The route known as The Black Path cuts through a dystopian architecture of pipes, furnaces, coke ovens and brutalist deadspace like a green river. It follows alongside the railway line from Middlesborough to Redcar. Named after the soot from the blast furnaces that was discharged onto it, workers in the past would use it as an access route to the ship yards and steel foundries on foot or bicycle. These days it forms a dilapidated corridor through a wasteland of toxicity where nature is once again gaining a foothold.
I walked with my good friend Gavin Parry to assess the sounds of this striking environment by way of research. Something sputtered steam rhythmically behind a fence like a pressure release valve. Silent small fish moved in tiny shoals through standing water beneath a graffiti covered wall. Evidence of cable stripping lay in a concrete tunnel where the discarded insulation formed dead vines.
We attached contact mics to a railside fence and heard the grass tapping the wire. A passing train made the wire scream with agitation. Butterflies were constantly rising and settling on the grass around the path, and we found a mysterious tree, we thought possibly an olive? We ate chip butties seated on plastic chairs by a major road close to an abandoned railway station, where the act of copulation featured heavily in line drawings.
The walk ended on a bridge and a plaque told the sad story of a Lancaster bomber shot down by friendly fire and the young lives lost.
I have now purchased some new boots.