Hundreds of scooter enthusiasts travelled from all over the country to visit Whitby this weekend for the scooter rally.
I spent the day shooting some pictures.
Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
See more of my work here……..
To live a lifestyle that these days has in the main almost vanished. To choose an existence that is ruled not by the usual demands of life in a busy town or city but one that is controlled by the very seasons themselves. To have each day revolve around the needs of your livestock – and your family, and to be driven forward relentlessly by the need to feed, to clip, to dip and herd, to rescue during harsh winters and to lamb a flock each April. To transport them to and from auction. Taking care of the paperwork and running a home and raising a family in an isolated yet beautiful rural area then that life is the one of a hill farmer.
Amanda Owen lives with her husband Clive on a 2,000 acre hill-farm at the head of Swaledale in North Yorkshire. Along with their seven children….Raven 13, Reuben 10, Miles 7, Edith 5, Violet 3, Sidney 2 and bringing up the rear is the latest addition 9 month old Annas – they’ve embraced a more traditional way of life on a rural farm. Accepting the challenges and actively instilling these traditions in their children.
To juggle the endless demands and challenges faced by farmers everywhere is not an easy option. It takes commitment and dedication and more importantly it requires a passion for the countryside and a passion for this way of life that allows you to take the rough with the smooth. To know that if something goes wrong today then it will hopefully be better the next day.This isn’t some rosey chocolate box idyllic life…it’s hill farming. Hard graft, occasionally cruel, sometimes brutal. incredibly challenging and immensely rewarding.
You must be able to live with that uncertainty and to play a game of ‘farming chess’ where each time a piece is moved the consequences and repercussions have to be judged and assessed and then these in turn must be acted upon. Over and over again. Each day. Every day. But that’s life isn’t it? We all do that in whatever work or lifestyle we have and yet when I met Amanda, Clive and their family there was something about this way of living that despite the obvious hardships seemed to make it look like an incredibly rewarding way of life.
Amanda and Clive might see themselves as temporary custodians of their farm – ‘Ravenseat‘. Knowing that they are following on behind generations of people before them who have lived and worked the land here for hundreds of years. In those years much has changed and yet at the same time much remains the same. As the saying goes…’if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, so in many ways they continue to farm this land in this little outpost high in the Yorkshire Dales in the way that it has been done for years. The additions of a quad bike to assist with feeding the sheep, cattle and the horses out on the moor is of course a modern requirement – there’s no point making things harder for yourself but when the snow comes and the bike can’t get through then the horses are used just as they would have been done in years gone by.
Looking out across the moors at the roads and the bridges used by the old drovers to move their flocks around from the high moor to the lower pastures, at the barns that were used to store the hay when it had been cut and which remain there today having being built out of practical necessity it is easy to imagine the same thing happening today – and it does – and so as she looks out over the moors reeling off the names of each fell named after those that have gone before and then asking her eldest daughter Raven what some of them are called it becomes clear that passing this knowledge on to her children is an important part of their education.
They will learn things as they go through school of course as most children do but they are learning all the time in this world also. Arguably more valuable lessons. They learn the value of hard work and self-reliance but also team work and looking out for each other – the older children always keeping a watchful eye on the younger ones. They will learn and appreciate the history and heritage of this area and of those who have gone before them. They will understand the seasons and have a greater appreciation of nature and the world around them and will undoubtedly have a confidence as they grow that will see them right as they choose careers and futures of their own.
To illustrate the mind set…one of their sons, Miles, who is 7, is given the task of lighting the fire each morning. Taking pride in the task and ensuring that it is set and lit properly and quickly becomes a roaring and welcoming fire as he chucks on coal to feed the flames. “It’s simple really…….if the fire goes out we won’t have any hot water and we won’t be able to have a hot bath later”. Fair one.
Then they go out after this and change the straw for the chickens. A task which quickly descends into a bit if an impromptu straw fight as three of the children have a laugh throwing dusty straw over each other and jumping from the steps into the soft mud but then almost as quickly Reuben starts to give me a bit of a lesson on chicken husbandry….the best time to collect the eggs, what they prefer to eat, which are the most productive birds, the best feed to give them and a host of other information. He is also learning the Flugelhorn in his spare time! He wants to be a mechanic when he’s older and he also knows an uncanny amount about high explosive ordnance and also a fair bit about hill-farming!
