A stroll round an angel's new home

As the crowds begin to die down, now is the time for a bracing hike around the 'gateshead flasher'.
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The Independent Travel
AFTER THE hype of the grand unveiling just a fortnight ago, the Angel of the North is settling into its new home overlooking south Tyneside and County Durham. The other day it was having a makeover. One wing was being given acupuncture by a man with a hammer, and its right armpit was being tickled by a welder.

A strong north wind was blowing the sparks towards a crowd that had gathered at the Angel's feet to pay homage. There has been a constant stream of sightseers since it went up. The school group I stood near thought it was fun, even if it did look like a plane crash, but the elderly party on a day trip from the Tynemouth Village Day Centre did not look that impressed. I suppose in four score years or more they have seen more than enough "unique" statues erected to fanfares of artistic bravado only to disappear into the landscape and be superseded by something else.

A seagull hovered over its head taking a good look at this new winged creature, but eventually flew off in disgust. "It'll never fly," the gull was thinking.

Whatever people's views on the Angel - it has been described as anything from a 3D gents toilet sign with glider wings to a widescreen satellite dish - its home in Gateshead is the perfect location. It is a symbol of resistance to the elements, just like the scores of lads who insist on strutting through the town on Saturday nights in their T-shirts, even in mid winter when the temperature is below freezing. The Angel is no soft southern statue. It is as hard as nails.

It looks remarkably different depending on what angle you view it from and you can get a host of views by comple- ting a circular, 3-mile walk around it.

Start opposite the structure in a lay-by on the southbound carriageway of the A6127, just beyond the tower blocks of Gateshead and before the roundabout with the A1. If you are on public transport, a 722, 723 or 724 bus from Newcastle city centre's Eldon Square bus terminal will drop you there in 15 minutes (pounds 1.70 return). You can't miss the lay-by - it's the one full of people taking photographs. But do take a map - the footpath signs on the walk are not reliable and the web of busy roads that criss- cross the route tests the walker's patience.

From the lay-by backtrack towards Gateshead about 100 yards and follow a path through the fence and up on to some sloping, rough ground. There join a cycle path heading south with the Angel on your right. It looks quite short from this elevated position.

Follow the cinder path round to the left and turn right down a track and past the car park of the Angel View Inn (some people never miss a trick). Continue past the back of Eighton Lodge Nursing Home and over the B1296 following footpath signs while they last.

This will lead to an abandoned asphalt road onto which you turn right and walk for just a few yards before turning left over a stile and heading up a hedgerow. The footpath skirts a big field from where the Angel looks smaller still, taking you across its top hedge and down its southern perimeter along the route of a dismantled railway, now another cycle path.

Follow this path west for about a mile under a couple of spooky underpasses beneath the A1, A6172 and the East Coast Main Line and across the River Tearn until you reach Greenford Lane. If you have more time and are feeling fit, carry on from here along the cycle route and join the Kibblesworth sculpture trail, a short circular route marked by natural sculptures.

If you don't fancy any extra mileage, take Greenford Lane north, running parallel to the Tearn and the Tyne Marshalling Yards, to the hamlet of Lamesley. Our beloved Angel is out of view for some of this stretch but when you can see it, even though you are further away than before, it looks deceptively taller.

From Lamesley it is back by road over the marshalling yard tracks and A1 again and then rejoin the first cycle path which you can take back to the lay-by. For yet another angle on the statue, visit the Angel View Inn where a pint or two of Theakstons bitter will no doubt make it come to life and start tap-dancing on its stone pedestal.

How to get there: By train to Newcastle and bus (no 722, 723 or 724 to Darlington or Durham). By car via A6127.

How to navigate: Use Ordnance Survey Pathfinder 562 (Washington and Chester- le-Street).

More information: Gateshead Tourist Office on 0191 477 3339.

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