We had occasion to travel home from the Lakes through the Tyne Valley recently, here and there glimpsing the river.
You’re left in wonder at how it grows to become so wide and mighty when it reaches the sea, and also what a witness to history it has been.
It was a pleasure to hear those same themes explored when historian and TV presenter John Grundy was the guest of the North East Maritime Trust in Shields the other night.
In his humorous but learned fashion, John took listeners on a giddy journey down “the queen of aal the rivers”, from its origins high up in the wild countryside of Northumberland, fought over for so many centuries.
With digressions into everything from the story of the Venerable Bede to the church with old Roman loo seats incorporated into its tower, it was a funny, hectic but gladdening reminder of the unique character of this part of the world.
And that was before you got to the Industrial Revolution, which saw Tyneside become a powerhouse of invention, and despite all the knock-backs of the last few decades, it goes on being innovative and productive, and endlessly characterful and beautiful in so many places.
It has a fine ambassador in John.
But of course the so-called queen’s face was also a dirty one for a long time, so here’s a smashing picture of the coaly Tyne from Kevin Blair, date unknown, but taken from Leith Wharf at Newcastle Quayside.