Clever lad that Reuben. He’s ten.
So when all is said and done what might their legacy be? What impact will their time spent in charge of this farm have? Maybe it isn’t about whether the Swaledale sheep or the other livestock thrive – although I’m sure they will and maybe it isn’t even a question of the farm being financially successful but maybe through all the experiences they’ve had both good and bad and the knowledge of farming practices and the heritage that surrounds the farm all of which is passed on to their children then maybe this is their real legacy. The real reward that comes from reaching for simplicity.
You can follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaOwen8 or order a copy of her new book here… The Yorkshire Shepherdess
Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth / Getty Images
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The Great North Passion event held today, Good Friday, in Bents Park in South Shields, England involved the telling of the Easter Passion story by collaborating with local artists who were commissioned to transform metal shipping containers into artistic works reflecting many regions and issues from around the northeast. The 60 containers were then placed in the shape of a giant crucifix in the Park where the public were invited to explore the installation and enjoy the occasion.
The hour-long event brought in thousands of spectators to enjoy the show which featured performances by Alexandra Burke.
Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth/Getty Images – No usage without permission
You can see the other pictures I filed HERE
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Mason Cameron, 3, from Middlesbrough takes a look in the mirror after having his face painted as his friends look on as they enjoyed some of the attractions laid on at the launch of the Easter arson campaign in Langton Close on Teesside yesterday.
They both show some of the photographs that I have taken to date as well as explaining a little more about Parkinson’s Disease and how it affects people.
Parkinson’s is a long-term neurological condition that affects the way the brain co-ordinates body movements including walking, talking and writing and affects both men and women. It is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The nerve cells in this part of the brain are responsible for producing a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine acts as a messenger between the brain and the nervous system and helps control and co-ordinate body movements. If these nerve cells become damaged or die then the amount of dopamine in the brain is reduced. This means that the part of the brain that controls movement cannot work as well as it should and this in turn causes movements to become slow and abnormal. They can cause the sufferer to have a tremor or stiffness that makes it frustrating or sometimes impossible to do everyday activities such as eating, smiling, getting dressed or driving.
Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect movement. Other symptoms such as tiredness, pain, depression, constipation and weight loss can all have a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of people with the condition and to make life even more challenging, people with Parkinson’s never know when the next bout of symptoms will hit. This makes being out in public daunting and stress and anxiety make the condition worse.
The photographs in this and the other two blog posts are all of my father Dave who has Parkinson’s. His condition is gradually and inevitably deteriorating. Along with the endless tablets consumed daily and the inherent side effects of some of those tablets the disease itself is making things increasingly difficult for both my parents. However if the medication isn’t taken at the right time then the swift onset of the violent tremors that are a major effect of the disease will quickly occur and the periods of lucidity are mixed with confused ramblings and difficulties in being able to carry out even some basic activities.
A noticeable sign of his struggle with the tremors is the way he used to hold his right hand, the worst one for tremors with his left hand or by keeping it in his pocket to try and keep the tremors from becoming too obvious although as the condition is gradually getting worse he’s stopped doing this as much. Irregular sleep patterns, frequent toilet needs, uncontrollable and violent tremors, lack of general mobility and balance and at times hallucinations and confusion caused by the medication are just some of the issues that must be dealt with each day and mean that it is a difficult task for my mother to ensure all the usual household needs are carried out whilst still maintaining care levels for my father. The demands of which become greater each week.
After his medication there are times of great awareness from my father who can recall many small details from years ago and even looked back fondly over his collection of Rupert the Bear annuals that he’s had for years. Occasionally he will visit the local pub to watch the football and he still enjoys the odd visit or day out to a day centre a couple of days days each week for a bit of a break and distraction – for him and for my mother – he is still on rare occasions able to enjoy pottering in the garden and continues to do a few some of the general household chores and requirements but almost as quickly as these periods of lucidity come they can go and these times are becoming less and less frequent.
