Blogger Trish Burgess writes for the Free Press
The drive to visit the folks back in Newcastle can be a grind at the best of times but the arresting sight of the Angel of the North just off the A1 at Gateshead always cheers me up as it is such a stunning piece of art and I know it’s a sign I’m nearly home.
Antony Gormley’s sculpture is a powerful image from afar but, at 65ft high with a wing span of 175ft, it is truly remarkable close-up. Next time you’re travelling past it, turn off, park up and take a stroll around it. Sit on its toes, gaze upwards and be amazed by the sheer power this artwork made of 200 tonnes of weathered steel.
The Angel is a reminder of the industrial heritage of the North East, standing on the site of an old coal mine. Yet just a few miles further up the road there is a new spectacle which has been created in collaboration with current mining operations.
Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North, is a landform shaped like the female body, 100ft high and a quarter of a mile long. It was designed by artist Charles Jencks, using surplus clay and soil from the nearby surface mine. Privately funded, a balance has been achieved between recovering much needed coal from the ground and giving something back to the community.
We visited Northumberlandia following a recent trip and, like its steel companion, it’s free to take a look. Set in a 46-acre community park, this public artwork is well worth a short detour off the motorway. If you stand on the viewing platform as the biting wind whistles around your ears, look out onto the reclining lady, her sweeping curves inspired by the Cheviot Hills in the distance. She’s quite something.
There are public footpaths all around Northumberlandia, some steeper than others. Take a gentle walk around the whole landform, or use up some energy clambering up to the top of her head. Feeling chilly? There’s a bit of respite in her welcoming cleavage.
We saw lots of families enjoying the walks around the Lady. Children were fascinated to reach her eyes and nose and, from the top, they could look down onto the mine below and see the diggers shifting the coal.
At the edge of the park there is a new cafe, perfect for a bowl of soup or a cuppa, before you return to the car and continue your journey north or south. Northumberlandia is ideal for a day trip but, if you’re just passing by, it certainly beats a boring old service station for a pit stop.
n You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.blogspot.com