Magpie Anthology

Spion Kop

North East contributor Ivor Robinson continues to bring us a snap shot of his life and work in Hartlepool and surrounding areas. This is his photographic essay on an area known as Spion Kop during lockdown one.

“Well as I am writing this even after almost two weeks of rain and now two days of thick sea fret I am still getting further behind. Never mind, I’ll do what I can, when I can, maybe I‘ll start getting up in the middle of the night. I think I will have to find that ghost writer that I once employed and allot some of the work to them (I’ll just go and take pictures). 

I digress back to the past, we wanted to go somewhere different, I have always liked visiting Spion Kop ever since I first discovered it. The cemetery and area behind is designated as a Nature Reserve, but you wouldn’t think so by the action of the few wild youths that get about on dirt tracks off road unlicensed motor cycles and quad bikes that tear about the place.  This historic cemetery was formed from a combination of sand dune and ships ballast. This has led to the development of coastal grassland vegetation that is unique in Hartlepool and uncommon over the Tees Valley area. Notable flowers include thrift, pyramidal orchid and lesser meadow rue. The site is also important for invertebrates and birds. Old Cemetery is adjoined by a much smaller cemetery at its eastern end, which is dedicated to Jewish burials and is known as the Jewish Cemetery.

It was cold and bleak, but we persevered. The wind was at our backs once we reached the top of the “Cliffs.” Maybe that should have read dunes, but you don’t see them till you get to the North side of Steetley Pier because of all the other stuff that has been filled in here. We walked south towards Marine Drive where we descended to the beach, which was much more dignified than trying to scrabble down those muddy cliffs on all fours. Down on the beach we were protected from the wind and our walk became very enjoyable. Knowing we had to walk back to the car in to the wind we climbed off the beach to the lower prom which we followed back to its end and then cut across onto the Cemetery Road. I used to love this Old Road, it had character with its drunken street lights leaning in all directions and especially the old Cemetery Wall. All gone, stripped away in the name of progress just because of the new housing on the old Steetley site (and now on the old Bending site has begun too), we now have a brand new wall that has no character and looks out of place. If you know where to look you can still find remnants of the old wall tucked around corners just out of sight of the main road and those whose noses may be put out of joint by the sight of some really charcterful old brickwork.  On reaching the car we went back into the cemetery to get a few more images of the fine display of bluebells, then home to get warm again.

Keep Safe.

Ivor.

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