East Riding’s Spurn Head Spit reaches tentatively into the North Sea like some long spindly desolate tentacle. Sprinkled with the remnant’s of the Spit’s World War Two activities, there’s also one of only two permanently manned life boat station’s in the UK, and a quite Blofeld-esque control tower for the Humber estuaries busy shipping lanes. A wise explorer will pay close attention to the tides before embarking upon the three mile walk to the tip, as parts of the route become submerged for hours at a time. A lovely, lonely and very atmospheric part of the UK’s coast.
Cycling down a busy Greasborough road in Rotherham, eyes set to permanent scan for those continually sought nooks, crannies and gaps in the ordinary, a small forgotten looking cul-de-sac revealed itself which naturally flashed the usual investigate signal. At the top and slightly hidden, worn old stone steps lead up to a wonderful iron lattice railway foot bridge and an intriguing track beyond. Investigating further, a pipe and tank loaded chemical works sits aside the path, dealing in high performance aromatic polyketone solutions I’ll have you know! But passing this, the inquisitive will find they’ve passed through a kind of invisible portal and are amidst a parcel of tranquil and charming countryside, seemingly a million miles from the busy roads and dusty industry previously trodden or ridden. There’s something so incredibly special about these conduits into another world, and they are always the undeniable highlight of any day of exploring. The temptation to about turn and recreate the whole unfolding experience was strong, but would it ever be the same second time around? Maybe not, but I’ll be back to further explore this green enclave soon.
Heading out and back from Sheffield in a rough and very meandering north-easterly direction, a sunny Summer’s day of carefree velo exploring unveiled the usual eclectic mix of abandoned oddities, forgotten paths and fascinating edgelands amidst what is still a very industrial part of the country. The Trans-Pennine trail along with paths along the rivers Don, Rother and Sheffield canal facilitate navigation and progress beneath the radar of everyday life. Numerous unofficial paths and tracks connect further points on a personal map I daresay most would overlook with disdain. These regular pilgrimages still throw up much of interest, despite the relentless march of the developer.
The clearance of the Coalite plant has been on going for twelve years now. I’m guessing that it being ranked as one of the country’s most contaminated brownfield sites makes that process a slow and careful one. These show how much infrastructure used to be in place. Sadly, most of this has now gone leaving the safe disposal of the worse of the worse to be pondered.
Who’d have though an electricity substation would become a listed building? Moore street in Sheffield has that distinction and rightly so. It’s brutalist beauty is a thing to behold, both internally and externally. Visited during Sheffield’s 2016 Art week, the cavernous bunker like interior reverberates and echoes magically. Doubtless from an acoustic standpoint, it would be a sound engineers worst nightmare, but what a venue.
I’m fairly evenly split between modes of transport during psychogeographical wanderings and urban explores. The pedestrian has that option to climb, squeeze and scramble, therefore opening up myriad possibilities not easily open to the cyclist. Back street real ale emporiums are also more readily accessible without the encumberment of two wheels. One does need to fuel after all. However, the range afforded by a decent bike designed for rougher terrain often more than makes up for this. The ability to speed through tedious industrial estates, less salubrious neighbourhoods and the ease of investigating what frequently turns out to be a dead end more than makes up for it.
I’m afraid the compass of my heart generally knows one direction, and that’s northwards. It frequently settles on the Republic of South Yorkshire and naturally at it’s heart is that fading bastion of industrial greatness, Sheffield. I say fading, there’s still a lot of industry to be found in Steel City, though compared to it’s peak when one could walk mile after mile of foundry’s and works, the place is a shadow. They also say it now produces more steel then it ever did in those golden days of heavy industry. Does it? The place is still endlessly fascinating and has much that is photogenic and intriguing to the industrial wanderer. This wandering is set to a permanent soundtrack of Cabaret Voltaire and the works of the early Human League, though that’s my preference of course.
Alas, a visit to Harworth colliery in North Nottinghamshire came much too late, and it’s now a rubble strewn wasteland with very little to indicate it’s 86 year history beyond slivers of scrap steel and occasional piles of mining detritus. The one remaining feature at the time of visiting, an unidentifiable object that shall be remembered as the Harworth machine. It’s original purpose unknown, it’s future, a trip to the electric arc furnaces of China and the next wave of consumer goods no doubt.