Jo’s Monday walk : Blast Beach, orchids and P’s in a Pod

Just south of Nose’s Point at Seaham, on the north east coast, lies a stark, uninviting stretch of beach.  I’ve walked along the cliff top, looking down on it, many times.  On a warm and hazy May day, I was somewhat surprised to find myself descending steps that led directly to Blast Beach.

It was a day of surprises.  Up on the cliff top I had already met Devon sculptress, Louise Plant , watering her P’s in a Pod.  The art installation was being newly installed and my first thought was that she was reviving the grass surrounding the P’s.  Not so!  The pieces were being watered to enhance their patina.  You can read the story of the P’s and their journey on the link.

They represent a new approach to exhibiting art in County Durham.  The cast iron structures will be displayed at 4 different sites in the region, the idea being that a different backdrop will enable us to respond differently to them.  The reclaimed coastline at Seaham is the start point for their adventure.  After chatting to Louise for a while, it was on with my own mission- to seek out a few orchids. Around this time of year wild orchids sparkle in the long grass of the cliff tops like incandescent fireworks.

It’s always hard to find the first of the orchids, but many follow in its wake.  Continuing along the cliff, I noticed a pathway I hadn’t previously taken much notice of.  It could only lead downwards to the beach.  Why not take a look?

It’s not an inviting stretch of beach but the stacks do add interest, and close to the shoreline the rocks begin to develop an iron colouration.

Blast Beach was once the scene of coal production on a massive scale and the waste from that process defiled this beach and much of the surrounding area.  Bleak though it may still look, huge efforts have been made to clean up this stretch of coast and restore it to nature.

End to end, this is a long beach.  I circle both stacks and head back slowly towards Nose’s Point.

Ahead lies a steep climb up to the cliff top.  Let’s take a deep breath and go for it.

Made it!  I bet you’re in need of a cuppa now.  Actually it’s a good place to bring a flask and a picnic, but if you’ve come unprepared you can head into Seaham.  There are a couple of good cafes.  Back at the cliff top a young man was busy taking photographs of the P’s.  I moved aside to be out of shot but he waved me back in.  He was taking promotional shots and wanted a willing admirer or two.  Myself and husband duly obliged, but so far I’ve been unable to track down his work.  Maybe just as well…

I wrote most of this post while watching the concert in aid of the victims of the terrorist attack on Manchester.  It gave me hope for our future.  The love was palpable and I was proud of our young people.  Just 24 hours before I had been watching as horror unfolded at London Bridge.  I feel blessed, because my son had been at London Bridge station at 9pm that evening, but was out of range and blissfully unaware when the nightmare hit.


Many thanks to you all for your continued support.  I love sharing walks with you. Details of how to join me can always be found on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Definitely time for a cuppa now!


Becky goes her own sweet way in the Algarve this week :

Serra de Monchique

A double dose of delight from Drake, in the beautiful village of Èze :

High level of atmosphere 1/2

High level of atmosphere 2/2

Fun and beer with Lady Lee :

Cycled to Waldwirtschaft

All singing, all dancing, with Jackie!

Bloomin Vegas

And something a little more exotic from Indra :

Sikkim Odyssey 1… Rumtek Monastery

Say hello to Gina!  She takes us walking in one of my favourite parts of the Lake District :

Ullswater Way

And if you’ve been waiting for Susan, then Part 2 is definitely worth the wait :

East Harlem Jane’s Walk 2017 (Part II) : Community Murals

A bird watching walk next, from Mari- Becky, are you paying attention?

Bird watching in Malaga

An amazing dawdle or two with Meg.  I just can’t choose :

Following my nose 

Last day in Melbourne

Three friends and so much more!  The delights of Venice, with Paula :

Tra Amici

Then a very English stroll with Carol.  Such cute bunnies!

Meeting the Locals

Yesterday I came across a lady called Anne-Marie and a series of walks you may not have heard of.  Please say hello :

Portuguese Camino in May

And we’ll finish with a rather interesting sculpture trail, from Cady Luck Leedy :

Jo’s Monday walk : Mainz, Germany

That’s it for another week.  I hope this one brings you some happiness.  Take care, and God bless!

Six Word Saturday


Not easy to find in Seaham?


