It was a Sunday, it was tempestuous weather at times and it was an open and random plan that we had with no idea how long or how far we would walk. Ten mighty brave souls pitched up outside the Westgate Hotel and at 11.15am we followed Marega Palser towards an unknown destination located with in the city.
Marega had given us small stick-on eyes and told us that we should stick them on anything that caught our eye. I have to say that the first half mile took a long time as we all stopped constantly to gaze, comment and apply our eyes to the changing landscape behind Newport market and then down into the underpass. This was going to be a long day I thought to myself and I was not wrong. However the opportunity to stroll, reminisce and discover was really enjoyable and the company was excellent. Marega led us in silent single file to the old abandoned Sainsburys store near the river where we climbed through a hole in the fence to enter what felt like ‘the zone’ from Tarkovsky’s film Stalker. We were given Chinese paper flags to distribute around the vast, overgrown and erie space and we all wandered off to complete the task with a sense of solemnity. It was a wonderful start and impossible to describe beyond these words but the walk had a sense of unspoken purpose.
We set off and I led the group up the river to the park sharing tales of the riverbank. We were occupied by the pigeons for a moment and then found blackberries in abundance. We followed the road back towards the centre and through an underpass that offered shelter when the clouds broke abruptly causing a minor flood. We discovered an almost perfect theatre space beneath the roads and pondered midnight walk ideas before the rain eased enough to move on. Via the subway underneath the railway we climbed stow hill and then rounded the Cathedral before entering Bellevue park. I complained about the lack of facilities in this fine park only to discover the cafe was open so had to eat my words with a toasted sandwich. The views of the bridges were delightful, framed by the trees and the sky shifted from blue to dark grey to blue again before we headed off following our next guide.
Stephanie took us down Vicarage Hill after setting us a brain teaser based on the Chartist March of 1839. The hill offers spectacular views of Pill and the Transporter bridge and a short cut to the new square on Commercial Street. It was on this iconic straight road that we marveled at some fine regeneration schemes, got creative around burnt out buildings and ate kulfi ice cream lollipops from Clares. We stretched ourselves into the shape of the letters of the city in a Tai Chi style exercise and then headed on to the old foundry.
Jo decided the best way into the site was through another hole in the fence despite some very open access on the other side. We strolled around this wreck of place fascinated by its scars and debris and rejoined the newly finished path and cycle route that leads back up the river towards our starting point.
This is the first walk-shop organised by the members of Newport International Airspace but I am sure it will not be the last despite the 6 hour duration. It was not all walking, there was a lot of chat, observation and inspiration and an hour sat in the Pavilion cafe but it was most definitely a creative journey and one we are all interested in developing. We have since met another group who do something similar and we are interested in finding people who would like to lead a walk and share something about the city. This activity was supported by NTW TEAM and we are grateful for the support and the wisdom in encouraging these type of events.
So until the next time…