Tuesday, 11 May 2010

What Lies Beneath

The Ouseburn Valley separates East Newcastle from the rest of the city and acts as a natural barrier between the cheap(ish) and cheerful Heaton and the expensive and dour Jesmond, which skulks fearfully behind the ranks of the Residents’ Association. Four great bridges span the valley but at one point no bridge is necessary. It’s been filled in.

For years I wasn’t aware of it. I knew, of course, that the valley was not continuous but I had assumed that the blockage was natural and geographical. The adjective igneous doubtless came into it somewhere I thought. Then I found out that no, it had actually been filled in and again I vaguely assumed that this would be with rubble from the railways or some such Industrial Revolutionary source. Again no. Two months ago, almost to the day, I found out that the valley was, in the early twentieth century, filled in with rubbish. That's rubbish. Garbage. Detritus. Not the sad but necessary spoilage from the engine that drove the empire but just rubbish. Now I’m as proud as any Geordie of having won life’s lottery by being born in Newcastle upon Tyne but there are times when your local pride takes a knock and this discovery was one of them. Apparently the mayor and corporation decided they’d had it with building bridges across the valley and so decided to fill it in and then build housing on top. Not surprisingly, once the rubbish had reached the requisite level it was found that it was not suitable for building housing on so it was grassed over and is now a pleasant green space. The '60s visionary nutter, corrupt vandal and, oh the sorrow to us, council leader, T Dan Smith, whose dreams for Newcastle remain current nightmares, decided to build a stadium there but that wasn’t on either. It’s still marked on the maps as ‘City Stadium’ but all that’s there is a solitary running track which I think is a touch misleading. Now while all this makes for a good sermon (for lo your stadia are built on garbage) or metaphor, it is mildly embarrassing for a proud northerner like myself. You can just hear the southerners telling each other: ‘No point in giving them valleys up there, they’d just fill them with rubbish.’ Still, at least we didn’t stick a railway platform over Boudicca’s grave so I suppose it all evens out in the end.


  1. Well, you know those two hills on the Town Moor? It seems that if you don't have a handy valley to hoy your rubbish in, you can just pile it up in the nearest open space, roll a bit of soil on top and voila! tell the locals that you have provided them with 'ski slopes'. Nice!

    Come to think of it, I wonder what they used as infill material when vandalising, oops, sorry 'reclaiming' Jarrow Slake?

  2. Little brother Tom5 August 2010 at 15:13

    @Alison: Nissans, I think.