Leader : Ian Nelson Distance : 9 miles.
Short in numbers but big in attitude seven of us assembled a little up the road from Whitley Bay at the village of Seaton Sluice. Economics dictated the shift from the original meeting point as parking was free and not the Bay £4.00. After all some of us are Seniors!!
The weather was great apart from the ever present North Sea wind but wrapped up for the job we set off with gusto. The small advance party were picked up at the Delaval Arms having put down a marker for later in the day and together we walked a short while through the village itself. Once part of the neighbouring village of Hartley and going by the name of Hartley Pans an acknowledgement of the salt pans which were part of local history. The name change to Seaton Sluice came in the 17th Century when Sir Ralph Delaval, the local squire, had sluice gates installed in the harbour that trapped the seawater at each h high tide. His aided continuous loading of vessels.
But soon we left suburbia and for a while had the Seaton Burn for company on our left before crossing over and tackling the first and only slight incline of the day in the form of a few slightly deteriorating soil steps. Shortly thereafter following gentle walking over grassy paths we saw to our right the elegant Obelisk informing us of the Delaval Estate but with the Hall itself obscured from view by surrounding woodlands. Further track walking followed and soon we happened upon a delightful little ‘hide’ overlooking a small pond bustling with feathered friends of all sorts. The hide beautifully decorated by pupils of the local Holywell schools was a convenient spot for a cuppa and with just a trace of light precipitation in the air a cover was welcome. We then skirted the eastern edge of Holywell itself and again set off over fields with comfortable underfoot conditions and headed for Holywell Grange farm after which a sharp south east turn took us on a heading to the mining village of Earsdon place of the terrible Hartley mine disaster in the beginning of 1862 with a loss of upwards of 200 miners. A memorial to the tragedy stands in the churchyard of St Albans and it was just outside the churchyard that convenient benches provided comfort for our mid day repast.
Appetites slated we began what was in effect our return leg and we firstly ran the gauntlet of speeding motorists to cross the A192 and joined the minor B1325 which we followed for a while with fear and trepidation as despite its minor rating the traffic was hectic and the absence of footways made for hazardous tramping. Eventually we reached the sanctuary of the Beehive Inn where an interesting sign informed us ‘Neigh Horses in the Car Park’ So now you know.
A couple of stiles to climb and we were on our way again over fields with the vistas and the wind heralding the approaching coastline. It was then not long before we passed the local caravan resting place and the easy track took us on a lovely final leg with stunning views of the sea and the iconic St Mary’s lighthouse. Together with the adjacent keepers cottages the lighthouse was built in 1898 by the John Miller Company of Tynemouth. It was built on the site of an 11th-century monastic chapel, whose monks maintained a lantern on the tower to warn passing ships of the danger of the rocks. The lamp was powered by paraffin, and was not electrified until 1977, St Mary’s was by then the last Trinity House lighthouse lit by oil. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1984.and the lamp was removed by Trinity House and put on display in their museum in Penzance. A few years later St Mary’s was opened as a visitor attraction by the local council and in place of the original, Trinity House offered a smaller optic from their decommissioned lighthouse at Withernsea, and this can still be seen at the top of the tower. Following closure of the Penzance lighthouse museum, the original lens was returned to St Mary’s in 2011 to be put on display
We were home, and having enjoyed a lovely bracing stroll it was duly celebrated with a visit to the nearby Delaval Arms known colloquially as the ‘Top Hoose’ reputedly because of the magnificent marine views it affords.