His speech is suffering and a slow, quiet mumbling is sometimes all that can be heard which makes communicating with him difficult. There were plans initially for him to see a specialised speech therapist but more than likely this isn’t going to happen now because his concentration span has deteriorated to such a degree that he would struggle to get any benefit from it.
More recently my mother has had to put him in a care home for a number of ‘respite’ breaks of different durations to afford them both, but especially my mother, the chance to take a breather and to have at least a few days away from the constant care that is now required. Her health has now deteriorated to some degree due to the demands of caring for my father and the stresses that result and it is an inevitable reality that the longer this goes on then the worse their conditions will become and the more pressure she will feel as she tries to maintain that level of care.
The pictures below show my father at home and then during a couple of the ‘respite’ breaks at a local care home.
For more information visit Parkinson’s UK
This is one of those projects that starts in a very unassuming way as this one did a few years ago. Without any real planning or forethought it was a project that just seemed to take shape only after a number of pictures had been taken and the collection was added to. Let’s face it this project isn’t demanding in the sense of logistics or kit requirements or any of the other technical issues that may be a concern as a project is planned. It isn’t particularly demanding of my photographic skills either but in a way that’s kind of the point.
I like the simplicity. If I see a bench with a plaque attached to it as I pass by then I might shoot a picture of it.
The pictures speak for themselves. It is obvious in the pictures what the sentiment is but I like the idea of documenting the ways or more accurately the words, in which people have chosen to make these small gestures to remember someone they were close to and how they are tied in to a particular location or to an activity or to something that they enjoyed doing.
I’ve always had an interest in seeing really old black and white pictures – doesn’t matter that I might not know who they are or in what context the picture was taken – I just like the idea that a picture, for whatever reason was taken and that there is a story behind it – for someone. This is similar in a way. I have no idea who these people were, I don’t know anything about their lives or what they did but it is fascinating to think about or to imagine who they were, what kind of people they were and what they did and how they lived their lives?
So next time you take a seat on a bench someplace check behind you and see if anyone else used to sit there enjoying the same views that you are?
It also begs the question though…..What would YOU have written on your bench..?
Click on the first picture to view larger then click on the picture to see the next in the series….
As Whitby in North Yorkshire was shrouded in fog this morning I headed there to shoot a few pictures as some of the fishermen headed out to check their pots or otherwise got prepared for putting out to sea…
The ‘Jay-C‘ out of Exeter prepares in Whitby harbour
The ‘Jay-C‘ registered at Exeter heads out of Whitby harbour
Whitby harbour as the fog descends
The crew of the ‘Prosperity‘ weigh in their lobster and crab catch…
14 kilo of crab
11.8 kilo of lobster
‘Prosperity‘ heads back out after unloading their first catch
Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth – No usage without agreement
After eight years of front line operations in Afghanistan the UK’s military headquarters in Helmand Province were disbanded yesterday in the latest stage of the draw-down of UK military operations in Afghanistan. The role played by the Headquarters Task Force in Helmand has now been integrated into the wider US-led Regional Command (South West).
This milestone marks the end of the 16th Task Force Helmand operation for the British-led coalition task force, which has comprised soldiers from the Danish, Estonian, Tongan, Jordanian and Bosnian armed forces.
British troops will however remain in Camp Bastion throughout the rest of this year and will be employed to either work within the coalition force under the US-led Regional Command or by supporting the redeployment of equipment back to the UK.
The number of British service personnel in Afghanistan will continue to drop as the operation draws to a close and the Afghan National Security Forces prepare to stand alone without ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) support.
In 2010, as I was approaching the end of my 22-year military service I spent a short time in the country.
