Thursday, 9 March 2017

A midweek special (Durham) March 7th
  There is a coast to coast cycle track across northern England, west to east or vice versa. Dave and I decided to walk part of it, from Birtley south of Newcastle to Sunderland at the mouth of the Wear. Although much of the way is in an industrial area, some stretches are through woodland and we left the cycle track to walk footpaths occasionally. You could walk it without a map but the one to use is OS Explorer 308, Durham and Sunderland.
We caught a bus (number 21 from Eldon Square bus station, a frequent service) and got off at the Wheatsheaf Inn south of Birtley, climbed up to to the dismantled railway, now part of the C2C cycle way and headed East.
Start here, the Wheatsheaf, up the steps to the C2C

                                      and follow route 7 to Sunderland

The first few miles along the track are wooded but beyond the curtain of trees there are factories, including a Rolls Royce plant and a ASDA warehouse.
                                   Bat boxes near the factory!
The route crosses the A1M motorway and another major road before heading down to the river bank. Considering its industrial past the water is fairly clean and we saw plenty of ducks. We stopped at Cox Green, crossed the footbridge and sat on steps in the warm spring sunshine for a Herbie Spot, chatted to some locals and generally enjoyed the morning.

                 Lunch spot, Cox Green.
Back on the north bank we continued heading east on what is now the Great North Forest trail as well as the C2C. Leaving the riverside we climbed up the bank and walked round the Washington Wetlands Trust site. A great place for watching birds, including flamingos, Avocets, woodland birds and some otters, but today is a walk to Sunderland so we pushed on.
Leaving thC2C we took footpaths across country to Manor House Farm where we rejoined the cycle way, went under the A19 major road and back down to the riverside on the River Wear Trail, having first admired the art work on the side of the Shipwright pub;

               The locals who have been remembered on their local.
Just beyond this fascinating pub we found a footpath along the river but at one point the path climbed back up to the road to avoid a wide tributary to the Wear.
A new crossing is being built across the river Wear and the associated roadworks make it difficult for walkers to follow a path and even more difficult for cyclists as some of the track has been rerouted or closed.

               The new Wear crossing under construction, due to open in 2018
Having wandered round an industrial estate for some time we eventually found a path down to the riverside walk. For industrial archaeologists this section of the walk is fascinating as it passes Lime Kilns and an amazing piece of brickwork which was once part of a system for loading coal from the Wearmouth mine. The Sunderland City Council have added plaques into the walls of the kilns and on the ground giving details of the mine, the fossils found there and quoting Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia who thought the mine was the " mouth to hell and only a madman would enter"
               Lime Kilns with the Stadium of Light, home of Sunderland AFC in the background. The football ground is built on the site of the colliery
                      Memorial to the mine
                 Coal loading construction, the brickwork is superb, shame about the graffiti
Once past the football ground we walked away from the river to St. Peter's Metro Station and took a train back to Newcastle.
                      St Peter's metro station.
This is a really enjoyable walk with lots of interest. This is an incomplete list of the birds we spotted:
dunnock, blue tit, long tailed tit, black cap, robin, teal, mallard, cormorant, heron, goldcrest, redshank, wren, goosander, songthrush, blackbird, blackheaded gulls, herring gulls, bullfinches and two grey squirrels. The following art gallery is well worth a look, but first of course;

Matrix MMXVII   J
                                                             steps                                  miles
NAK                                                   32033                                  13.14    generous
Dave's 3D                                           24921                                  12.21
  ""    USB                                          23982                                   12.11
  ""   NAK                                           23811                                   12.02
iPhone                                                 26313                                   11.8
Contains OS data, copyright. Crown copyright and database right 2017
And it's not as hilly as it looks, the left hand scale reaches 164 feet approximately 50metres for foreigners