Saturday, 28 February 2015

Walking Backwards to Seaham.... Feb 27th
 We first did this walk in August  2014, striding out from Seaham to Crimdon along the Durham Coastal Path. This time we are doing it in reverse, driving to Seaham, catching the bus  (Arriva 23) to Crimdon and wandering back up the coast. The path is well marked and has information boards along the way. A map is not really necessary but should you wish to take one OS Explorer 308 Durham and Sunderland covers nearly every step. Seven gadgies out today, all armed with bus passes; Dave, Harry, Brian, Ray, John C, Ben and me.
Seaham is an interesting place, it has an old church, St. Mary's, which has origins in the late 7th or early 8th century. Seaham Hall's claim to fame is as the venue of Lord Byron's marriage to Anne Milbanke in 1815. Their daughter Ada Lovelace is often considered the first computer programmer as she worked on Charles Babbage's Analytic Engine, a mechanical calculator. The harbour at Seaham was built to export the coal from Lord Londonderry's Durham mines. There are several mines along the walk, not much to see but much to read about.
The walk;
From the seafront carpark at Seaham Hall, next to Tonia's Cafe, which some of us visited for morning tea, we walked up Lord Byron's Walk, past the back end of the hall, to the A1068 where we caught the bus. This makes it a semi proper gadgie walk of course, using the bus pass. We alighted at the Seagull Hotel just before the caravan park at Crimdon. This pub is easily recognised, it is closed, like too many English pubs, and the windows are boarded up.
We walked a few yards back in the direction we had come before turning right under a railway bridge and joining the Durham Coastal Path/England Coastal Path. Turn left, keep the sea on your right and after about 12 miles you are back at the car park. Simple.
Except it isn't quite so simple.The Durham coast in this area is different from the sandy dunes and beaches we often walk in Northumberland. The walk here is along cliff tops, about 150 feet high in places. The cliffs are composed of Magnesian Limestone but are cut by a number of denes or gills which have to be walked round or crossed by steep stepped paths. Until the 1980's there were several coal mines along this stretch of coast. The mines have gone, the waste which was dumped on the beach has been removed and the area is slowly but surely returning to nature.
       Looking north at the start of the walk. At the top centre it is just possible to make out Sunderland 
                                                 Blue House Gill, we walked inland round this one.
Close to this dene was Blackhall Colliery, sunk in 1909. In 1981 the site was reclaimed and landscaped, plants have returned, the area is grassed and newly dug ponds have encouraged wildlife.
The next dene, Castle Eden Dene, is quite wide and we descended the path to sea level and after a mere 3.5 miles called  a Herbie Spot.* There is a fine railway viaduct across the dene, one of several on the walk. Apart from sandwiches and coffee today's feast consisted of individual bramley apple pies, ginger biscuits, almond slices and some of Mrs A's cake, delicious as usual but I'm sorry Margaret, i have forgotten the flavour of this week's offering, Alzeimers perhaps.
                        The viaduct across the Castle Eden Dene.
Once covered with colliery waste this area too has reverted to saltmarsh and is home to several species of butterfly, the Durham Argus in particular.
                                                 One of the information boards on the walk
The next dene, Blackhills Gill is another "walk round" Horden Colliery was once nearby. The gill  is now re grassed and has been planted with wild flowers. The next but one gill, Warren House Gill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest as it has Scandinavian rocks laid down by ice sheets hundreds of thousands of years ago. No wonder Dave, wearing his geologist hat likes this walk.
Continuing on our way we walked inland to go round the deep Foxholes Dene. On the north side we came across works of art.
                                                          Tern, tern, tern. A Byrd
The butterfly wing on the left say "Sanderling Seeking, Butterflies Spreading" and the other  says
    "A wind that carries memories of coal".
                                  A beautifully decorated bench near Easington
The nearby Easington Colliery was one of the last to close. Its workings spread 5 miles under the sea.
Next spot of interest on the walk is Beacon Hill, it is thought the beacon may have been there in Roman times, it is now a National Trust property. From this point the footpath goes alongside the railway line but at Hawthorn Dene walkers have the choice of taking paths on the east or west side of the track. We went west, as all young men should, through the dene which has a magnificent brick viaduct, a variety of deciduous trees  and plants. There are also' nearby, the remains of the private station platform belonging to the Pemberton family  who lived at nearby Hawthorn Towers.
                                          Hawthorn Dene and viaduct.

  Just a few of the thousands of "February Fairmaids" in the dene.
Beyond the dene the path follows the railway again and walkers are separated from the track by the ugliest fence in creation, almost.
                     Living creature proof fence and eyesore. 
                                         Stack near Hawthorn Dene

  North of Hawthorn we passed the site of Dawdon Colliery. The beach below is called Blast Beach, possibly because there had been a blast furnace at nearby Nose's Point, or possibly because it was used as a dump for ballast. In the 19th century there were ironworks and glassworks in the area, chemical factories too.
                                      Nose's Point information Board.
Approaching the town of Seaham we passed the Harbour, created by the third Marquess of Londonderry who hoped to create an industrial empire in the area, based on his coal mines.John Dobson drew some plans for a township but little of it was ever built, although the harbour was a success.
                                                    Seaham Harbour

The rest of the walk is through the main street of the town which has several works of art to celebrate its past.
                                  Sailing and mining, Seaham art

                                    Seaham once had three pits
Once through the town we hit the last leg of our walk and soon made the car park.
                                     St. Mary's Church, late 7th or early 8th century.
                                             The best car park art ever.
                                   Where Byron married, Seaham Hall, from the back

                                                                  Car Park with sea view (frre too!)
                                                     Self explanatory
The walk over we headed north through the Tyne Tunnel to the Cannon Inn in Earsdon which had several beers on offer including two from Cross Bay Brewery, based in Morecambe, Northumbrian Blonde and Jack the Devil. The blonde was very tasty

The Matrix   MMXV I

                                                                 steps                 miles
LIDL3D                                                      28756               12.97
HiGear                                                        19804                8.99
Dave's LIDLUSB                                        25366               13.61
Dave's 3D                                                    25700               13.87
John C                                                                                   12.63
Brian                                                                                     12.2
Ben                                                                                        12.6
Hi gear need talking to.

* I have been asked to explain why lunch is at a Herbie Spot.
 Harry and I started the Friday walks some years ago as we had both retired. As others found the escape tunnel they joined us. One, called Herbie, is a skinny man with an amazing metabolic rate and a huge appetite. He carried several boxes of provisions on a walk and frequently stopped for a snack. Unfortunately Herbie can no longer walk with us, so a lunch break is called a Herbie Spot.

Contains OS Data Copyright. Crown Copyright and Database right 2015
Some photos from Harry, engineer and photographer par excellence

                                           Lunchtime for the gadgie team. Human interest for K from G