England

Lakes, Strictly Speaking

As I’ve mentioned previously, there’s some places in England that lie practically on your door step that I have taken for granted, one of those being the Lake District. People were amazed that in my 29 years on this earth I’ve never visited the lakes, a mere 2 hour drive away. Been to Lake Pangong, the high altitude body of water in Indian Kashmir, and Lake Toba, the volcanic lake where the world’s largest explosion occurred, but never been to the Lake District, the abode of postman pat and that black and white feline. All this was about to change.

When you’re driving across the country as you begin to enter the Lakes, the scenery dramatically changes and becomes…nice. No plastic bags growing on trees and pointless graffiti scrawled everywhere, you can really lose yourself here like, and before long, we did. The GPS stopped working and we ended up taking a wrong turn and almost ending up in Carlisle.

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There is no shortage of hostels and cheap lodges in the Lakes, just book early especially in the summer. We had to settle for the Windermere YHA which offered nice views its namesake lake but locked its doors at 11pm on a Saturday night, it’s almost as if they expect people from Newcastle to come in at 4am mortal drunk and wake everyone up before throwing up all over the curtains.

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You can’t visit the Lake District without partaking in some walking. You can find most of England’s highest peaks in the area including Scafell pike and Hellvelyn, but there is also an abundance of moderate walks. Stargazer’s stroll in Keswick takes you to a view point at Friar Crag. The walk was described by John Ruskin as one of the most beautiful scenes in Europe, I wouldn’t agree, but I wasn’t here on a clear night when the lack of pollution makes it perfect for stargazing.

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Borger Dalr is a little more strenuous and was once described by Wainwright as ‘the finest square mile of Lakeland’. Starting at the village of Grange the walk takes you through some farmland, and over some 8000 year old rocks formed by glaciers then into Dalt Quarry. To pass the time while walking try to catch some of the fellow walker’s conversations when they pass in the opposite direction, see what you can make of it, I learned that one enthusiastic rambler ‘has never been defeated by a sea serpent’…. Right mate.

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The ramble continues over Broadslack gill and then there’s a steep climb up to the summit at Castle Crag. A crag is a steep mass of rock projecting upward which derives from the Gaelic word ‘creag’, unless of course you’re a fan of the Back to the Future novelisation, in which case it’s a slang word for ‘ass’ created next year.

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War Memorial at the top of Castle Crag

 

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So for anyone who lives in England, or just visiting for that matter, I strongly recommend making the trip over to the lakes,  it really is a dreamlike and picturesque place which is quite iconic with England. When I arrived back at work in Felling on Monday and looked around at the dirty streets overrun by shell suit wearing junkies and resembling a zombie apocalypse, it’s hard to image the lakes is just a stone’s throw away.

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Meanwhile Back In BC

They say travel broadens the mind, when really all it does is make you realise how mundane normal life really is…

Likethewheels has been away for some time, simply because I’ve not had the hours nor the inspiration whilst attempting to get back on the wheel like a hamster after putting the breaks on my continuous galavanting. So at the minute I’m living a so called ‘normal life’ and I think it’s about time to continue likethewheels. For now we’ll be concentrating on some of the places in England I’ve visited in the last few months, places on my own door step that I’ve so far taken for granted. Some people who I’ve met whilst travelling may have been following this blog, so for you, the first of my new series of posts documenting England will be giving you an insight into my home town…Boldon Colliery.

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Boldon is divided into three small villages, East Boldon, West Boldon and Boldon Colliery. It’s one of those places where rumours spread like wildfire and are twisted so much that if you tell someone in East Boldon you have a cold, by the time the story gets to the colliery, you’re dead.

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Colliery Houses

The word Boldon is thought to have derived from two Nordic words ‘Bult’ meaning river or building and ‘dun’ a Norse word for hill. So a hill over a river it is then, which sort of makes sense, the Boldon leap being the hill and the village’s answer to Everest. The river is non other than the river Don, home to the most diverse array of shopping trolleys and bucket kits in the North East of England.

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The Burn

England is famous for its social clubs, cheap and decent lager to satisfy the everyday working man. Boldon’s premier club ‘The Shack’ is a typical cliché of most Northern social clubs, and it’s name originates from the days when it was literally just a shack acting as a pit stop for pit men on their way home from a hard day’s graft. Call in for a pint any time, but don’t mention Margaret Thatcher…

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The Shack – as corrupt as Putin’s Olympics

The Crown Inn is colloquially known as ‘The Dyke’, although nobody knows why as this place is certainly not a lesbian bar. It was once the filming location for an episode of crime drama Cracker, is there a small chance that the mystery Dyke could in fact be 90’s criminal psychologist Robbie Coltrane?

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Another of Boldon’s boozers is the Flat Tops, originally called the Queens Head, the locals began calling the establishment the ‘Flaties’ after the building’s roof was blown off during a WWII air raid in 1943. The heating is seldom on, but you’ll never get a frosty reception in this friendly watering hole.

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Boldon leap offers excellent views of the, urm…skyline. Again, I’m not sure why it’s called the leap, possibly because you take a leap of faith when flying down it at Christmas on your sledge or stolen road barrier. I remember being told when I was young that there’s a Viking longship buried beneath the massive pile of earth, bearing mind these words were uttered from the same lips that claimed if you pick dandelions it would make wet yourself…

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Who needs New York with a skyline like this?

Boldon has produced several known sportsmen. Sam Bartram, a Charlton Athletic goalkeeper who was luckily spotted by a scout when playing for Boldon Villa FC. Sam went on to break numerous records for the Addicks including most ever appearances for the club. Simon Brown was a Durham CCC fast bowler who had a successful county career but could only manage one test appearance for England.

