Jo’s Monday walk : Whitburn through the Looking Glass

Are you wondering at my title this week?  The village of Whitburn in north east England has a Lewis Carroll connection.  It’s generally accepted that he wrote “The Walrus and the Carpenter” while staying at his cousin’s home in Whitburn.

Charles Dodgson, whose pen name was Carroll, of “Alice in Wonderland” fame, regularly visited his cousin Margaret Wilcox, the wife of a Customs officer in Sunderland.  For entertainment on an evening they would make up verses.  ‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe’ started life here, and was published as ‘Jabberwocky’ in 1872.   I had no such rhymes in my head on the seafront at Seaburn.  The sun was shining warmly and I planned to head up the coast.

Looking good, don’t you think, and I’m not surprised that Carroll enjoyed strolling on this stretch of cliff top that leads north to Souter Lighthouse. I’m easily distracted sometimes and a wooden sculpture by the edge of the road beckoned me to take a closer look.

Welcome to Whitburn, the sign said.  Well, why not?  A path led invitingly past a swathe of vibrant wildflowers and I found myself in Cornthwaite Park.  There I found the legend writ large, ‘Whitburn through the Looking Glass’.

I love the reputation of this peaceful, rural location as a haven for shipwreckers. Following the attack of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the defeated Spanish fleet fled up the north east coast of England.  Two galleons ran aground in rough seas on Whitburn Rocks and the locals were not slow to utilise wreckage.  Two oak beams in the village smithy were said to have come from the wreck, and a bell used to call the Spanish crews to prayer was mounted in the parish church.

Leaving the park, imposing gates and a double letter box drew my eye to the most stylish and sumptuous of buildings.

Whitburn Hall originally belonged to the Carr family, but was bought in 1719 by the Williamsons, who remained in residence for 200 years.  During that time, Sir Hedworth Williamson trained racehorses on Whitburn Sands, producing a couple of famous Derby winners.  Horses are still a common sight, exercising on the beach.

Lewis Carroll would have been a regular visitor to the Hall.  Lady Hedworth Williamson was second cousin to Alice Liddell, to whom the ‘Alice’ books are dedicated.  Remember my Llandudno post?

Church Lane leads to Whitburn Church, and beyond that an expansive village green.  Set back from the road, a row of cottages with an idyllic location.  An elderly gentleman passed the time of day and acknowledged his good fortune at living there.

The cottages look up to strikingly decorative Whitburn House.  Thomas Barnes, the owner of a brickworks, tried to fence off the common ground in front of it, but in 1873 the courts decided that ‘the Bank’ and the village green should remain free for the use of all villagers.

Did you notice the Tradesman’s entrance?  ‘Know your place!’, as it was in those days.  A window cleaner was tackling the vast frontage and I didn’t envy him.  From Whitburn House I turned right off Front Street into Sandy Chare.  I vaguely remembered a village pond from a previous visit.

Serene as it looks, it has a bit of a tumultuous history.  Formerly known as the Horse Pool, the pond was used to wash coaches and the white building behind once housed stables.  In 1824 the first village school was built, beside the pond.  When a larger school was built in Sandy Chare, in 1852, the building became the Infant School.  In seriously wet weather the pool was prone to overflowing, and one villager recalls having to sit on his desk amidst rising water.  The headmaster gives a graphic account of the situation after the great storm of 1900. (you can read it if you magnify the panel above)

The sea was calling me back, and a return to the rough headland of the Bents.  My husband had food in mind, though we paused to admire the antics of a family of cormorants out on the rocks. ‘Latimers’ of Whitburn does a mean plate of food, with a sea view to boot.

On Front St. I had noticed a sign for Bede’s Heritage Trail and, looking it up when I got home, discovered that Whitburn is part of a 12 mile walk dedicated to the saint.  On June 29th each year there is an annual pilgrimage.  More food for thought, and certainly an outing for another day.  Here is the map.  I had unwittingly completed parts of section 4 and 5.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Many thanks to all of you for wandering with me, and for this wonderful selection of walks.  I hope you’ll find time to put the kettle on and sit back for a good read.  Join me if you can.  The details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

Not quite a Beatles classic, Drake gives us Scandinavia with a smile this week :

Southern Norwegian mood

While Debbie does an easy snippet of the Fife Coastal path :

Inverkeithing to North Queensferry

And Lady Lee, a fierce-looking castle in Malta :

Traces of the Past- Citadel/Cittadella

Jackie is on hand with coffee and cake :

Smell the coffee

Which Tish could do with, after a hard day’s gardening.  A privilege for me to have her here :

Butterflies in the Buddleia, Bees in the Teasels and all’s well at the allotment

Join Vanessa and family in a gentle introduction to walking in Japan.  If you have the stamina you can climb Mount Fuji too :

Fujiyoshida/ Hiking the Tokai Nature Trail through rural Japan

Meantime, Meg goes bouldering, with due care and diligence :

Granite country

Got your parasols ready for twirling?  Rosemay has a lovely summery walk for us :

Promenade by the lake

And by contrast, Lynn flirts with an avalanche.  I kid you not!

A little snow on the mountain

Woolly explores the sad loss of Newfoundlanders on the Western Front :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk29_Beaumont-Hamel-Pt-1

Last September it was surely warmer and sunnier than now.  Or was it just having Jude’s lovely company?

