28 October 2014

The Lady of the North

Northumberlandia, otherwise known, by those familiar with Viz, as the Fat Slag, is an immense land sculpture near Cramlington, north of Newcastle. 1,300 feet long and 112 feet high, the Lady is formed of 1.6 million tons of clay, soil and rock.

All of this came out of the adjoining Shotton open-cast coal mine, the operators of which, the Banks Group, engaged architect and artist Charles Jencks to design something more attractive than the usual levelled slag heaps and water-filled pits.

The Lady is laid out on land owned by the Blagdon Estate, which has been surface mined since 1943. Work began in 2010 and was completed in 2012. Once the slag had been formed it/she was sprayed with seed. There are stone-built viewing platforms upon the forehead and breasts, and at the hip, knee and ankle.

Waste is inherent in mining, and one might as well have a land-form that distantly echoes the tradition of the Long Man of Wilmington and the White Horse of Uffington as another fake hill. At £3 million, it probably also cost the Banks Group and Blagdon Estate less than other forms of landscape restoration.

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