I missed our December drive back to Newcastle and the River Tyne. Plans to go up and check on Shemaron this weekend were thwarted because of snowy weather. We made arrangements for someone to check in on her, light the stove and give her a little tender care. I missed the feeling of returning home. The feeling I get when we hit the Military road and Northumberland lies ahead is powerful. Especially in December when the warmth of our house and Christmas beckon. When we cross the River Tyne (North) at Chollerford we know the long hours on the road are nearly over.
December 15th, 2013
On the horizon, an orange glow spread out across the sky and beckoned us towards homeward. A few miles down the road, the orange glow became the lighted suburban sprawl that spread thinly through the villages and towns of Tyneside. From here as we drove along the old road, the military road (B6318), the glow was a welcome home. Soon it changed to a thousand orange streetlights that swallowed us into unidentifiable traffic queues. Eventually guiding us to our house in the city.
Coming home for Christmas
We had journeyed beyond the wall, we had been to the west. Now we were coming home for Christmas. The watery vistas had been left behind. Hanging like watercolors, spread wide, indistinct silhouettes across hazy canvasses. The shores of Loch Fyne where the pale winter sun clung and shimmered on still mornings were miles away. At last, we had reached our rugged rolling Northumberland. A county claimed and characterised by the river Tyne; which draws its waters down from the borders in a fine migration of tributaries and channels.
The dark had come down hard and fast. Beyond the reach of our headlights, it was deep, impenetrable and thick as tar. I had traveled this road so often I knew what lay beyond, held in the cold black, coal black night. The Roman Wall exposed its ancient back along the Great Whin Sill and climbed and dipped along the rocky outcrop. The road followed close beside. We cruised the tarmac troughs and crested the sill cliff heights. Below us, in the valley, there was a convergence, a confluence of streams, where the North River Tyne met the South River Tyne. The never-ending love story, the continuing marriage of waters, a song of toil and beauty, one of Northumberland’s best-kept secrets.
The River Tyne and its Tributaries
“But no one sings the marriage of the Tynes – of South Tyne with North Tyne;- South Tyne, a son of toil, from fountain-head and earliest springs associated with mines; and beautiful North Tyne, a daughter of the moors, is she not known as the brightness of the smiling haughs, and the joy of flocks which come down to her at noon? Well! Under Warden Hill, these two streams become one; they came swiftly and joyously to their union, but now they take a more dignified pace, flowing at leisure past Hexham’s ancient towers, by Beaufront, Dilston, Corbridge, and the green lawns of Bywell, soon, however, to resume work, – increasing work, – of pastoral service less and less, and finally there remains for Coaly Tyne but one long working day, midst smoking chimneys, blazing furnaces, and forests of masts, until it reaches The Sea.”
W J PalmerThe Tyne and its Tributaries 1882
Below us, this great, united stream so noble in its breadth, wound its shallow way towards Hexham and on to Newcastle. On its back rode the winter night in all its coal-black glory. In the changing character of rivers, it narrows, deepens, floods, rushes, sings and roars. Past the castle and the keep, the Roman remains, and the dockyard cranes, it speeds its wondrous volume to the shore. Riding among its notes, ancient ballads sing of lives from distant times as it brings its song of forgotten histories from the borders to the sea.
I have included a link to the poem Windy Nook by Alan Hartley, The poem is written looking down on the River Tyne at night. The final verse of the poem embodies something of the mystery that hides in the night and hints at the powerful pull of the universe within the binding of time.