Sunday, 18 December 2011

To the lighthouse....(or a walk with a Wetherspoons) December 16th

is a novel by Virginia Woolf. Virginia married Leonard Woolf, wrote some novels and had an affair with Vita Sackville-West. But they were members of the Bloomsbury group of intellectuals so that was alright. (Only To the Lighthouse, I don't think she wrote about Wetherspoons)

  This walk is a rural/urban/coastal stroll, ideal for a winter's day when daylight and time are limited. Six of us gadgies met at the routemeister's house in Killingworth (OS Explorer Map 316 GR 281716) A warm welcome was extended to Herbie, who has not been seen for several weeks, some of us exchanged Christmas cards and off we went, turning right out of the routemeister's front garden gate and following a path to Hillheads Garden Centre, egg and potao supplier.
  If you do this walk it would not be right to go through the routemeister's garden of course. Instead leave your car in Morrison's supermarket carpark, nip in for one of their excellent Jumbo Cornish Pasties, leave the carpark, turn right, walk past the primary school, straight across the roundabout and down the steps by the underpass and you are on the path.
 At Hillheads turn right on the dismantled railway line, now a country walk and  after about a mile, turn left on the road, cross the A19 dual carriageway and shortly afterwards turn right into Backworth, retired pit village and quite pretty. In the centre of the village bear left and cross a single track railway and walk to the next corner. Normally we turn right at the cattery and  cross fields to Earsdon *but there was a minor rebellion today, mainly by the punmeister, and we turned left, following a marked footpath towards Holywell.                                                                              Most gadgies like the John Wayne film The Searchers, indeed  an ideal night in has often been declared as The Searchers and The Vikings on DVD, accompanied by a few beers. I was explaining to Brian that a Cree  Native American I had once talked to in Canada told me that he did not understand the word "fortnight", he thought I was saying "four nights", as NA's often do in Westerns, along with "three moons" and naming their children after the first thing mother sees, like "Running Deer," ;the old jokes are the best.**
The punmeister explained that Canadians do not use the word fortnight, they prefer something stronger, a fortnight being two weak.
 Back to the walk; go through the village, passing The Olde Fat Ox on the right and the Milbourne Arms on the left, do not take the road to Earsdon but continue through a small housing estate. Turn left at the end and find in a corner of a cul de sac a small notice pointing towards Holywell Pond Nature Reserve. Take it. There is a hide in the reserve which not only allows you to watch the birds on the water but also makes a good Herbiespot. It being Christmas, mince pies were on offer as a change from the traditional pork pies.. There was little activity on the pond, moorhens, gulls, a few magpies on the edges, but little else. After lunch and one of the funniest jokes** I have heard for a long time we continued on our way, turning right at the end of the field  and after a while entering Holywell Dene.
 The Dene is a pleasant stroll in itself, good for finches, an occasional kingfisher and other small birds. I paused at the footbridge for a moment,some years ago myself and three others scattered a friends ashes at this spot, they will be far out at sea now.
  More trouble in the ranks: normally we walk the length of the dene into Seaton Sluice but today we walked out of the dene onto the B1325 and arrived at the Delaval Arms roundabout.
  Seaton Sluice is an interesting little village, the first sluice was built in the 17th century by Sir Ralph Delaval to make use of river and tide to scour the small harbour used for the loading of coal and salt. The harbour eventually proved inadequate and Sir John Hussey Delaval had a channel cut through the headland, installed locks and thus had a small wet dock 900feet (275m) long. Exports now included glassware, but a mining accident (see below) in 1862 put an end to coal shipments and some years after that the dock fell into disuse
 From the Delaval Arms the walk continues along the cliff top to St. Mary's Island, Lighthouse and Nature Reserve.

St. Mary's Lighthouse, cafe and birdwatching place.

 Continue along the promenade from the lighthouse.  It was a good day for bird spotting: redshanks, ringed plovers, oystercatchers, dunlins, curlews and lapwings.
Keep going across the links, past the white domed Spanish City and head into town. The old fire station is now a pub, one of the Wetherspoons chain, selling not only beer but also good food at relatively low prices. The vogelmeister and I opted for fish and chips and mushy peas for £3.99 ($6.20, $4.75 Euros and approximately 200 Roubles)
And beer at £2.30 a pint. Metro to Newcastle, bus home. A true gadgie walk of approximately 9.5 miles. Enough on a cold day with sleet and rain, and more interesting than it sounds.
* St. Alban's Church in Earsdon. A Chapel was built here in 1250, added too  and replaced in 1836 with the present building.  In the churchyard is a memorial to the victims of the 1862 Hester Pit disaster at nearby Hartley village. A cast iron arm on the pumping machine broke and crashed down the single shaft. The miners below ground were trapped and died of suffocation before any help arrived. In total 204 men and boys
were killed, some as young as ten years old. Following the accident, following lobbying from miners, the government passed legislation requiring all mines to have two shafts.  Hester pit was closed, although some years later another pit broke into the area, finding equipment just as it had been left in 1862.

The memorial to the victims of the Hester Pit Disaster in St. Alban's Church Earsdon.
Quite rightly local schools bring children here as part of their history studies.
The names and ages of all the victims are engraved on the memorial.

** Jokes will be sent upon receipt of a stamped addressed envelope and a donation to the Gadgie Benevolent Society. (Treasurer me)