Friday, 4 November 2016

What Happened Beyond The Sign Of The White Horse?

My eighth photographic challenge was over.  I had found a white horse.  The rest of the day would be unknown and I was faced with a stark decision.  [Okay so it wasn't start at all.  Having three options, all of which are appealing, as about as far from stark as a person dressed in seven layers to survive a cold winter day is from being stark naked.]

Should I head south?  This would lead me, I hoped, to Cleadon tower and windmill.  Oh my.  I just looked up Cleadon windmill.  I now want to write the story of Peter the Pirate and of Elizabeth who starved herself to death when she wasn't allowed to see him any more.  Or possibly she jumped from the top of the mill.  Or more probably she suffered neither of those sad deaths.  Either way, the ruined mill is haunted by her ghost.  And then in my story her ghost can be related to the fire or storm that ruined the mill.  I have been to the mill before - it's on the route of Bede's Way which I walked soon after we moved to Newcastle.  The views are excellent but I took no photos that day and thus need to walk Bede's Way again sometime.

Should I head east?  All I knew of this route was that it wasn't really very far east until I would reach the sea.  At which point I would stop walking east.  I cannot walk on water and even if I could I'd get very tired and hungry long before I walked across the sea far enough to reach Denmark.  And then, since I am still waiting to receive my passport and so wasn't carrying such a document, I would be arrested, thrown out of Denmark and returned to the United Kingdom.  When people swim across the English Channel does someone in a support boat carry their passport?  Walking to Denmark wouldn't be easy and it was a certainty that Peter the Pirate wouldn't meet me under the cliffs of Tyne and Wear and take me across, with lots of rum drinking and shanty singing on the way.

Or should I not head anywhere at all.  I was outside a pub and it was obviously a good pub.  While I took my pictures of the horse a bus had pulled up to the bus stop, the last one on its route.  Lots of old people had got out and many of them headed straight to the pub.  I think it was for the pub food rather than so they could all get very drunk and then spend the night being disorderly and violent on the streets of South Shields.  I could go to the pub too.  Eat and drink and then catch the bus, happy for a challenge completed.

I carefully considered my three options.  South.  East.  Pub.  South.  East.  Pub.  It was a hard choice.  If the choices had been:  Walk.  Get stabbed by Peter the Pirate.  Fall naked into a pit of bullet ants.  That would not have been a difficult decision to make.  But with three good choices it was harder.

I opted for East.  All the photos that follow arise from my East adventure.  South would have been an adventure too.  With an entirely different set of photos - and I have a walk in my head that includes heading south from The White Horse.  Pub would have been tasty.

Following the path I entered into woodland.  The trees were magnificent.  And some of them begged me to photograph them.  I was harsh with those trees I confess and only took a picture of this one because it seemed to combine friendliness with confusion.

I came to a junction.  Should I follow the footpath below?  Or should I follow the bridleway above?  I opted for the high route even though I knew I was meant to be heading down to the sea.  If there's one thing I know about the sea it's that you can rarely find it by going uphill.  But it seemed more appropriate to follow a bridleway having come out on a horse related quest.  As the bridleway came out of the woods I looked upwards to the top of the hill.  Would would this view be like?  I wondered.  What will my outlook be?  It could be so exciting to be out in the hills to be free.  My heart should be wild with excitement.  And it was.  [Sincerely hoping I didn't break any major copyright laws then and that the lawyers for the estates of Rogers and Hammerstein won't be breaking down my front door tomorrow morning.]

At the top of the hill I looked out.  And I smiled and I laughed.  And I sent an excited voice message to the giver of the challenge.  Because I loved what I saw.  Below me the town of South Shields.  Beyond it, North Shields, the Tyne estuary and Tynemouth, and beyond them the Northumberland coast.  And in the distance I saw hills in Northumberland.  Possibly the Simonside hills but I don't know - and if anyone reading this does know please tell me.

I walked on and thought, "Ooh, I wonder what's over that little rise."  There wasn't a path but that doesn't matter does it?  I wandered up anyway and the view got better.  I continued to walk and what came into view was a big hole and on the other side there were cliffs.  There were of course cliffs on the side I was on too and I stood at the top, happy.  This was once Marsden quarry - a solid explanation for the fact that I had walked up Quarry Lane.

