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 :
While Debbie does an easy snippet of the Fife Coastal path :
And Lady Lee, a fierce-looking castle in Malta :
Jackie is on hand with coffee and cake :
Which Tish could do with, after a hard day’s gardening. A privilege for me to have her here :
Join Vanessa and family in a gentle introduction to walking in Japan. If you have the stamina you can climb Mount Fuji too :
Meantime, Meg goes bouldering, with due care and diligence :
Got your parasols ready for twirling? Rosemay has a lovely summery walk for us :
And by contrast, Lynn flirts with an avalanche. I kid you not!
Woolly explores the sad loss of Newfoundlanders on the Western Front :
Last September it was surely warmer and sunnier than now. Or was it just having Jude’s lovely company?
Meanwhile Denzil’s pulled out all the stops to impress with his canal boats :
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!