Garden Portrait : Edinburgh Botanic Garden

Meanwhile Denzil’s pulled out all the stops to impress with his canal boats :

GR121 Stage 3 : Nivelles to Braines-le-Comte

Something for everybody, I’m sure you’ll agree.  It’s a miserable wet Monday here in the north east.  Maybe I’ll stop at home and do a little research. Have a great week everybody!

 

 

133 comments

  1. So that’s what Jabberwocky land looks like, I should have known it would be up north. The beach is stunning and the flowers make it even better. And I absolutely love the pond and reflections. Happy Sunday darling!

  2. I’ll sit in one of those chairs thank you. Will you join me, or do you want to stride off? Although if I stay sitting I’ll miss Whitburn Hall and that wonderful brickwork, especially the chimneys. I’m glad that lordly entitlement didn’t win the battle of the village green – and that you were well fed.

    1. Ha! You woke me from my reverie! I was knee deep in lavender and Monday’s post. Trying to get half a step ahead of the game because we will be in Leeds again all day tomorrow. It seems there are more flatpacks needing attention and the boy’s not good with a screwdriver. 🙂 🙂 It’s a nice walk on a sunny day, this one. We’ll probably go back and do some more now that I have the Bede’s Way leaflet. It’s been dreary all week but you’ve coaxed the sun back today. Have you alighted now, for more daughterly delight? 🙂 (Jude has been trying to link to you on What’s App, to join me and Gilly)

  3. Jo the photo with the flowers and shore in the background is stunning! Always a pleasure to take a stroll with you. I’m beginning to think I may not be able to keep up with you!

    1. Just hop on the bike, Sue- you’ll be fine! I promise to avoid bumpy bits 🙂 🙂 I did have my eye on one of those cottages facing the sea but none had for sale signs up. 😦 Thanks, darlin!

  4. Wow, thanks for bringing me along … what a beautiful walk!!! Nobody can describe a walk in words and images like you. Glad to see that there was some food involved too – because that is a must for me. That pond image at the top – First class work. Still that little old camera of yours???? That shows that the camera isn’t that important, it’s the eye. The beach image too.

    1. Yes, the little camera. Mick won’t buy me a new one because I don’t take enough care of it. Poor little scrap! You shouldn’t be here! But then it’s hard to know what you can do in comfort. Love you, Vivi. 🙂

      1. Tell Mick, to sort himself out!!!! But it’s not at all down to camera. At times I think my old little one took better images than my new .. even if Oscar is brilliant. He isn’t that new anymore. Love you too. !!!!

  5. Beautiful buildings, town, beach and area, Jo! Is it far from where you live? And, can anyone sit in those chairs in the second photo to contemplate life and the beauty of the ocean?

    1. About 40/45 minutes drive north of us, Liesbet, and I’ve never actually tried. If the people who live in the bungalow behind it weren’t watching I’d give it a go. 🙂 🙂

  6. Lovely walk, Jo. I might have to put Whitburn on the list of things we’d like to see when we’re next in England. I didn’t know the link to Lewis Carroll but Jabberwocky was a favorite of mine when I was little. What a great day for a walk – with the lure of a seafood meal at the end!

  7. Ah, I see the comments are split up over several pages now. I have seen this on other blogs (not mine, I don’t get enough comments). I think it is fine.

    1. Must be because you’re greedy and have 3 blogs. It has nothing to do with the quality of blogging. 🙂 🙂 It stops the chit chat though, doesn’t it, and that’s both a good thing and a bad one? Gabe uses the comments to find interesting bloggers to follow, and I must admit I’ve done that, when I’ve had time.

      1. There are so many interesting blogs out there, but I limit follows to around 30 otherwise I’d nothing more than read blogs all day long as I like to interact with people I follow. I apparently have 1800 followers on Travel Words, probably get comments from a dozen regulars with extras on certain posts.

  8. oh I need some sunshine this morning – it is raining non stop and far too many emails to catch up on. Couldn’t decide which was worse but then i saw a email about your post and I have forgotten the rain and am loving my emails once more 🙂 What a wonderful walk and the blue skies are stunning.

    Hope all is well with you . . . I am now counting the downs down to France/Belgium but am hoping come mid August I might return to my Portuguese posts and catch up on life generally xx

    1. It’s been a very elusive blue, Becky! Poured on and off ever since, including most of today. Every time the sun comes out I rush into the garden, and 5 minutes later I’m back in. Most unsettling. 🙂 🙂 All ok here. We’ve just about recovered from James’ removal, but I don’t think our house ever will. 🙂 You still got the noisy blighters next door? Anything on your UK blog, or just the Heritage one? Sending comforting hugs and jelly beans. (send them back if you don’t like them 🙂 )

      1. I blame St Swithuns for the weather – on St Swithuns day the weather was totally unsettled and the folklore is that whatever it is that day it will be for the next 40days!

        And grrr don’t ask about next door but your jelly bean delivery is helping 😀

    1. The contrast between two days! It’s wet and miserable today hon, and there won’t be a soul on that beach. 🙂 🙂 Thanks so much for spending time with me. I do appreciate it.

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