October 6, 2012
The Rocksavage power plant can be seen from the M56. I am on the way to Runcorn Bridge, destination Warrington. So many heavy industrial sites and districts, rural shapes and reflections can only really be seen whilst moving past or through them on a train or from the road. Rocksavage doesn’t seem to be exerting much energy of its own. Some vapours indicate that it is switched on but there is a mechanical stillness; an outward absence of human interaction and presence. A bar of uncultured (uncultivated?) low growing contour free wildland between the motorway and the power plant works serves well, even if unintended for the purpose, as a natural security screen from curious pedestrian rambles. A dozen or so seagulls seem to have been alerted to something. No trees or any raised vantage points of significance. I like this landscape. I want to know what it sounds like. Glimpse of the Weaver and river banks, a rowing club pavilion. Maybe one day, we’ll stop the car and get out.
The Weston Point Expressway is the carriageway for traffic between Runcorn and the M56. The Expressway is flanked by an informal colonnade of trees. It is a steady business like road with no traffic lights. The contours and functionally mangled structure of Rocksavage works can be glimpsed through gaps. There is a football pitch prominently situated adjacent to the towers and pipes. It looks decent and properly marked out. Road traffic signs along here are for destinations with names like Catalyst that the colour stratification coding, the brown in this instance, distinguishes as a place of interest.
We approach the Runcorn Bridge and the town. A different ownership to this section of road, the view, the language, the architecture. The Expressway route manoeuvres obtusely as we near the Ship Canal; it is disorientating, to get a glimpse of the tall undulating metal bridge not very far away but we are not driving towards it. A few buildings can be seen adjacent to the road; they are stone and brick, nineteenth century built warehouses. They may have had the same business and employment ethos as the Rocksavage chemical works. They don’t seem accessible from the Expressway. Road traffic signs are less evocative, less emblematic and point to places and the distance in miles. As we rise from the sliproad and the bridge is straight ahead it is time to engage with other drivers. I find most doorways and entrances to interesting buildings are blotched by something that you really don’t want in the viewfinder. A billboard at the gateway to the bridge (what do engineers and geographers call this?) has a photograph of a young girl wearing a luminescent tabard and a safety lid. “Please drive carefully my Daddy works here” she is quoted. I keep an eye out for the Daddy just in case he is about like a Troll. I don’t know if pedestrians are able to cross here. The people I see are in cars and vans. Some domestic rooftops down there. We cross the river.
Lot of traffic signs. Chevrons. Roundabouts and increased lane size. Traffic lights and phasing. Not many non-corporate advertising signs. No handmade, homemade or handwritten signs or notices. Diminished pavement. No litter. No overgrown garden, itinerant Buddleia or quirky front yard domesticity. Everyone is in a car or walking across a retail carpark. The carparks are edged by evergreen and hardy shrubs, that modestly thrive in gravel and bark mulch. This is the Zen landscape. Greys and muted blends.
Langley Mere is a commercial site. The grounds are near woodland. The sign at the entrance to a drive is illuminated and the soft elegant font could be used by a hotel. Widnes Waterfront is a retail park. The Trigger Pond 2 for 1 pub. A highway sign for Warrington: “home of the Warrington Wolves”. A brown heritage signpost: “World of glass”. Prominent directions to a medical centre, a leisure centre. A bus to M/S. Boulevards. What is a park? Winwick Quay. The Heath BusinessPark. Falconers Green.
We arrive at Falconers Green, a suburban housing estate with garages and short cul de sacs and a tidy green with some well established old trees. The crescent roads and ways offset monotonous lines. Children are playing on bikes and scooters in front of the house. My twin nieces and nephew want to go to Blackberry Hill. They take the BMX looking bikes and I borrow a camera and we set off up the road. Their only instruction is that they wait for me before crossing the road. I don’t know if Blackberry Hill is the name the children and mums have decided to call it as there is no signpost. It is not a hill but is set apart from the tarmac and houses. There are blackberries though and we pick some. It’s a small woodland area with muddy paths. There are brambles, birch and a pond. The pond has a film of green algae and looks like a good undisturbed habitat for frogs and insects. We walk out of the woods and take some photos on the steel pedestrian bridge that crosses a busy carriageway. We don’t cross to the other side. The children point to an unseen place called Toptown they say is near, I don’t know if this is a real name place. I stamp on the bridge and enjoy the ringing noise. Trees to climb on the journey home. A few cars and people pass us. When we get back to the house I sit in the car on the drive as I like to write undisturbed whilst things are fresh in my memory. The children rap on the window and tell me to hurry up. They know a little about how the pedals and indicator stalks work. I go and wash my hands. The bathroom is a friendly maelstrom of toy dolls in various stages of dismemberment and watery entropy.
Travelling back through Warrington, Widnes, Runcorn. I don’t know where all the drivers and passengers live. There is a lot of activity on the roads, and there is a lot of roadway. Sometimes you can estimate, though not assume where people might live, when you see them as pedestrians. Clothes, appearance, voice. Back on the M56 and pass under non-euphemistic signs for the oil terminals. On the way through what I think was part of Widnes I saw a banner on a low warehouse behind an industrial fence: Namasto Interiors. It reminded me of the Sanskrit and Yogic word “namaste”, exchanged as a mindful and graceful salutation between people.