National Glass Centre

A glass menagerie

What can I tell you?

Whisper it very softly

Watch her like a hawk!

She doesn’t mean any harm

Don’t cry fish!  It’s not so bad.

I always find fascination in the National Glass Centre at Sunderland.  Sometimes I can find Juxtaposition too.  But today I wanted something to please my Lazy Poet friend, Gilly.  She’s been sad lately.

Jo’s Monday walk : Roker pier

Roker lighthouse

Roker lighthouse

There’s nothing I like better than standing at the foot of a lighthouse and looking up!  Especially when, as in this case at Roker, Sunderland, the pier has been newly restored and it’s possible to walk right out there.

Newly restored Roker Pier

Newly restored Roker Pier

Last week I mentioned that I might have to repeat some of my walks.  This is a variation on one I’ve previously done but with the addition of the newly accessible pier.  Mind you- it was bitter cold out there, but it didn’t seem to deter whole families of hardy northerners. Toddlers skippetty-hopped along, tugging parents hands, or racing ahead on ‘Christmas-new’ bikes and scooters.

600 metres long, Roker Pier is 111 years old and grade II listed.  Enormous seas had rendered it unsafe for the public, and a restoration programme began last June.  It reopened in November. Further work is planned to both pier and lighthouse, but I really should start at the beginning of the walk, so grab your warmest coat and woollies.  It’s time to go.

This was my start point- note the frost!

This was my start point- note the frost!

The sun was fighting hard  to melt the frost

The sun was fighting hard to melt the frost

A last remnant of 'The Red House'

One last remnant of chimney pot

Part of the Riverside Sculpture Trail, the group above are entitled ‘The Red House’, and are just beyond the National Glass Centre, where you can park for free.  The trail continues towards the marina which, because of its situation, is probably the warmest spot on our walk today.  In fact, I distinctly remember an elderly couple sitting on a bench, backs to the wall and faces lifted reverently to the sun.  Overcoats on, of course!

The first sighting of the pier

The first sighting of the pier- note the hard frost on the ramp!

Just beyond the marina and the boatyard, a vista of beach and pier opens up before you.  The concrete bowls on the beach are filled to different levels, representing different phases of the moon.  A promenade leads past a children’s playground to the final item on the Sculpture Trail. This highly polished granite monolith, designed by Andrew Small, has a circular cutout which makes a fine frame for Roker Lighthouse.

The children's playground

The children’s playground

The marble monolith and the pier

The marble monolith and the pier

Roker as described by Wikipedia is a seaside resort.  I doubt that many would lay that claim in these days of exotic holidays, but it still retains a certain charm.  It was news to me that the Roker story goes back to 1587, when the Abbs family were granted land on the north shore of the River Wear.  It was a condition that they provide six soldiers to defend the mouth of the river.

Did I mention that further work needs to be done on the pier?

Did I mention that further work needs to be done on the pier?

The railings could definitely use some TLC!

The railings could definitely use some TLC!

But out on the pier it doesn't seem to matter

But out on the pier it doesn’t seem to matter


I didn’t have a band of Northumberland Hussars to pipe me off the pier, like the Earl of Durham, but it would have been nice.  As would a hot drink!  But for that we need to return to the National Glass Centre.  You can pass through the tunnel at the end of the promenade, into Roker Park, and complete a circuit back to the front, or simply retrace your steps.

Be sure to leave yourself time to loiter in the Glass Centre.  You’re bound to like something!

 Even if it's an angel in a  bauble!

Even if it’s only an angel in a bauble!  So, that’s another walk completed!  I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be back next week, and we’ll wander some more.

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If you’d like to join in my Monday walks, it’s very easy to do.  Just click on the logo or my walks page.  Many thanks to this weeks contributors.  Now, let’s put the kettle on and settle back to read!


Lovely Debbie from Travel with Intent is joining us this week.  I know you’ll enjoy Glasgow through her eyes. Many thanks, Debs!

The Banks of the Clyde

Paula has an on-going love affair with Corsica and it’s not hard to see why  :

A Walk among the Menhirs

You can count on Cardinal to have a unique viewpoint!  :

Oslo- a Village on Steroids

Again, Jude has me wishing I was on the far side of the world!  :

Hills Road walk

Amy’s back with a bang!  Well, maybe that’s not the right expression around a volcano!

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

A Monday walk wouldn’t be a Monday walk without Drake, would it?

Friendly minded castle conquest

Please welcome a very distinguished newcomer, from Australia.  Many thanks for joining us, Elizabeth!

New Year’s walk : a giant stairway and a miniature train

And a lovely lady called Lisa joins us from the Bay of Islands  :

Opua-Pahia Coastal Walkway

Rosemay finishes off her zoo walk.  It’s hot!

Tales from Perth, part 2

And then Yvette comes in with a blockbuster of a post!

Shadows in New York City

If you’re not totally worn out, you can even do an evening walk?  Welcome Bon Minou!

Amsterdam at Night

What a selection!  Brilliant, aren’t they?  Have a great week everyone, and happy walking!

