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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Sledging on the Town Moor

There is a curious feature in the middle of Newcastle - a very large, open, rough field of about 3x3km called the Town Moor. I believe that it has been protected from development because the Freemen of the City have the right to graze cattle on it. Nelson Mandela, incidentally, is an honorary Freeman of Newcastle, though I'm not sure that he grazes any cattle on the Moor. The Town Moor hosts the famous annual gathering of travelling fairs called the Hoppings. It is augmented with some trees planted in the 1970s and a couple of artificial hills made from colliery spoil. The hills give reasonable views over the city, which is otherwise fairly flat. Satellite map.

Throughout my years in the city, I often used the Moor as a running and cycle track and as a pleasant and direct route to visit friends in Fenham. The most exciting activity was in snowy winters, when the larger of the two hills makes a long, fast sledging run. The view below is the gentle side slope, not the steeper face used for sledging:

This is a good view, from the Chronicle:

Sledging on the Moor is a vigorously enjoyable and quite unique experience. The run is exciting enough to attract a contingent of adults as well as children and their families. There's always a fun and friendly atmosphere at this spontaneous gathering, with accents from all parts of the city and beyond, and vehicles ranging from plastic bags to traditional wooden sleds. After the first day's use, the snow tends to be well packed down and frozen over, making it very fast. At night the hill is sufficiently lit from the city's lights for the fun to continue. I recommend sledging belly-down, head-first, steering with the hands, on the second night of freezing. Using the feet for steering creates too much friction and, if going feet-first, a blinding spray of snow. It's quite a thrill skimming down at high speed, steering with subtle hand pressure, marginally avoiding the trail of people who inexplicably walk right up the middle of the fastest sledge run. You need intense concentration to steer around them, and to stop before the rocks and fence at the bottom. Despite all the hazards and the usual trail of wrecked sledges, I have only heard of one serious injury, a broken leg many years ago.

Newcastle Council information.
Interesting pictures of the Hoppings, 1938.


Anonymous said...

Hello! Get a job!
:P x X x
No, really. Great stuff, keep on writing x

Anonymous said...

hello! found this from your article 'let them eat cake' in anarchism and polyamory.

Keep on truckin!