage the Spanish and French fleets at Trafalgar, and assumed command of the British fleet upon the death of Nelson, stands guard, ever vigilant, over his native River Tyne

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About McEff

Alen McFadzean. Journalist (recently made redundant from The Northern Echo when my job and the jobs of my colleagues were transferred to Wales to be done by people on lower wages), former shipyard electrician, former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still.
This entry was posted in History, Life, Rivers, Ruins, Tyneside, Walking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Blog on the Tyne

  1. offmotorway says:

    Wonderful – I love the look of Wight’s!

  2. Great article Alen! And it made me laugh again!! I don´t know about that lobster, but it charmed me!
    Cheers
    Charles

  3. Hanna says:

    Dear Alen. It’s a great sightseeing you’ve been on Anne and your unruly granddaughter. Excursions with integrated sailing trips that are part of the package is one of my favorite disciplines. It gives you a break, and it’s always interesting to see the sights from the water.
    The urban environment of yours is exciting and colorful. I think it’s a great idea to have this outing as a guest outing.
    The Lobster Man is priceless and your granddaughter will never forget him :-)
    All the best,
    Hanna

    • McEff says:

      Hej, Hanna. Boat trips are always fun. I’ve got one or two ideas for more in the future. But next time I’ll take an extra layer of clothing because it was freezing out there on that river.
      There used to be several ferries across the Tyne, but this is the only one left. Sad in a way, because it’s a fantastic area, and one we return to again and again.
      The Lobster Man is great. He had everyone laughing – and happy customers buy more fish!
      Cheers now, Alen

  4. David says:

    I had no idea a walk in that area could have so much of interest. Love the northern humour and especially the lobster guy, no wonder he is popular.

  5. Love this, what a great walk with so many adventures and great people. Really enjoyed this.

  6. mandala56 says:

    Lovely little escape into your excursion and photos. Thank you!

  7. Mjollnir says:

    Some great pics there Alen. Nice touches of humour :-D

  8. Sitting in a sleazy snack bar eating sickly sausage rolls – seems like the the times they are a changin’

    • McEff says:

      Slippin’ down slowly, slippin’ down sideways, think I’ll sign off the dole.
      The times might be a changin’ Micaldo, but the lyrics remain timeless.
      All the best, Alen

  9. Jo Woolf says:

    Haha, I loved this, Alen! Especially your captions. Rubber company – dearie me. And your granddaughter has the right idea! I would stand by the ‘Posh’ side, too, without a doubt. A lovely tour of a place I’ve never visited. Love the fishmonger/lobster trainer, and the handwritten signs in Wight’s shop window! It all looks very honest, unpretentious, where people are aware of their roots. I did look up the wooden dolly – interesting story! I’ve never heard of that before! :) BTW if you want to know how to put links under pics I can tell you. Thanks for the lovely post!

    • McEff says:

      Hiya Jo. Thanks for that wonderful comment. The wooden dolly has a real history to her – as do her predecessors. The entire area is fascinating, though it is changing rapidly. I shall take you up on your offer of links in picture caption. An email is on its way.
      Cheers, Alen

  10. Love the shop window-chalked signs – very funny. And also the steerage/posh people signage – especially seeing as that’s been done by ‘officials’ – nice when they lighten up a bit! Not sure about the guy with the lobster though – I don’t like to see live animals being played about with before being eaten and especially if it’s going to be boiled alive by someone :-( There were some squaddies in our Benbecula NAAFI playing with a live eel by putting it in their pints and trying to scare folk with it before they killed it for their supper. I acted like I’d be scared of it and then snatched it off them, ran all the way to the beach and put it back in the sea. Apparently, I was lucky it didn’t bite my fingers clean off but I didn’t know they could do that at the time.

    We were sat next to 3 Geordie walkers in a Grasmere Pub last night and one had me in hysterics. He was talking about adders and he said that; “they run away if you go near them like” – “well, they don’t actually run you know” – I nearly died laughing. It was the way he said it – that, and me picturing an adder with legs like a lizard running around! Richard was there but he missed him saying it and, of course, I couldn’t really relay it in the same way and make it funny.
    Carol.

    • McEff says:

      Hiya Carol. I like your eel story. That must have taken some doing. Mind you, I hate eels so I would never have gone near it. I have one of those irrational phobias about them. I think it dates back to going fishing with my father in Kirkby Pool (near Broughton) and forever catching horrible slimy eels that wound your line around themselves and thrashed about on the bank.
      Speaking of Benbecula, back in 1977 I hitched up to the Orkneys and then down through the Outer Hebrides, and got a lift off two squaddies from Benbecula down through South Uist. But just short of their destination they spotted two girls hitch-hiking, so they asked me to get out so the girls could get in. And that was me left at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
      You can’t beat the Geordies for a good laugh. Tyneside is a different world.
      Cheers, Alen

      • That was exactly when I was up there so I will have known the 2 guys – wish you’d got their names. That’s hilarious and so typical!

        • McEff says:

          Hey, it might have been you and another girl they were picking up!
          Anyway, it was a nice day, I soon got another lift into Lochboisdale, spent a night there then caught the ferry to Barra the next morning. Great times.

  11. Another treasure trove walk. You should put these in a book. I’ve been trying to think of something profound to say about the steps on the ferry: going up posh, but coming back down common (the journey levels us all in the end), or going up common, but coming down special (. . . oh, I don’t know!)

    Coastal communities like this are so full of character, history, and fascination. I wish I lived a bit nearer to this sort of fishy community. The nearest place is Fleetwood, which isn’t quite the same somehow: to paraphrase Colin Crompton the only local interest was the bacon slicer. (“lovely girl, she was.”)

    Chris

    • McEff says:

      Hi Chris. That’s a great Colin Crompton joke. I was going to speculate on what he’s doing these days, but I’ve just checked Wikipedia and see he died in 1985. Oh well.
      Do you know, I lived the first 40-odd years of my life in north Lancashire and Cumbria but I’ve never been to Fleetwood. Morecambe, Blackpool, Lancaster, all those places I know very well, but Fleetwood remains a mystery. Perhaps it’s better that way.
      Cheers, Alen

  12. Grand place = grand people.

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