For the last couple of weeks, my next door neighbour’s have had the builders in and due to the noise and materials that have spread over onto my driveway during each working day, I have been taking myself off on a few trips on good weather days.
One of the many benefits of living in the middle of the country, in North Leeds, is that it’s so easy to get to the East or West coasts as they are only 60-70 miles away. Last week I went East to Whitley Bay and yesterday I went West to Morecambe, a new destination for me. But first up…….
My first visit there was back in the early 80’s just before I bought my own house and was lodging with a family in Leeds. They’d booked a week in the Whitley Bay Holiday Park on the outskirts of the town, close to St. Mary’s lighthouse, and as they had no transport, I drove them there and back. As such I didn’t see much of the place but I have been back a few times since those days, most recently in March 2013 when I was on my way up to Scotland on the road trip that would eventually take me to the Scottish Highlands and John O’Groats.
So last Thursday I tootled 100 miles up the A1 through Newcastle to the pretty seaside town. My route took me across the famous Tyne Bridge, a smaller version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, both constructed by the same company around the same time, in the 1920’s.
The first of these 3 photos was taken on my 2013 visit as it shows the bridge in situ. Not quite as picturesque as the one in Sydney ! The others were as I crossed it yesterday and as you can see, the weather was much nicer !
Just don’t ask how I took them !!
On arrival in Whitley Bay, I parked at the Waves Sports Centre along the promenade. The lovely long promenade is dominated at one end by the lighthouse and at the other end, close to the town, is an area called Spanish City.
Erected as a smaller version of Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, Spanish City opened in 1910 as a concert hall, restaurant, roof garden and tearoom. A ballroom was added in 1920 and later a permanent funfair. By the late 1990s the building and the area had fallen into disrepair, and in the early 2000s it was closed to the public. A regeneration project was announced in 2011 and the building re-opened as a dining-and-leisure centre at the end of July 2018.
When I stopped off in 2013, it was in a sorry state so last week it was good to see the whole area was a vibrant tourist spot again and there was even a local radio station broadcasting in front of the rejuvenated domed building.
Not a great photo but it was taken looking into the sun and at that time, the overcast sky didn’t help with the view.
Needing to walk off a traditional fish and chip lunch, I set off along the promenade towards St. Mary’s lighthouse. When the tide is in, the lighthouse, the small number of houses around it and the causeway out to it, are all cut off from the mainland.
As I wanted to climb it, I timed my visit so that the tide would be out !
It’s a 2 mile walk along the promenade and half way along I decided to leave it and go down onto the beach. Can’t be at the seaside and not go onto the beach !
It was lovely to see so many kids with their little nets exploring the numerous rock pools around the lighthouse, mostly looking for crabs.
Finally I arrived at the causeway out to the lighthouse and was glad that there weren’t too many people going my way. I assumed that the steps up to the top would be narrow, with little room for passing, and so it would be a case of waiting in line if people were coming down.
Once inside, I was quite surprised to see I was on my own. It seemed that visitors were happy to get TO the lighthouse but no one wanted to climb the 137 steps to the top.
I paid the very reasonable fee (senior £1.70) and started up the steps. There were a few “passing places” but it was mostly a case of up or down but not both at the same time. The final few steps were the killers as the slope became extreme, almost vertical, and there was a very low headroom to negotiate.
Once at the top, it was a little underwhelming. This was mostly due to not being able to get outside because of health and safety and so the views had to be enjoyed through thick, and quite unclean, glass. These views were pretty unspectacular although on the view out to sea we could spot a dozen seals basking, and sometimes fighting, on the rocks.
I took a photo of the last few steps on the way back down to try and give some impression of both their narrowness and their steepness. I was really glad to have the handrails !
Back on dry land, I had a rest on one of the many benches at the base of the lighthouse and then walking around the back, I came upon a seal/bird watching shelter which had several chained binoculars available for visitors to use. It was a bit upsetting to see kids trying to have a look but being unable to get to grips with focusing the binoculars and their parents not bothering to help them.
Crossing over the causeway I took one last photo before joining the promenade and making my way back to the car at the sports centre and setting off back home.
As a funny aside, I forgot to stop the MapMyWalk app on my return to the car and so it recorded my drive home, giving me a VERY impressive walk report when I did finally stop it. Just take 100 miles off the distance and I did a 5.6 mile walk.
Gotta love that steps count though !!
It had been a grand day out although I didn’t actually go into the town itself as it’s like most other seaside towns and as such, the lighthouse and Spanish City are the only worthwhile locations to visit.
I did like that the promenade has no built up amusement type arcades along it which I absolutely hate about most UK seaside towns and this was also the case with the even better promenade I walked along yesterday………….at…………..
There are several routes from Leeds across to the West coast seaside town of Morecambe but I decided not to take the faster motorway route and went on the A65 instead. Leaving at 9:30am to miss the rush time traffic, I had a lovely drive up into the Yorkshire Dales with no hold ups at all.
It had been overcast when I left but as I approached Ilkley, the skies cleared and for the rest of the day, I had almost clear blue skies and 17c temps (63f) – not bad here for 5th September. Of course in the constant sunshine it was much warmer and so, although bringing it in the car, I had no need for my fleece and a polo shirt was all that was needed.
As I mentioned at the start, I’d never been to Morecambe before and knowing there was a statue of its most famous son, the much loved comedian Eric Morecambe, along the sea front, I put that into the Waze phone app and arrived there at 11:20.