Afghanistan – through the window of a C-17 aircraft
A dust storm rages as a briefing is given to troops
British soldiers take part in further training given to them on arrival
Young boy in an Afghan village
Soldiers from 1 Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles patrol through a village in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand Province
Afghan National Army soldiers
A marihuana crop grows within a compound in the Green Zone
Patrolling through the Green Zone
A village elder enters a building to attend a Shura
Village elders attend a Shura
A mortar line fires in support of ground troops
A command vehicle sits at the entrance to a patrol base in Helmand Provine
A soldier from 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in a troop house in Helmand Province
A soldier shouts directions to fellow troops as they come under fire whilst on patrol in the Green Zone
During a firefight in the Green Zone a soldier runs along the edge of a track to give directions to his men as a machine gun provides covering fire behind him
Images remain (c) Ian Forsyth/Crown copyright
A community group on Teesside called the Friends of Eston Hills celebrated with champagne and picnic’s today as they enjoyed the warm weather on the rocky summit of Eston Nab, the summit of the Eston hills after being successful in their bid to buy this part of the hill.
The Eston hills overlook the outskirts of Middlesbrough in Cleveland. The historic landmark includes sites dating back to the bronze and iron ages. It was the site of a beacon during Napoleonic times to warn of attacks and below it in more recent history was the world’s largest iron mine with some of the steel produced with the iron-ore from this mine used in the building of the Sydney Harbour bridge.
The group came about when Rita Richardson from Grangetown heard rumours in September 2013 that part of the hills were being sold off. She then got together with three of her friends who live in Eston – Lyn Hewling, Glynis Mahon and Maggie Gavaghan to form the group where its popularity quickly spread via Facebook.
The area reported to be up for sale was Lazenby Bank, a 214 acre site on Eston hills that was once part of the Wilton Castle estate. It was put up on the market by the owner in September last year for £425K. One of the many people who joined the group was Eston-born Craig Hornby who now lives in Saltburn. Craig spent a lot of time looking into the details and legalities of the potential sale when the idea came to them to try and buy it for themselves!
Craig, who became chairman of the group went and tracked down the County Durham-based land owner of the hills and spoke to him asking him not to sell to anyone just yet – to give them an opportunity to raise some funds through donations. The campaign picked up pace and hundreds of online donations started to pour in- they made £2000 in donations on the first day. People held many sponsored events and further generous public donations started to come in as they tried to increase the funds and by December £15,000 had been raised. Even though this was not enough to buy any of the eight lots that the area for sale had been broken down into a bid for one of the lots – Lot 1 - the eastern half of Eston Nab and 45 acres of wooded hillside priced at £80k was put in.
Their passion for the area and the commitment to the heritage and welfare of the hills impressed the land-owner which resulted in him offering them the chance to buy just the summit of the hills and after three months of legal process – with the legal fees waived by their lawyers – the sale has gone ahead and the group has now purchased the Nab on behalf of the people and from now on it will be kept in public ownership for the first time in hundreds of years.
Today the group and its supporters gathered on Eston Nab to celebrate their success. There are now plans being made to continue the campaign in order to raise more funds and subsequently create a heritage trail, to mount a clean-up on the site to remove litter and graffiti and also to create a memorial to the 375 miners who died when the iron mine was in operation under the hill.
the plaque on the monument on the summit of the Eston Hills
The view over Teesside from Eston Nab
The monument on the summit of the hills and site of the former beacon tower
A man goes for a run along the edge of Eston Nab
Visitors to the monument arrive to celebrate their purchase of the land
A family waves to Teesside from the top of the Nab
A woman walks along the edge of Eston Nab as she looks over towards Teesside
A couple enjoy the view
SOLD – to the people for all time
Craig Hornby stands next to the monument
Sister Gillian Halliday (L) and Kendra Mackenzie-Harerson sit in a tent on top of the Nab.
Taking in the views
A young boy stands and looks out over Teesside below him
One of the founder members of FOEH Maggie Gavaghan rings a bell as she arrives at the summit
Serjeant* George Norton, 31, joined the Infantry in 1999 and served with 5 Battalion The Rifles. During his 15 year career he deployed to Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and completed three tours of Iraq. (*Traditionally in Rifles Battalions the spelling of Serjeant is with a ‘j’ rather than ‘g’ – a historical legacy from the Napoleonic wars.)
