As a child I’d have adventures along the muddy, tidal inlets along the Wansbeck with my friends. We’d try and catch flounders (flatties) with spears like in Robinson Crusoe. We’d check on the state of decomposition of a dead, black dog left at the high tide point near the wooden stakes, all summer long. By summer’s end there were just a few bones left that got washed away or picked up – by gulls. We’d ride our bikes trying to avoid touching down with our feet all the way from the woods in the distance. We’d cross the river at the Orchard Ford which is dead centre in the old B&W image.
We’d explore the old quarries each side of the river, climbing the cliffs. We’d swing on ropes (tarzaz, short for Tarzan ropes…..) out across drops, throwing knives to get them to stick in the ground at a target as we circled past, one-handed…… or the river, dark with the hidden lethality of submerged tree branches swept downstream in the winter floods…. Upstream, we’d hang off Sheepwash Bridge, run along the weir and collect elvers brought in by the tide and trapped in an eddy next to the storm outlet just down by the bridge.
Now, I just go for a walk.
Nobody knows about the mud, the salt-pans, the ford or the dead dog.