Maxïmo Park’s lead singer, a local, walks the trail from Middlesbrough to Redcar, through a landscape that influenced Blade Runner and Brave New World
On a slow June Sunday back in 2019, I walked the historic Black Path route, from Middlesbrough to Redcar, through the heart of industrial Teesside. I was part of a “sketch-crawl” organised by Black Path Press, a community book publishing project in the South Bank district of Middlesbrough. Artist Philip Boville had been invited along to offer insights into industrial locations along the way. The walk was coordinated with River Tees Rediscovered and Groundwork, whose expert guidance opened up a part of my local area I might never have discovered. I packed a rucksack with sketchbook, pens, pencils and a picnic, and made my way to South Bank station, a half-hour walk from the start of the path, behind the Navigation Inn in Middlesbrough.
Adam Phillips and Deborah Bower from Black Path Press had heard conflicting stories about where the path’s starting point might be, but felt the station was the easiest access point for visitors. As Adam pointed out, the southern side of the stunning Transporter Bridge, by the River Tees, would make a dramatic entry point for those unfamiliar with the area. Perhaps one of the reasons for this uncertainty is that the path itself fluctuates from patchy Tarmac to worn “desire paths” through the grass, even veering off on to the Trunk Road, a mundane dual carriageway, for half a mile or so. Grimy steel slag, a byproduct of steelmaking, was used for the foundations for the path, and, combined with the accumulation of industrial cinders underfoot, helped give it its name. The slag has helped to fertilise the earth around the path, allowing the pink-bloomed crown vetch, native to the Mediterranean, to thrive in this unlikely environment.