Originally from Somerset George now lives in Sunderland with his wife Deena, son Jack, 6, and his stepson Liam, 16. In December 2011 he was deployed on Operation Herrick to Helmand Province in Afghanistan and was employed as a Platoon Serjeant. It was during this deployment when he was taking part in a route clearance operation and providing flank protection to the Engineers who were carrying out the clearance that he was injured.
As his patrol was crossing an irrigation ditch they were fired upon by a single insurgent. During this ‘contact‘ one of the enemy bullets ricocheted off the ground and struck Serjeant Norton in the side of the head. Knocking him to the ground instantly where he lay severely injured.
From here the details of what followed next remain somewhat of a blur for George. He vaguely remembers the initial treatment administered to him by the members of his patrol, actions that went a long way to ensure that he didn’t die from his injuries there and then as he lay there in the dirt. But from that point the only real memory he can be sure of is waking up in the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham with his mother standing at the end of his bed.
As a result of that single bullet striking him he was now left with brain damage. With complete deafness in his right ear. With weakness down the full left hand side of his body and with a mammoth recovery task in front of him that would test the strength, resilience and the bravery of George and his family.
From the moment that George was shot a fast, efficient and well rehearsed process that includes some of the highest levels of medical treatment in the world began. All with the aim of taking him as safely as possible from lying near some drainage ditch in Afghanistan to ultimately a life back in the UK. Firstly the rest of his patrol, his mates, soldiers he had trained with, deployed with, lived with and crossed drainage ditches with were the first to start this process of treatment. Applying the immediate first aid training that they had all rehearsed so many times before during training exercises and which some had already had to use for real during other situations that had happened during their tour so far.
This first key treatment kept him alive until the helicopter came to evacuate him back to the hospital in Camp Bastion. Treated by the helicopter medical staff as they flew. The surgeons then at Camp Bastion working constantly to keep him alive. Nurses and staff all doing what they could. Once he was stable enough to fly he was then moved back to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where he remained for 3-4 months undergoing further intensive treatment and rehabilitation. From here he moved again this time to spend seven months at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Unit at Headley Court in Surrey. Before finally arriving in Catterick Garrison and the Personnel Recovery Centre.
The Personnel Recovery Centres, or PRC’s, there are five of them around the country form part of the Defence Recovery Capability which is an MoD led initiative and delivered in partnership between the Ministry of Defence and the forces charity organisations the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes along with support from other Service charities and organisations.
Each of the centres is designed to help and offer assistance to wounded, injured and sick Service personnel so that they can either recover and return to duty or alternatively if their injuries are more serious or life changing then move into civilian life.
Through his journey so far George has been through a huge amount of treatment and rehabilitation already to get to this point. He had gone through the process of trying to relearn cognitive skills. To learn again visual and auditory processing. He’d undergone speech therapy to allow him to talk again. His right ear had been fitted with a cochlear implant. He had had to learn to live with a blind spot in the top left of his vision. He had suffered memory loss and found it hard to remember not only details of the events surrounding his injury but other unrelated events through his life.
He had worked on his physical fitness and struggled through the pain and mental walls that blocked his way to try and keep his body as active as possible to aid his recovery. He had been forced to deal with the lack of independence. To use a walking stick to assist him when out in unfamiliar environments. He had struggled to come to terms with the psychological effects of his injury. He had fought the frustration and anger that comes from being injured and the associated difficulties with learning to rely on others after coming from such an active and physically challenging role as a fully healthy man and soldier.
He found that his anxiety levels, and the means to deal with them in a rational way, had been affected and at times he had struggled with this. He also had concerns about how he might be ‘seen’ or treated by people once he entered civilian life when there are other injured service personnel who might have more obvious injuries as a result of losing limbs and he wondered how people he came across each day might deal with him and his injury when it isn’t as obvious.
The PRC had been preparing him for leaving the military and going out in to the wider civilian world. His medical rehabilitation will continue as and when required through appointments at civilian hospitals but every day he gets better. Stronger. Better adapted to his own unique and hugely different situation. As George makes the move into civilian life he hopes to work as a volunteer with BIRT the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust so that he can pass on his own very, very first hand experiences and knowledge to those who for one reason or another are undergoing treatment for various brain injuries themselves.