Six word Saturday


A very frustrating couple of days!

But I'm still smiling!

But I’m still smiling!

I can’t begin to explain the frustrations, nor is it appropriate, but I almost didn’t make Six word Saturday this week. Now that I’m here, I’m simply going to share a few more lovely pieces of glasswork from the National Glass Centre at Sunderland, and make a hasty exit!

I'd love some of these for next year's tree

I’d love some of these for next year’s tree

And how about these?

And how about these?

They're just so sweet!

They’re just so sweet!

Hard to pick a favourite!

Hard to pick a favourite!

January is now well into its stride, so it’s time to put all that behind me.  Join me for next Monday’s walk, won’t you? We can stop off at the National Glass Centre for coffee afterwards.

Hope you all have a good weekend.  Hang on to your hats- it’s wild out there!  I’m off to check out Cate at Show My Face.  She’d love you to play too.


A new exhibition

Magdalene Odundo exhibit, National Glass Centre

Magdalene Odundo exhibit,  National Glass Centre, Sunderland

Last week I suggested that it was a great time of year to visit museums.  One of my very favourites in the North East of England is the National Glass Centre at Sunderland.  I’m always excited to see the new creations and exhibitions.

The shot above is of Magdalene Odundo’s Transition II and you can see a video of its creation on the link.  It was captivating seen from any angle.

I love the shadows, rippling across the floor

I love the shadows, rippling across the floor

With the occasional flare of colour

With the occasional flare of colour

Of course, I couldn’t resist the lure of the display cabinets and the new items in there.

Isn't this a lovely piece?

Isn’t this a lovely piece?


And, naturally. there were owls!

And joyful elephants- why not?

And joyful elephants- why not?

I imagine you can see just why I love going there.  Maybe we’ll pop in again on my Monday walk, next week.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “New.”

Jo’s Monday walk : City of Sunderland

Looking out at the quay, from the National Glass Centre

Looking out at the quay, from the National Glass Centre

You might remember, before I started my regular Monday walks feature, the post A Promenade to Roker?  It started from the National Glass Centre and followed the River Wear out to the beach at Roker, north of Sunderland.  I always intended to try a walk in the opposite direction, following the river through the city.  Since I promised you a level walk last week, I thought this might be a good one to try.

It’s an industrial area and the National Glass Centre is like a jewel at its centre.  I’m like a kid with a new toy if I get to visit, so we’ll be popping in later, but right now it’s time to start walking.

We'll start on the quayside, outside the Glass Centre

We’ll start on the quayside, outside the Glass Centre

A number of boats are casually moored

A number of boats are casually moored, waiting for an owner

This pretty blue one, a favourite

This gently blue one’s a favourite

But I took my eye off the boats for long enough to look at this

But I took my eye off the boats for long enough to look at this!

We’re walking alongside the University of Sunderland, and in term time the grass is strewn with students.  This morning the sun was glinting prettily on the medieval book, outside the university library.  There’s a wry sense of humour in the placement of giant nuts and bolts on the quay.

And the inevitable graffiti, of course

And the inevitable graffiti, of course!

Compensated for by this willowy creation

Compensated for by this willowy creation

We're walking towards the bridge over the River Wear

We’re walking towards the road and rail bridges over the River Wear

And beneath

And then beneath them

To a short pretty stretch of river

To a short, pretty stretch of the river

Not a ripple disturbing the peace

Where barely a ripple disturbs the surface

There are many reminders of the pitheads and the harsh life that miners and their families lived.

On the far shore, a crane building factory

Today a ‘crane building’ factory decorates the far shore

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Looking back at the wall plaques

Looking back at the wall plaques (and at Sunderland FC )

Soon after this the riverside path runs out, and we have the choice whether to retrace our steps or to see a little more.  Curiosity always takes me onto unfamiliar ground so I followed the curve of the path.  It loops up to join the Coast to Coast cycle route, which runs from the east coast all the way across to Whitehaven in Cumbria.

This results in a closer look at the Stadium of Light

This results in a closer look at the ‘Stadium of Light’

I head towards the bridges, cross at the busy traffic lights by St. Peter’s Metro stop, and drop back down to the river path within sight of my start point.

A couple of tugboats are just completing their business

A couple of tugboats are just completing their business

For you and me, a treat awaits

For you and me, a treat awaits

Inside the Glass Centre

Inside the Glass Centre

A crab sandwich?

A crab sandwich?  Don’t mind if I do

And a bit of a browse

And a bit of a browse

Aren't these gorgeous?

Aren’t these simply gorgeous?

Linger as long as you want.  There’s always something going on.  I noticed on my table a leaflet for ‘Hen Night Heaven!’  Only in the north east!  You can learn to blow a glass bauble followed by a delicious afternoon tea, with champagne.  Details of all events, and how to get here, are on this link to the National Glass Centre.

Before you leave, take a look up!  You’ll probably see people wandering across the roof.

Hello!  Can you see me down here?

Hello! Can you see me down here?

Don't worry!  It's reinforced glass.

Don’t worry! It’s reinforced glass.