After cruising along Marine Road to find a parking place, I spotted a Gala Bingo venue with a large car park that was, given the time of day, almost empty.
Across Marine Road, I was immediately at the start of the awesome promenade which runs for 3.3 miles South towards the ferry port at Heysham.
I’ve never been on a UK promenade like it as it was so wide, so well maintained (100% litter free) and so uncrowded that it was a joy to be on. I did speak with a resident at one point and was told it had only recently been updated and what a superb job they made of it. The main traffic on it yesterday were cyclists (it must have been wonderful to ride on such a flat, smooth surface), a few pedestrians like myself and loads of mobility scooters.
I assume that with the school holidays over, the elderly residents of Morecambe were reclaiming their promenade and good luck to them.
One point to make about Morecambe, and indeed that whole part of the West Coast, is that when the tide goes out, it goes OUT. In the top photo above, it looks like the water’s edge is shown on the left but that’s just where the water would come to if the tide was in.
The bottom photo shows just how far out tide goes and as a result, how much beach you get for your money !
And the middle photo shows the promenade and just how empty it was yesterday, how clean it was and how the main road, Marine Road, is kept separate from it with that wall on the right.
Less than half a mile from the Bingo Hall car park, I arrived at Eric’s statue and was pleased that it was mostly free of tourists like myself who wanted to take photos of it and selfies with it.
I had a free time to take several of both.
For the non Brits, Eric Morecambe and his partner, Ernie Wise (best known as Eric and Ernie) were the most popular entertainers of their time and regularly top polls to this day. Their trademark end of show “dance” was to turn to the back of the stage and skip off, as captured perfectly by the statue.
It was great to see people keeping that “sign off” alive by being photographed doing it alongside the statue, as in the bottom photo. Eric would have loved that.
One of Eric’s other famous mannerisms was to wiggle his glasses up and down when saying something mildly suggestive to Ernie and with my selfie, I tried to recreate that but having to hold the phone didn’t help and anyway, it was a motion and not really capable of being replicated in a still photo.
Another half mile or so along the promenade, a 250m jetty jut out into the bay.
Stone Jetty was built in 1853 to serve as a railway terminus for Irish and Scottish ferries. In 1990, with its original function no longer needed, it was updated and now seamlessly leads off from the promenade and the station near the end is now a lovely cafe.
Back on the main promenade, I kept going although I was a bit worried that I’d have the 3.3 miles to walk back to the car at a time when my legs would be aching.
I finally got to the end, literally a dead end, at the ferry town of Heysham and climbed up some steps to explore the town. It didn’t take long as there isn’t much to the town, indeed village, but what there was, was quite interesting with many pretty houses, pubs and cafes.
A local suggested I visit St. Peter’s Church and beyond that the ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel and its stone coffins.
I was intrigued.
First up, St. Peter’s Church and what a lovely location for a church and its associated graveyard, overlooking the bay. Even with the tide being well out, it was still a great view.
There was a church on the site in the 7th or 8th century and then a Saxon church was built in 1080. Parts of this church still exist in the current Anglican version and the dates on many of the grave’s headstones bear testimony to this history.
On up the hill lay the ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel, now maintained by the National Trust. There isn’t much left of the chapel but nearby were the 11th century stone coffins which were truly underwhelming.
Those of us who were there discussed how it was very unlikely that any bodies could’ve fitted into the narrow stone graves (when they still had their stone lids fitted, I guess the name stone coffins applied more than now) but then someone found an info panel that explained that it’s thought that the graves held “disarticulated bones” rather than complete skeletons, possibly of saints and other important Christians, perhaps even those of St. Patrick himself. The chapel would therefore have been a place of pilgrimage.
Just a few metres on up the hill I came upon a bizarre landscape as shown in these photos………..
From a distance I just thought it was a small camp site but as I got closer I noticed that the people weren’t campers but visitors like myself and the tents weren’t tents at all.
The three 4 sided reflective structures were supplemented by several cut out figures, also reflective but it was all a mystery as to what they represented and why were they there.
So as my blog is nothing if not informative, I’ve just contacted the National Trust (who own the land) and spoken with a lovely young man from N. Ireland who told me all about it.
It seems it’s a temporary display (for 9 days ending this Sunday) by the artist Rob Mulholland and put on by the Morecambe Bay Partnership. It’s supposed to represent an Anglo Saxon settlement in a modern way but it all appeared to be a bit hippy dippy to me. As the web site says……
“Inspired by early Anglo-Saxon designs, three mirrored dwellings aim to encourage viewers to consider the influence of people of the past on Morecambe Bay. Six mirrored human-shaped figures complete the idea of the structures and sites as places as human settlement, reminding the viewer of the people working the land and the sea in centuries gone by. By using mirrored surfaces Mulholland brings literal reflection into being, making the viewer and a distorted landscape and sky integral parts of the work. By catching glimpses of themselves, viewers see an image not only in the present, but a hint of those who may have walked in the same landscape in the past.”
Yeah, like I said……hippy dippy !
Anyway with at least a 3.3 mile walk back to the car ahead of me, I felt it time to leave and by the time I reached the Bingo Hall car park, I was whipped.
As this screenshot shows, I’d walked 8.16 miles and although, given all my stops to take photos etc, it wasn’t a fast pace, it was still 8.16 miles and my body knew it. That’s why I’ve taken the time today to do this post and apologies for it being a bit on the long side.
And that’s it……till probably next week if next door’s builders are still here !