Walking the Edge: The interstitiality of the Blackwater Valley Path

The familiar brown wayfinding signs of the Blackwater Valley Path, with the blue route markers in the bottom right corner

I’ve lived in the Blackwater Valley area for nearly a decade now, and as a keen runner and walker, I have frequently come across the wayfinding infrastructure of the Blackwater Valley Path. It became one of those ritualistic things whereby I would mentally log that I needed to research the path when I got back home, but as per usual, the task slipped from memory as the drudgery of the fog of daily life kicked back in after the mental clarity of a run. So it’s little surprise to be honest that it has taken nearly ten years (9 years, and 6 months 2 weeks and 3 days to be precise) to finally research the route, get up to fitness and most difficult, find a spare day to walk the whole 23 miles of the Blackwater Valley Path.

But why did I feel so drawn to it? What is it about a relatively random collection of pathways that have been transformed and manicured by the good folk at the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust from a site of industrialised landscape extraction to a network of middle-class leisure and residential pursuits over the last 40 years or so? The answer is simply ‘because geography’. Or perhaps more disciplinarily, cultural geography.

Read More

A line of flight? A Psychogeographic venture on Newcastle’s Skywalks

Newcastle was once touted as the ‘Brasilia of the North‘ by an ambitious town planner, T. Dan Smith. That was back in the 1960s when cities were seen as plastic crucibles to mould into concrete utopias, but half a century (and a corruption conviction again the Labour City Councillor that meant prison time) later, Newcastle’s concrete utopia has gone the way of many others; a neglected enclave of dereliction, crime and underuse. It is only the famous ‘skywalks’ – and derelict modernist surrounding landscape – that’s left. So when I visited the city, of course it was number 1 on my list of things to see.

Read More