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The sun was already rising over Tamworth on what promised to be a lovely day as I waited to board the 0646 train to Newcastle. Having thought about my activities during the winter close season, I had decided that I would retire the bike as far as possible and continue my journey around the coast of England on foot. So, instead of a 20 mile ride from Seaham to South Shields, this trip became a 10 mile walk from Seaham to the north of Sunderland at Fulwell.
The train arrived at 0646, as scheduled, and I was quickly on my way north via Chesterfield, Doncaster and York, arriving a fraction late into Newcastle at 0955. No matter, I had half an hour to wait for my connection, so I enjoyed a sandwich on the draughty platform before joining the 1030 train to Seaham via Sunderland. On arrival at 1058, the day was fine and cool, so I walked briskly to the seafront and turned left along the promenade. The white high-rise buildings of Sunderland were in the background, while a number of people were exploring the rock pools exposed by the tide below the shingle beach.
The promenade come to an abrupt end and I had to climb the low cliffs near to Seaham Hall and continue along the cliff-top track through rough grassland, with occasional detours around steep valleys cut by local streams. Higher up on the cliff, the wind became much more noticable and slowed my progress to some extent. I passed a number of interesting coastal rock formations including the romantically named "Pincushion".
At Ryhope (3.5 miles - 1215) I passed a railway bridge with the inscription LS&SR. Later research revealed this as the Londonderry, Seaham and Sunderland Railway! Soon, I was closing in on Sunderland and descended onto the South Promenade which was sporting brand new blue painted railings. The Southern Docks was a forbidding place - The high fence and razer wire dictated a detour along the main road then through a semi-derelict industrial area.
I had carried out some research on Sunderland before my trip and discovered that very little of historical interest remained in the city. Much, including the Town Hall and the 1769 St John's Chapel had been demolished in the post-war era, to be replaced with non-descript substitutes or, in the case of the latter, a pile of rubble. I therefore kept as close as I could to the shoreline and estuary, finding a some interesting survivals such as Bull Lane and a number of warehouses converted into apartments.
One remaining monument is the imposing Wearmouth Bridge which I crossed at 1345 (7 Miles). The bridge was originally built in 1798 but replaced at 60 to 70 year intervals in 1857 and 1927. By my calculation, the bridge is now overdue for replacement. Lets hope the powers that be retain something of the iconic design!
The north bank of the Wear has been completely redeveloped, largely to accommodate the University of Sunderland. I don't know what was there before, but the dockside parkland with modern sculptures made an attractive walk through to the recent marina development at Roker. From there it was a pleasant promenade stroll to the lighthouse at Fulwell where the coastal part of my day out ended..
There remained a short walk through Fulwell to Seaburn which boasts a working windmill. The journey from the metro station into Newcastle proved eventful as the ticket machines on my platform were not working. Trekking over to the opposite platform revealed that the machines only take coins and I did not have sufficient change! A walk back into Seaburn rectified the matter and I was then on my way back into Newcstle.
A couple of pints with an old school friend at the Union and I was on my way courtesy of the 1835 train to Tamworth via Derby.
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31 March - Kent - Westenhanger to Folkestone
28 April - Cumbria - Bootle (Hycemoor) to Millom