It was time to begin… A glorious walk along one of the best stretches you can walk of the British Coast. From the River Tyne at South Shields all the way down to the River Tees at Hartlepool. I was going to spend 4 great days to take it all in properly, and I was damn well going to enjoy every single mile!
The start point? By the Tyne and at Customs House. Now a theatre/cinema this listed building was once a customs post built in the 1860s for what was once a huge shipping industry. It was time to head south and along the coast.
Never a case of ‘just’ walking, I am always interested in seeing and finding out about places of interest along the way. It wasn’t far at all before the first stop. The North East Maritime Trust. This stretch of coast as immense history and plenty by sea too. These guys know all there is to know and tirelessly help to make sure that history is not lost. Informing the public and the maintaining/restoration of historic vessels.
Only a little further on I could see the coast proper appearing. The dunes and sand at Littlehaven Beach. But wait! What are these figures I need to pass through? Rather quirky.
The artwork is called ‘Conversation Piece’ by a Spanish sculptor called Juan Munoz. Each of the 22 figures is 1 and a half metres high. I soon realised that locally they are affectionally known as ‘The weebles’.
I wandered past the busy local funfair and it was back into wilder open coast. The blue skies trying to poke through. Looking back to South Shields it was surprising to see how quiet the wide open sandy beach was considering how refreshing it was and how perfect it was for walking.
It was here that I came upon Trow Rocks. A great raised headland for not only looking back but also looking onward and out overthe sea. I wasn’t the only thing looking out to see. In 1887 a pioneering in it’s day ‘disappearing gun’ was placed. It could be raised and lowered into it’s concrete base. Today you can freely see this replica that was placed here a hundred years later in 1987.
And looking onward? More impressive coastal path to follow and new treats in store.
Amongst the rocks and along the clifftops. The variety so far had been wonderful, yes, I was going to enjoy every mile of this.
Suddenly, a new beach, and, what is that? What is that building down on the beach carved into the bottom of the cliff? A Pub?
Yes, a cave bar! Marsden Grotto. How unique! History says a man named Jack Bates (Jack the Blaster) and his wife were homeless in 1782, so blasted a home out of the cliff using explosives. Making the zigzag steps down from the clifftops for access. They then started selling refreshments to visitors, because naturally a home like that attracted people for sure.
Since then through the last centuries it passed through various hands, pub landlords and breweries and fell into disrepair a few times along the way. It is now a pub/restaurant in full glory and a rare specimen of a cave bar. Stepping inside to get a great ambience with the front buildings/bar leading through inside the caves where can sit/eat in a surreal setting.
Outside seating is wonderful too, a great spot for my coffee break. The sun was out a while and there where hundreds of sea birds massed on the rock opposite the pub.
Alas, time to do some more miles, let’s go! Next stop along the coast? Lunch at Souter Lighthouse.
Run by the National Trust, Souter Lighthouse is not just a great venue for lunch of course. This is the first lighthouse in the world that was purpose built to be ran on electricity in 1871. You can take a trail along the cliffs from here or you can learn about the history or the immense variety of wildlife in the area. Great for kids who wish to learn in their day trips.
Lighthouses seemed to be order of the day as I got closer the Sunderland from where I started. The next pause was the White Lighthouse of Seaburn.
From here the coastal path takes you down into Sunderland, but first you must pass by Roker and the view of the lighthouse at the end of Roker pier is fabulous. As you get closer closer the view of it changes and changes. The pier arches out to sea in such a way to make it a wonderful spectacle.
Roker Pier and Lighthouse was built between 1885 and 1903 and is an impressive, iconic landmark of the Sunderland area. From a time when the City of Sunderland was a huge important Port… never forgotten.
That was only day one! Great miles done, many things seen and learnt. In the next post it will be time to head south out of Sunderland and for many more wonderful coastal miles walking. And onto the Durham Heritage Coast