Jo’s Monday walk : Souter Lighthouse

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My part of the north east coast of England is littered with lighthouses!  The jagged coastline traditionally needed the big guys to flash a warning to passing ships.  Times have changed, but the coastline remains as rugged as ever.

Souter Lighthouse was the first in the world to be designed and built specifically to use alternating electric current.  The lighthouse opened in 1871, and was decommissioned in 1988.  It continued as a radio navigation beacon until 1999, when it was finally closed. Today the National Trust own the property and open it to the public.

It’s only a couple of weeks since I was at Roker lighthouse, on a properly murky day.  This walk heads north from there, along the cliffs to the magnificent lighthouse at Souter.  There’s a long promenade backing the fine stretch of beach, perfect for galloping horses.  A straggle of charming houses follow the bay.  I’m tempted to take a seat.

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Did you spot the fish restaurant sign?  Latimers boast smoked haddock, leek and potato pasties.  Noted, for later.  A sign on the cliff top claims 6 and three-quarter miles to the Tyne Ferry.  We won’t be going that far.  The smooth expanse of beach left behind, below us rocks scatter the shoreline. Fascinating grooves and grottoes hug the cliff’s base.  The potential for shipwreck is easy to see.

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Ahead, in the grass, a stone circle has been formed, not unlike a maze.  I don’t understand its significance, but there are old military bunkers nearby. The track is a little slippy from recent rain and, peering at the rock formations below, I lose my footing.  No damage done!  But, looking at the seat of my jeans, I realise that I’m not quite presentable enough for a restaurant.  I hope you weren’t looking forward to that pastie.

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My favourite part of the walk lies ahead.  The stacks teeter at the water’s edge, harbouring only gulls on lookout duty.  A first glimpse of Souter’s flamboyant red appears on the horizon.  Nearing, I can see the indentations in the rock face, and the stranded islets, clinging to shore.

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And then the cove known as The Wherry.  In former times there was a Lad’s Wherry and a Lassie’s Wherry, for fishing expeditions and picnics in the bay.  A central rock split the bay in two.  Nowadays, in part due to erosion, the sea separates the rock from the shoreline at high tide.

Souter lighthouse is about 3 miles south of the River Tyne.  Beyond the river, 7 miles to the north, St. Mary’s lighthouse at Whitley Bay is a sister Victorian lighthouse to Souter.  With good visibility, the one can be seen from the top of the other.

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I love the sound of a foghorn but, were I married to a mariner, the sound would fill me with dread.  The Souter foghorn has seen several incarnations, and is still occasionally sounded on special event days at the lighthouse.

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Souter lighthouse was revolutionary.  Quoting from Wikipedia, “the 800,000 candle power light was generated using carbon arcs and not an incandescent light bulb, and could be seen for up to 26 miles.  In addition to the main light a red/white sector light shone from a window in the tower below the lantern, to highlight hazardous rocks to the south; it was powered using light diverted (through a set of mirrors and lenses) from the landward side of the main arc lamp.”  As Souter was never automated, it remains pretty much in its original operational state.  I thought that this might make a good subject for Paula’s Traces of the Past.

The grassed area north of Souter was once a thriving mining community of 700 people.  It was completely demolished after the mine closure in 1968, and the population rehoused in new council housing in Whitburn.  A brief history of Souter can be found on the National Trust website, along with details of opening times and how to get there.

Now I know that you will be worrying about your stomach by now.  Latimers having been ruled out, I’m glad to inform you that the lighthouse has its own very pleasant cafe.  Would you like to try a ‘Singing hinnie’?  A warm griddle scone.

Sadly I cannot take you into the lighthouse.  It was half term on my visit and very busy, I’m pleased to say.  Maybe another time?  You might also like my Roker Pier walk.  I’m up to my second cup of coffee this morning, after a spectacular sunrise. Please put the kettle on and join me in a visit to some great blogs.walking logo

Many thanks to all of you who contributed this week.  I’m really happy you can still find time to join me.  For any newcomers, you can find details on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.

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Sunday Photo and Monday Walk

Amy finds the perfect bench for Jude, while I just laze on the beach!

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I was blissfully happy with Drake this week, even wearing my gloves!

Cool art in winter mood

Turns out I couldn’t even say this correctly, but now I’ve had lessons from Smidge :

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I just about managed to avoid getting splashed by Debbie this week :

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Or absolutely drowned by Jaspa!

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Amazing sights at the beach

Finishing with spectacular beauty in Hawaii!  I’ve told Carol I’m green  🙂

Eyeing the Needle

Thanks again, everyone!  I love having your company.  Have a great week!  If you’re needing some travel inspiration, pop over to Monday Escapes. See you there!

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