This microadventure could more aptly be described as a nanoadventure really. It involved my first, modest attempt at creating a short route, rather than following somebody elses route from a book or website. My short tick-list stipulated that it must be local, accessible by public transport and interesting, preferably involving some places I hadn’t been before. The final result is also on YouTube and ViewRanger now if you would like to give it a go.
For me a great walk should always involve a good beginning and a good finish, rather than just going from Place A to Place B. I opted for going from St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay to North Shields Fish Quay, both notable landmarks on the north east coast which I had never been to before. The distance of my short but varied walk was roughly 5 miles, with plenty to see and do plus some decent cafes and bars – both worthwhile features to incorporate into my walk I decided.
Traces of history and heritage are everywhere along this stretch of the coast. Tynemouth Castle is located on a rocky promontory overlooking Tynemouth Pier. Apparently the moated towers, gatehouse and keep are combined with the ruins of the Benedictine priory where early kings of Northumbria were buried.
Whitley Bay and Tynemouth were formerly popular resorts in the age before international travel became available to ordinary people. Now the fascinating relics of that time have been left to dissolve slowly back into the landscape. There are old paddling pools and swimming pools gradually filling with sand and mud, rotting beach huts and corroded iron railing lining the empty esplanades. Whitley Bay would almost qualify as an English ghost town.
I tried to keep away from the roadside development and to stay on the beach and the esplanades, which give a much greater insight into the history of the area. Although the esplanades themselves have faded, I noticed that rock pooling has replaced donkey rides and candy floss sellers along the coastline since I was a child.
I carried on past Tynemouth Castle for the first time, and around the corner into the mouth of the River Tyne. This is the main artery of the city in which I was born, but I had actually never visited the mouth of the river.
Here the atmosphere imperceptibly changes from faded seaside resort, via a short wooded section, into the modern day hustle and bustle of a busy river, with ferries plying to and fro, a lifeboat station poised for action, fish processing plants, smokehouses and dock buildings gradually increasing in density towards North Shields Fish Quay a mile or so inland.
On this short walk through an area which I have taken completely for granted because it is local, I learned a lot about the economic and social past of the area in which I grew up. I also mixed happily with the distant ghosts of childhood trips to the seaside which littered parts of this route for me.