I walked round the top of the quarry.  I had not been expecting this at all.  There was even another tree to photograph!

I stood for a while on the other side, looking out to sea, looking to the north, and looking down too.  It was then that I had my moment of total clarity that I wrote about that evening.  Total clarity.  It's a wonderful feeling.  It's also a scary feeling because, two days on, I have said things that will affect the course of my life profoundly over then next year, which mean the one solid plan I had has been thrown out, and which mean I have to make every single day an adventure, in word or in deed or both.  Total clarity has led to a great deal of uncertainty!  And that's fine.

I left the quarry, having followed a path that meanders down the rocks.  A couple of roads later and I was by the sea.  I was excited to find that I'd come out on the sea front at Marsden.  I've passed this way twice before this year already.  The first time I was alone, walking from South Shields to Sunderland.  On that occasion I enjoyed tea in Marsden Grotto, a cafe and restaurant down a tall lift shaft at the bottom of the cliff.  The second time I was walking with others, as part of the Sunderland Walk for Refugees from Sunderland to North Shields.  A very different day but a very good one.  It felt good to be back on that coast again. 

I took this photo of Marsden Rock and pondered whether to walk on the beach right to the rocks at the far end.  But the tide was coming in fast so I decided instead to take the easy option.  A bus into South Shields.  I got off the bus before reaching the centre.  A quick walk on the promenade would be good and as I walked to the prom I passed this:

It's not just crazy golf.  Oh no.  This is adventure golf.  At that moment I wished that the giver of the challenges was with me.  We could play together.  Last time we played together (the only time so far) it had just been crazy golf.  One of us won a free game.  That was a good day and we played on everything in the play area too.  I am told it was very scary watching me attempt to climb one thing and then cross the wire crossing high up.  For someone of my lack of fitness and stretchiness it had been quite a challenge.

That would have been it.  A quick walk on the prom.  See the sea.  And go into the town centre.  But the end of the prom was shut.  Closed.  Impassable.  Impossible to continue that way.  I was forced onto the beach.  Forced.  I didn't really mind.  Beaches are good and the one at South Shields is sandy.  The sea was a wonder.  With the wind that day the waves were crashing well.  I'd love to go back on a stormier day and watch the water.  It would be incredibly beautiful and wondrous.  But the waves that day were stunning.  I took lots of photos but none of them were great and I kept missing the best of the waves.

From the beach I climbed over the rocks and onto the south pier of the Tyne.  The tide had come in quite a way and the water was already quite high.  I decided to walk to the locked gate on the pier because that wasn't far.  And maybe I'd be able to take a photograph of Tynemouth Priory across the river.  Maybe.

The locked gate was, to my surprise, unlocked.  And it would remain that way for another hour.  I decided, since I hadn't ever done it before, to walk along the south pier.  It's not far.  Except the whole pier is just over a mile in length.  It didn't feel far on the way.  But the way back felt a lot longer.  The experience was great.  I loved it and adored watching the light on the waves and the way they rolled against the wall of the harbour and the way they sometimes crashed.  I stood and watched them for a while and was filled with unexpected ecstasy when I stood just a little too long and got very sprayed as a wave crashed over the top of the wall.

I walked back along the pier.  Another mile.  And as I reached the shore I saw something that made me laugh.  I asked a man if I could take a quick picture of this.  Remember my challenge of the previous day.  The original form had been, "One of those little white scottie dogs."

Ta da!  Challenge completed.  Perfect.  This added to my happiness levels.

Just one more photo.  Another dog.  Because Blob Thing and Winefride were pleased to see it.  This is Gizmo, one of four snowdogs at South Shields.  I think next week we may have to go back and find the other three.  Today I have to go and buy a pizza.  I'm making that job a little harder for myself because, unless the weather turns, the plan is to find and photograph another seven snowdogs and some baby snowdogs on the way before finally reaching Tesco in Gateshead where there are more baby snowdogs.  Maybe I need a Newcastle walk next week too - to see the dog in Gosforth, the dog in Jesmond, the dogs in Jesmond Dene, the one at The Biscuit Factory and the one along the Ouseburn.  On a good day that's one of the best urban walking routes anyone could ever hope for.  Yes.  It's a plan!

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