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For you celebrity spotters out there, Faye Tozer from Steps resides here now, and can sometimes be sighted walking her dog around West Boldon.

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The Colliery Cop Shop

I could go on about Boldon till I’m blue in the face, but I’d like to hear some other local’s history and pointless information. OK, so Boldon may not be the most culturally significant or exotic place to feature in this blog, but isn’t it funny how you’ll always have some kind of strange attachment to a place you call home.

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Boldon War Memorial

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Coming Home Newcastle

Christmas can be about many different things depending on who you ask. It can be a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a time to spend with family who you never see for the other 364 days of the year, a time when suicides skyrocket or a time when domestic violence goes through its seasonal surge due to the financial strain thrust upon families in a desperate attempt to oblige with modern day Christmas consumerism. Well, for me Christmas has simply been the time to adjust back into a Western way of life after over a year in Asia. At first, I felt a little like Tom Hanks when he returns to civilisation in Castaway, the quiet roads are overwhelming and it took a few days till I was brave enough to get into a comfortable bed. But it doesn’t take long till you realise that most things that you’d hoped would have changed haven’t, then soon enough you feel like you’ve never been anywhere and the whole thing was just a dream…

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I’ve forgotten how to use a Western toilet

So, Likethewheels has returned and here is the first in my series of posts on life back in the promised land – North East England. Starting off in non other than Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. I took a walk on a brisk December day through the city to highlight some of its most famous (and infamous) landmarks.

Byker on the outskirts of Newcastle’s city centre, is well known for two things, Byker Grove, the BBC children’s drama series set in the area, and the Byker wall. The Byker wall was designed in 1968 by Swedish architect Ralph Erskine and is a stretch of 620 maisonettes that, as the name suggests looks like a giant wall. At the time the ’waall’ was a marvel of weird Scandinavian style, but over the years it has become a victim of crime, vandalism and general urban decay. The structure was once the home of the notorious ’Rat Boy’, a teenage burglar from the 1990‘s. Rat boy gained his name using the wall’s ventilation system to break into the resident’s flats and to hide in his secret lair from the police.

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Section of the wall

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Rat Boy, as depicted by Newcastle adult comic, the Viz

The Quayside is the area along the banks of the river Tyne on both the Newcastle and Gateshead sides. Once the commercial and industrial part of the city, the area became very run down but since has been heavily rejuvenated. Until 2008 the quayside was known for the Tuxedo Princess, a floating nightclub. The Princess sported an amazing revolving dance floor which was most likely the culprit of the Quayside’s Sunday morning pavement pizzas. Mick Hucknall once graced the Princess’ starboard and was apparently blown away as he had never thought anything could come close to being as hideous as himself…

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The Baltic Flour Mill, now a centre for contemporary art, over the years has displayed some wonderful and interesting exhibitions by the likes of Yoko Ono and Antony Gormley. I must say though that it can also be a collection of some of the most pretentious bullshit I’ve ever seen in my life, a garden shed filled with soil? Now that’s what I call art.

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View from the Baltic

The Sage performance centre is another stand out building on the Gateshead quayside, I once attended a Patti Smith concert here where she referred to it as a giant peanut. I would say it’s more like a glass stool…

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Newcastle castle keep, is the oldest remaining structure in the city. The Norman keep was built around 1168 by Henry II and is not surprisingly the fortification that gives the city its name. There’s no Oldcastle, it’s thought that the city used to go by the name of Monkchester for reasons unknown. I didn’t pay the three quid entry this time, that’s the price of a pint over here, but I can assure you the keep has a great view from the roof.

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Artist’s impression of the keep and castle garth, circa 1250

The Old George Inn is Newcastle’s oldest pub, and was once the local of King Charles I while in a nearby open prison. Just around the corner you will find the Bigg market, come here on a Saturday night to witness the epitome of British stag weekends and drinking culture. Bring your morph suit…

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Grey Street renowned for its Gregorian architecture, is considered one of the finest streets in the UK. It follows the natural contours of the Lort Burn which flowed into the Tyne but is now underground.

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As for the curve of Grey Street, I shall never forget seeing it to perfection, traffic-less on a misty Sunday morning. Not even Regent Street, even old Regent Street London, can compare with that descending subtle curve -Sir John Betjeman

Grey’s monument situated at the top of Grey street, was built to acclaim the 2nd Earl Grey, the first modern prime minister of the UK for his great reform act of 1832. Charles Grey, a native of Northumberland would be proud of the fact that now his monument is a popular meeting place for charvas, preachers, tramps and goths throughout the city. To add a little excitement to your weekend shopping sessions, walk past the bearded chronicle seller, call him an arsehole then run away…

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A poor man’s Nelson’s column, from the same sculptor

In Newcastle we have an annual festive tradition, where the young and old rub shoulders to gaze at moving mechanical dwarfs, wizards and pixies telling the story of some of the world’s best loved fairy tales. Sound like your idea of a nice trip? Then you’ll love Fenwick’s window. Set slap bang in the middle of Northumberland street, Fenwick’s department store has been putting drug free smiles on the faces of Christmas shoppers for more than 40 years. If the enchanting music isn’t enough for you, then tune your ears into the Northumberland street funky bass player.

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Realistic eh?

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Add a bit of fusion funk to your Christmas shopping

Finish off a long day’s walking with some traditional North East food in the form of Greggs or an old school steak and ale house.

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Cheese and onion pasty?

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Northumberland steak pie

So Christmas has come and gone and the year is drawing to a close, I hope you all have as much fun in 2014 as I have this year. Christmas can be about many different things, I’m glad this year I’ll be spending it with the beautifully ugly people of Newcastle. For some reason every year I get a present that I never seem to ask for… a drinking problem…cheers!

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