You’d think that a bleak north eastern beach would be a good place to find a little Solitude, wouldn’t you?  Strangely enough, that isn’t the case. This particular beach has become a mecca for sea glass hunters and gatherers.   img_6644

You could hide out in the caves with a fair chance of solitude, but they’re not very safe. Erosion has created some fascinating shapes, though.



So your best bet is to head as far down the beach as you can go, without getting your feet wet, that is.  Even there, a far from home Devon artist was determinedly hunting through the pebbles, looking for sea glass.


This is the lure, at the end of the beach.  A solitary and beautiful rock, leaning out to sea. Seeking its own solitude.


There’s always a way to find solitude, if you crave it.  For me, it’s an essential part of life.  A bit like the Weekly Photo Challenge.

I hope this weekend brings you whatever you require.  Cate usually requires six words on a Saturday, but often she gets more.


Remember ‘Tommy’?


There have been so many moving tributes to the fallen heroes of the Battle of the Somme in its 100th anniversary year.  In Seaham yesterday I witnessed another.  Hundreds of pebbles have been collected from the local beach, hand painted red, and arranged in a poppy around ‘Tommy’. This emotive metal sculpture was designed by Ray Lonsdale and unveiled in 2014.

‘Paint it Red’ was the idea of David McKenna, a former soldier who has served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.  Six years ago he founded a local community group, Seaham Remembers Them.  Cadets and veterans alike were involved in this project, which took 2 months to complete.

Afterwards I strolled on the beach, crunching through the pebbles with their weird and wonderful shapes, and feeling very lucky to be alive.

This article in the local press covers the event.  You might remember a Monday walk I did when Tommy first arrived in Seaham.


Jo’s Monday walk : sea glass at Seaham

The outlook at Seaham Beach

The outlook on Seaham Beach

This week I’m taking you back to the north east coast of England, with a bit of a purpose.  I’ll explain more later but I need you to keep your eye open for sea glass.  The beach at Seaham is one of the best locations I know for finding it.

Between 1853 and 1921 Seaham was home to Europe’s largest glass bottle works, supplying millions of hand blown bottles.  Enormous amounts of waste glass were left at the end of each day, and this was generally thrown over the cliffs and into the sea.  More than a hundred years later, scrubbed smooth by the power of the water, we have sea glass in many shapes and colours.  Are you ready to hunt?

With more pebbles than you could ever want

With more pebbles than you could ever want

And among those pebbles, the precious bits of sea glass.  You can follow the beach round to the small harbour and the lighthouse, if you like, but I’m going in the opposite direction- north towards distant Sunderland.

There's a lot of beach to examine!

There’s rather a lot of beach to examine!

Rusted groynes litter the shore

Rusted groynes litter the shore

Filling up with pebbles too

Filling up with pebbles

Incongruously, some have been mended

Rather incongruously, some have been mended

Overhead, the cliffs menace!

While overhead, the cliffs menace!

Let’s get up close and personal with a few stones.  You never know what you might find.

We're looking for a hint of glitter

We’re looking for a hint of glitter

Unconcerned, a man walks his dog

Unconcerned, a man walks his dogs

What's this?  Look at the shimmer!

What’s this? Look at the shimmer!

I simply love the textures

I simply love the textures

You might remember we did something similar just south of here on Crimdon beach, a while ago, and ventured into some caves beneath the cliffs.  I’m drawn on along the endless beach, intrigued by my surroundings.  Dog walkers pass me by, with a nod and a smile, and occasionally children ferret on the beach.

Mindful of the dangers these crumbling cliffs can pose, still it’s hard not to be lured closer.

The cliff formations fascinate

The cliff formations fascinate

Torn and twisted as they are

Torn and twisted as they are

And here a table, nicely laid

And here a table, nicely laid

You know that I’m not going to be able to resist some close ups, but I treat the cliffs with due caution and the respect they deserve.  So should you!

I know that some of you are claustrophobic so I won’t linger.  The fascination of the shapes and vistas can keep me endlessly there on the shore, forgetting my purpose.  That morning a lady was standing, her dog patiently at heel, gazing out to sea.  After the briefest of smiles, I carried on my exploration.  As I turned to retrace my steps, she spoke to me.  “Did you see the dolphins?”

Crestfallen hardly describes it!  I would have loved to see them and wished she had spoken sooner.  We stood a while, hoping for a return, but they had gone.  And so I climbed, regretfully, back up the steps.