And that's the way we walked.

And that’s the way we walked.  Good, wasn’t it?

Phew!  Hope you enjoyed our walk today.  It’s time to look at some more, then click on my Jo’s Monday walk logo to see how you can join in.  You’d better get yourself a cuppa first!

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Jude took me back to Grasmere last week.  I haven’t been for the longest time  :

Circumnavigating Grasmere Lake

I had such fun riding around in the panier on Drake’s bike, but I really should get off and walk!  :

The bike as the stowaways

Bird lovers among you will absolutely delight in this.  Welcome to my walks, Jo!  Please go and say ‘hi’ to Jo everybody  :

I just love birds

Laura’s had back surgery, but has put together a wonderful historical ramble in London  :

Walkabout 2- the Fleet by foot

If I were to find myself in Amy’s Lan Su, I would think I’d died and gone to heaven  :

Lan Su Garden

And finally, Kathryn has brought me the most beautiful light on the Dutch canals  :

Mas en Peel

Please go and give Kathryn a hug.  Things aren’t going so well.  See you all next week, I hope?

A Lingering look through glass factory windows

Looking out of the National Glass Centre, Sunderland

Looking out from the National Glass Centre, in Sunderland

In my Monday post A promenade to Roker we took a walk through Sunderland’s ship building past.  Though ships are no longer built here, a thriving cargo trade has developed on the River Wear today.  The National Glass Centre occupies the former site of J. L. Thompson and Sons shipyard, on the north bank of the river, and is witness to most of the comings and goings.

Glass making was introduced to Britain from France in 674, specifically for the windows of the Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Priory, which stood not far from here. The industry thrived on cheap local coal in the 18th century, and Sunderland gradually established a name for glass.  The Pyrex factory was based here until its closure in 2007.

The construction of the National Glass Centre in 1998 was a bold move, part of a regeneration scheme in a declining area.  Today the centre is free to visit, with daily guided tours.

Keep an eye on the boats while you admire the glassware

You can keep an eye on the boats while you admire the glassware

I know someone who loves owls!

I know someone who loves owls!

Part of the fascination is watching the glass workers ply their trade.

Behind glass, of course!

Behind glass, of course!

There's bound to be an element of danger

There’s bound to be an element of danger, isn’t there?

The building itself is quite interesting, and there’s a restaurant looking out onto the riverside.

Just a few more reflections

And in the vestibule, possibly my favourite thing- this suspended glass sculpture.

Let's raise a glass!

Let’s raise a glass!

The National Glass Centre website gives full details of opening times, events and free tours.

I really enjoyed putting this post together for Dawn’s weekly Lingering Look at Windows challenge.  Hope you like it too.

A promenade to Roker

Grab your coat! It's time to go.

Grab your coat!  It’s time to go.

It’s Monday, my usual day for a walk.  Do you fancy a stroll?  I’m starting out today on the banks of the River Wear at Sunderland.  Ship building used to be the mainstay of this area, till foreign competition priced us out of the market.  For a lot of years nothing much happened around here, but gradually life is creeping back in.

The National Glass Centre blazed a trail and it is the start and end point of my walk.  At the river mouth a small marina huddles against that sometimes biting north east breeze.  In its absence, this is a very pleasant stroll, with some quirky sculptures along the way.

But best to head off round the marina

But best to head off round the marina

What can I tell you about Sunderland?  I expect you’ve heard of Geordies, people who hail from Newcastle-on-Tyne, but have you heard of Mackems? The name Mackem (‘make them’) may have derived from the Wearside shipyard workers, who would design and build ships, which would then be taken by the Tyne-siders.  The expression “mackem and tackem” (make them and take them) seems to refer to the rivalry which has always existed between these two cities.

My favourite sculpture is the stained glass boat

My favourite sculpture is the stained glass boat

Beyond the marina the river mouth opens onto the beach front at Roker, newly made over.

With more sculptures

With new sculptures and seating

And numerous rock pools

The beach is full of tempting rock pools

Just the place fro walking your dog

It’s just the place for walking your dog

And admiring the lighthouse

Or admiring the lighthouse

This area is not without its admirers.  Lewis Carroll wrote some of his works in neighbouring Whitburn and local landmarks are believed to be the source of inspiration for his “Alice in Wonderland”.  The painter, L.S. Lowry, regularly stayed at the Seaburn Hotel, here on the front.

The promenade stretches off into the distance and you can walk as far as you like.  Buses run all along the coast so, if you overdo it, you can always hop on a bus back to Sunderland centre.  I think we may have walked far enough for this morning, so it’s time to retrace our steps, and maybe pick up an icecream en route.  A  short detour through pretty Roker Park will bring you back down to the beach.

The lighthouse at Roker

Upper or lower promenade at Roker lighthouse?

An old drinking fountain

An old drinking fountain

Back to the beach, from Roker Park

Back to the beach, from Roker Park

The National Glass Centre has a very nice riverfront restaurant where you can take some refreshments, and maybe fit in a free tour of the glass factory.  I love glass blowing.  Don’t you? But more of that next time.