CARRYING coals to Newcastle may be a pointless exercise.

But for artist Harald den Breejen, carrying a sack of black gold to the North-East proved a fascinating and enriching experience.

The 30-year-old, who had passers-by bemused as he carried a 10kg sack of coal through the region, said: “I have met some fascinating people along the way and learned a lot about the history of coal mining in the region.”

The Dutch artist, who is studying philosophy at King’s College London, walked from Cockfield, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, to the North East Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineering (NEIMME) in Newcastle. He presented the coal to institute trustee Dr Eric Wade yesterday (Wednesday, May 7).

Mr den Breejen said : “I have lost track of where it all started.

“I suppose it began when I was musing about the big question as to whether there is any point to art. People are always asking that question.

“Then I started thinking about the saying 'carrying coals to Newcastle' and thought I would find out whether it was possible for anything to be completely pointless.

“The answer to the question, having walked for two days with a bag of coal to Newcastle, is that there is nothing that is pointless.

“I have been doing the most pointless thing that you could literally do, but I have met really incredible people and learned really interesting things about mining in the region.

“I also learned about the value of coal - how it intertwines with, not only popular culture, but also with politics and religion.”

Mr den Breejen said he felt Cockfield was an appropriate place to begin as it is one of the oldest coal mining areas in the region.

He said: “I was hoping to see if there were any remains of the mines there, but it surprises me how little there is left.”

Along the way, Mr den Breejen “stumbled on” the Durham Mining Museum in Spennymoor and stayed overnight in the Queen’s Head, in Gilesgate, Durham City.

NEIMME librarian Jenny Hillyard said: “Mr den Breejen contacted us and said the mining institute would be the perfect point of arrival

“It is an unusual project and one that we were happy to be involved with it.”

Mr den Breejen, who has asked people to photograph him along the way, said he may one day stage an exhibition about his trek.