Sometime this month George is expecting to end his service in the military and part of the time that he has spent at the PRC in Catterick over the last year or so will give him some of the skills and knowledge to assist with a successful transition into civilian life. These course are available to all military personnel when they leave the service and they undergo resettlement training but of course George has additional worries that most do not. The idea behind these courses being that he and others are given the best opportunity to deal with that major life and career changing event.
As I met George over a few days at Catterick and chatted to him about his military career, about the events leading up to what had happened to him and what he hoped would be ahead for him it was indeed a testament to the medical skill of all those involved that today George is able to have a chance at doing some of the things he is now trying to achieve – From the staff at the PRC in Catterick for their dedication and commitment to their work to help him make as near full recovery as is possible and enter civilian life. To the specialist doctors and nurses who took care of him through each stage of this journey through the QE and at Headley Court. To the physiotherapists who constantly worked with him to try and improve his physical strength. To the medical personnel at Camp Bastion – the doctors, nurses and the RAF helicopter crew from the MERT – the Medical Emergency Response Teams – who flew in to evacuate him and of course to his mates.
Those same mates who were on that patrol with him in Afghanistan. Because without their initial response in dealing with his injuries at the time that he was shot then this might have been a different story completely.
Finally it is a real testament to George himself and his family. Suffering an injury like this must have destroyed his world and the journey he has been on to get where he is today, to put that world back together again must have been a roller-coaster of emotions and challenges. A journey with more highs and lows on so many levels that we can only imagine.
To have the determination – the strength of mind – to keep going through that rehabilitation process must have been an incredible challenge and ultimately for George the greatest of personal achievements.
‘Celer et Audax’
Rifles motto: ‘Swift and Bold’
Serjeant George Norton
With thanks to the MoD and Catterick PRC for their help and assistance with this story,
…and of course to George himself for letting me take some pictures and chat to him.
Good Luck mate and I wish you well.
All images copyright Ian Forsyth
The small village of Middleham in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire has long been associated with the training of top flight racehorses. For over 200 years horses here have been exercised and prepared for competition and even before that the monks in the nearby Jervaulx Abbey were known for breeding horses.
In 1733 Isaac Cape became the first recorded jockey in Middleham before going on to become the first specialist race horse trainer and thus starting a long tradition of training in the area that today sees around 15 stables established there. As early as 1739 racing was done on the High Moor area and meetings were held regularly during the 18th century. The last race to be held on the moor was in June 1873. They were stopped following disputes between the trainers and local gait owners – a gait owner is the name given to the landowners who held grazing rights on the moor – after that the High Moor area was only used for training purposes.
But from here racing had already become integral to the way of life and the history of trainers establishing themselves in Middleham had begun and today it continues to produce winners at all of the top race meetings round the country.
With the start of the flat racing season coming next week I spent some time yesterday shooting pictures on the High Moor as some of the horses were exercised at first light. Horses from stables such as those of James Bethell and Philip Kirby Racing were just two of the stables I discovered were out on the gallops in the snowy conditions and it makes an impressive sight seeing a thoroughbred racehorse galloping at full pelt with the snow topped Dales forming a beautiful and dramatic backdrop.
I then spent some time at one of the premier racing stables in the country and which is based in Middleham – the Mark Johnston Racing stable – taking a brief look behind the scenes at what goes on day to day at a top-level racing stable and the precise almost military efficiency and attention to detail that goes on at every level of care for the horses. Everything from creating their own brand of food that comes pre-mixed so that anyone can feed the horses rather than having to have someone who knows exactly how to mix the right amount of ingredients – thereby making it a more efficient process. Two flat scoops, four times a day…so simple even this photographer could do it!
To the two in-house vets, three if you include the owner Mark who is a qualified vet himself, to ensure that any problems can be identified and dealt with quickly. To the other facilities available for the horses like the three separate grass gallops and the all weather gallop to ensure training can take place whatever the weather and in whichever form they choose. An equine swimming pool, automatic exercisers and a host of other details that collectively go towards the care and welfare of the horses which will ultimately help with bringing success at the races.
