Let rip

My idea of heaven, at 16, was to tear around the sandhills near home on my mate’s Suzuki 125 trail bike. No helmets, no responsibilities, no brains. It’s the kind of behaviour that, if it were carried out by Modern Youth, would irk the hell out of my curmudgeonly middle-aged self. Especially when I remind myself that those sandhills we bombed around were later listed by the European Union as Sites of Special Scientific Interest as they’re home to one of the UK”s last colonies of natterjack toads.

But young men do have the urge to place themselves in danger of some sort, particularly on high-powered machines. If I were growing up in Newcastle, where would I vent this urge? The answer, apparently, is Styx Creek.

I’d been seeing motorcycle tracks in the mud for a few days but hadn’t seen the creator. Then, coming back from the gasworks, I heard a distant drone and immediately thought of John Connor being chased down the LA River by the T800. And then, as if by magic, these two scallies came bombing past me, one on two wheels, one on four, one with ski goggles, one with a mud-spattered face and a grin from ear to ear. Kids letting rip.

I caught up with them by the railway bridge, chucking donuts and generally getting filthy, burning fossil fuels, making noise and annoying the neighbours. It looked like great fun.

And there were no neighbours. So, in a sense, they were being incredibly considerate. Would it be better to do this around the streets of Georgetown or New Lambton?

The creek does attract people who want to push the boundaries. When I come across kids trying to spray tags on coal trucks, breaking into the gasworks or bogging their quad in the beck, the middle-aged curmudgeon in me surfaces. I also feel a duty of care. They’re not going to go home cowed by a lecture from me but I can’t not say, at the very least, “Guys! Please be careful”.

But another part of me remembers that idiot former self letting rip in the European Union’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest sandhills near my home.

If not here, then where?

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