Had it not been for the fact that I was kindly invited by the Kent CCC Team Coach to join them for a Semi-Final Friends Provident Match against Durham, I’d have probably never had a reason to visit Newcastle.
I guess because of where I live and most of my holiday exploits include Mountains, Newcastle had always seemed to be ‘a part of a string of Cities in the furthermost part of North-East England’.
Owing to a match at the Oval just before, we arrived in the City two days prior to the Match which gave me a chance to have about 7 hours spare to walk around and find out what the City is all about. As most Northern Towns and Cities have gone through decent facelifts over recent years, I was expecting it to be nice and I was certainly looking forward to seeing the Architecture and various Bridges I had only seen on TV before.
We were lucky enough to have a Hotel right on the side of the River Tyne in the Cities Centre and the views from the Room were quite exceptional and overall it appeared ‘as seen on TV’.
But morning came, I arose early and off I went, camera in hand, on a walking around day.
My first port of call was St. James Park, home of Newcastle FC. I went there first only because I could see where it was from the Hotel and was interested to feel the atmosphere of a Club so deeply loved by it’s followers and respected by others.
Although very new, it did have that smell of ‘home’, a kind of meeting place for likeminded people wanting a sense of community.
On a sunny early morning, the Steel Girders and sheer size of the place threw out ‘legends’ !
After that, I aimed for the main City Shopping Centre, only a few meters away from the Stadium.
I found a very clean well laid out place, free of cars and loads of shops hidden away in renovated buildings of Newcastles great and proud past.
Sure, most are nationally known names, but set in the places they are and obviously under pretty strict planning permission, they all blend in well and make shopping a far easier exercise than other Cities I know.
But I guess the most inspiration and advertisement for a City in search of a new age comes from the views down at the River Tynes edge.
Artistically and thoughtfully built in amongst the old are structures which have become landmarks in their own rights.
The Millenium Bridge, although such a simple design, does exactly the job it’s supposed to do. It carries pedestrians over the River and lets Boats through when needed, but not in the standard fashion of ‘drawbridge’, more an ‘up and under’!
The huge Mill on the other side of the Millenium Bridge is now a Contempory Art Gallery. Although this art is not my cup of tea, I can see (as with the New Tate, London) that new put into old has a strange success side to it.
The third and largest new addition to the Newcastle River view is the New Sage Building. It’s hard not to think this is loosely based on a cross between Sydney Opera House and The Eden Project. But so what, it’s another feature adding to the City, another place for the community to come together and most of all, something else they can call their own.
All this may sound a tad patronising, but it isn’t. I think it could be the general stereotyped view of ‘The Southerners North’ going out the Window.
I was raised in an age when you were led to believe the South was where all the success and money was and the North was an Industrial, smokey and generally poor area.
If it was, it isn’t the case now and if anything, the North is showing us Southerners what can be done when you have history and pride in your veins.
As for the Match against Durham itself? Kent took the game to ‘Fortress’ Chester la Street and staged one the best performances that many, including myself, have seen, beating Durham by 83 runs.
Talking to some of the Durham fans, I came accross quite a few that were in fact Southerners who’ve moved up that way.
Every single one of them said they would never move back and all of those who said they were born in the North-East said they would never leave it!
Now all that remains is the Final at Lords on 16th. August and how can’t there be a Blog entry about that day to come!