Anyway here’s a few pictures from the day that I’ve edited up in black and white. I filed the colour stuff in for potential newspaper usage through London News Pictures
So far the Mail on Line have used five and the Sunday Telegraph ran one as did the Express.
Here’s some of my stuff from the day…
If you happened to drive through the east Cleveland town of Redcar and then continued through what’s left of the small village of Warrenby – where before they were demolished all the streets happened to be named after marsh birds – and continue on past the collection of small business premises and car garages (It’s here that you’ll also find the best Land Rover garage in the north east!) that are staggered either side of Tod Point road there lies a small roundabout.
If you don’t know the area and reach this roundabout then you have two options…either assume the road ends there and you’ve gone the wrong way before going all the way around it and heading back the way you came or the alternative, and far more interesting choice , is to follow the small road that leads off to the right….
If you decided to take this road then very quickly you would cross a railway line that unless you watched your speed you would fairly rattle your suspension!
But once you cross over it…
…You have crossed, quite literally a line into a place that is truly a surreal and conflicted mix of heavy industry, natural beauty, cutting edge technological advances, history and traditional ways of life that are now either hanging by a thread. A very frayed thread or thriving against all the odds.
You will find wide open spaces that especially through the bleakness of a grey and windy day provide an exhilaration like you get when standing on the top of a high mountain with the wind in your face and yet at the same time an equally crushing sense of claustrophobia as the dark walls of industry close in around you. Both clash together like a wave smashing against a sea wall.
The area you’re now in is called South Gare – a man-made area of reclaimed land and breakwater on the southern side of the mouth of the river Tees. Constructed from January 1861 to 1884, using 5 million tonnes of solid blast blast furnace slag and 18,000 tons of cement that were cast and moved into position along the banks of the river Tees. No mean feat. These were then back filled using around 70,000 tons of material dredged from the river bed! Coming in at a cost of £219,393 the Gare opened on 25 October 1888 and offers a safe harbour in stormy weather to ships off the coast and allowed for the dredging of the river Tees entrance.
During the construction of South Gare a rail line was also built from the Warrenby iron works to help carry the men and materials. When construction was complete the rail line was used, wind permitting, with a sail ‘bogey’ to help move visitors, servicemen, lifeboatmen and lighthouse crew members out to the lighthouse and gun installations close to the end of South Gare that guarded and protected against a multitude of possible offenders either through the actions of man or nature.
So as you drive past the steelworks along the tight road littered with pot holes many of which are more akin to the craters left after an artillery barrage rather than your average pot holes you pass by the man-made fire breathing monolith of steel representing the industrial heritage of Teesside. Operating fully, then closed down, then re-opened again by SSI Industries to breath life, as well as the occasional smell of sulphur into the region the works, especially at night, offer up an impressive sight as the blast furnace flames and smoke reach skywards and the sirens shriek in the darkness.
Beyond the steelworks the road turns and runs through the high banked sand dunes draped with Marram grass that sways lazily in the breeze. It leads you past the occasional abandoned mattress or discarded fridge or assorted plastic bags of various colours all filled with someone’s rubbish cast aside here almost as if it taking it all the way to this place somehow really, really gets rid of their rubbish rather than just leaving it with their wheelie bins for the next collection as if that is a slightly uncertain way of disposing of it – of course the irony is that in order to get here to illegally dump their crap they have already passed a large re-cycling and waste disposal site less than a mile away.
You might then, if you look through the dune slacks (or dips) and if it’s low tide catch a glimpse of the wreckage of an old ship. Held fast in the unrelenting grip of Bran sands as it slowly rots away with the ebb and flow of each new tide. The name of this vessel and the story of how it came to be held here is unknown to me – so use your imagination and you could make up some really interesting tales of dramas on the high seas to entertain your kids! Some real ‘Boys own’ adventure stuff!
The observant will also see what is left of the defences. Bunkers, pill-boxes, look-out posts, former gun emplacements – all remnants of the strategic defence the area had during World War 2. Many are now overgrown or toppled having served their purpose. Nature wins.
