This microadventure could more aptly be described as a nanoadventure really. It involved a modest attempt at creating a short route, rather than following somebody else’s 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 / Outdooractive 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 hadn’t 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 a walk.
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 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, rotting beach huts and corroded iron railing lining the empty esplanades. At the time of writing, 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 they have faded, I noticed that rock pooling has replaced the rides and candy floss sellers along the coast when I was young.
I carried on past Tynemouth Castle and around the corner into the River Tyne. This is the main artery of the city, but I had actually never visited the mouth of the river.
Here the atmosphere imperceptibly changes from faded seaside resort to 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, I learned a lot about the economic and social past of this area. I also mixed with the ghosts of childhood trips to the seaside which littered parts of this route for me.