Further along you then pass Paddy’s Hole – Paddy’s Hole is a small harbour in the lagoon on the Teesmouth side of South Gare constructed from the same slag used in the larger construction of the Gare. It is named Paddy’s Hole because of the many Irishmen who helped build the South Gare. Good grafters those Irish fellas. It is a safe area for the small fishing boats to tie up. Although the amount of boats that actually put out to sea now is reducing with depressing regularity.
Although some hardy and brave souls do still do manage to make the lonely trip through the sea fret and cold early mornings and make their way out of the mouth of the River and into the grey north sea although more to check their lobster and crab pots now rather than for fish. Quotas, low fish prices, the general effects of overfishing and increasing seal populations have reduced the worth and a decent living that could have been made with 20ft of net has gone and you now need 40ft or 60ft to catch the same. But then the prices have dropped. It’s a vicious cycle. The seals don’t seem to mind.
Many of the fishermen who owned and operated these boats are part of the South Gare Fisherman’s Association and, along with their rod wielding brethren who fish from the end of the breakwater own some of the ‘Green Huts’ tucked discreetly into the dunes.
Those huts with the smell of coke and wood burning stoves drifting on the morning breeze out of the stovepipe’s. Constructed from wood gathered together over the years some are built from reclaimed wood left after homes were demolished in the Southbank area of Middlesbrough a number of years ago. Each conforming to the code of using green paint to help them blend into the landscape and yet as different and individual on the inside as their respective owners.
Each owner conforming to the rules of no women being allowed on the site after 8pm in the evening. Despite the severity of wind, rain or storms that might sweep across this area over the years the huts remain standing. They might take a beating every once in a while but everyone takes a beating occasionally. Yet they remain. As do their owners. Holding on.
Looking beyond the huts and a kilometer and a half out to sea you will see the wind farm. The jewel in the EDF energy crown along the northeast coast. Twenty seven modern sentinels to environmental technology standing tall at 126 metres and when all are fully turning produce enough low carbon electricity to supply the annual needs of approximately 40,000 homes, or the equivalent of most of the households in Redcar and Cleveland. It will, they say, offset the annual release of approximately 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
Like two gangs or two households maybe? Both alike in dignity… facing each other across the breakwater. The wind-farm on one versus the industrial gang on the main land.
Both fighting for control of the environment.
Perched at the north end of the breakwater is the Lighthouse. Built in 1884 and currently owned by PD Ports it stands 43 feet high on blocks of concrete weighing from 40 up to 300 tons in weight. Using a paraffin wick lamp initially until around 1955 when it was replaced with a mains powered 500 Watt tungsten filament incandescent light bulb with a back-up generator, just in case.
Flashing every 12 seconds when in use it can be visible out to 17 nautical miles (20 miles) giving warning to those heading into Teesport or making their ways along the coastline. The frequent container ships turning and meeting up with the pilots whose headquarters are based on the breakwater. Those pilots who, regardless of conditions clamber aboard unfamiliar ships before guiding them safely through the meandering Tees until they are safely moored at their respective docks ready to load or deposit their cargo.
South Gare. Sitting at the end of the river Tees. Opening the way over to the Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, Forties and German bight fishing areas. Immediate gateway to Holland, Denmark and Norway. With its sand-dunes and grasses in the foreground, and its varied wildlife – foxes can be seen making their way cautiously through the scrub-land. With the sea birds both home grown and more exotic dropping in on their travels. With the on-going conflict of the industrial versus the natural. With its visible and invisible history. With those who love the place to those that care nothing for it and dump their shit where they want.
Despite all this or maybe because of all this it assumes a surreal beauty.
It truly becomes a melting pot for the imagination.
This post forms part of a longer term documentary project that I’ve been doing for a while now on the Gare and some of the pictures below will form part of that…I hope you enjoy.
Fisherman at South Gare Fisherman’s Association
South Gare Fisherman’s Association
South Gare Fisherman’s Association
South Gare Fisherman’s Association
A fisherman sits inside his hut at South Gare
Fisherman Graham While
Fisherman James While
A man cycles through snow towards the steelworks
Wreck of a boat on Bran Sands
Winter in the dunes