Depending on the tide, this walk can be as long or as short as you want to make it.  If you are free the next few Sunday lunch times, you will assuredly have company on the beach.  My husband, who designs gardens, does most of his work with CAD (computer aided design).  He was more than pleased to be contacted recently by Stuart Langley, a local artist, in connection with a light installation to appear at this year’s Lumiere, in Durham.  It’s an imaginative and exciting event, and Stuart has been a previous contributor with his Stained Glass Cars.  The project he is working on requires a substantial quantity of sea glass, and so he’s hoping for some help in gathering it.

If you can help in any way the Lumiere site gives details.  The event itself takes place from 12-15th November, and if you can be there I can promise you a delightful evening.  It takes place on alternate years, and this was my post for 2013.  It was a magical occasion.

walking logo

No putting the kettle on today!  I will still be in Bristol for the Hot Air Balloon festival when you’re reading this, and not back till very late in the day.  As usual, I will catch up with you all as soon as I can, and apologies to all those who are sitting unattended in my Inbox.  There’s plenty to keep you busy till then because once again I have some wonderful walks to share.  Many thanks to all of you who have joined me and, if you would like to do so next week, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just hit the logo above.


Gardens with rhodies have always been irresistible to me.  Bogs, not so much!  Thanks, Anabel!

Geilston Garden and Tom na h’Airidh

Hitting the heights with Drake!  Don’t we always?

Mountain high

A revelation for me about Toronto! Totally changed my thinking…  thanks, Jackie!

Monday walk

More city madness with Pauline!  The inevitability of change :

Gold Coast Icons

If you’ve come to expect beauty from Amy, you won’t be disappointed here either!

Monday Walk : Banff Rocky Mountains

One of the best things about blogging is sharing magical posts such as this.  Many thanks, Suzanne!

Killarney x 2

Too good at speaking my mind, sometimes!  Hugs, please, for Jude :

The Levant Mine

A little bit of fairy dust, anybody?  Sure to find some with Violet Sky!

Wishes and dreams 

While anyone seeking inspiration should surely make a visit to Lucile :

The Quest for Inspiration

And anyone wanting to recapture childhood only needs to visit Gilly!

I Wish I was Ten Again

Debbie’s back from exotic Singapore with some cracking good sights!

Arty Stroll along Orchard Road

And to finish, from Laia, what could be better than?

A beautiful, pleasant walk in Abel Tasman National Park

Fantastic, aren’t they?  Nothing more to say than ‘have a great week’.  Hope to see you on the beach at Seaham, or failing that, at Durham in November.



Jo’s Monday walk : Seaham ‘Tommy’

Sculpture Eleven O One, known by the locals as Tommy

Sculpture Eleven O One, known by the locals as ‘Tommy’

It’s a far cry from the cliff tops of the Algarve to the Green above the cliffs in former mining town, Seaham, but that’s where our walk will take us this week.  The campaign to keep Tommy in place has attracted national attention, and I needed to see him for myself.

Built out of special corten steel by local sculptor, Ray Lonsdale, Eleven O One is so named for the armistice which came into effect at 11am on November 11, 1918.  His air of total bone weariness and despair makes you want to throw an arm around him. Originally intended to be in place for just 3 months, Tommy has touched so many hearts that donations have almost raised the £85,000 needed to keep him.

I’ve taken you to Seaham before, though not on my Monday walks.  It has a long seafront and a pretty little marina.  Come with me and I’ll show you a bit more.

I'm starting at the car park at the far end of the front

I’m starting at the car park at the far end of the front

And walking back along it

And walking back along it towards the lighthouse

Pausing to admire the many rock pools

Pausing to admire the many rock pools

There's a lot of cloud today

There’s a lot of cloud today

So the sea isn't at it's twinkly best

So the sea isn’t quite at it’s twinkly best

But it's still a place where the starfish like to play

But it’s still a place where the starfish like to play!

For the moment we will bypass the Green, where a crowd gathers to have a photo taken with Tommy.  I will come back when it’s quieter, to lay a hand on his knee and try to console him. Instead, we will drop down into the marina, not looking quite so pretty today with heavy skies.

Boats can always snare my attention

Boats can always snare my attention

With a waft of flowers to cheer them up

With a waft of flowers to cheer them up

And some noble weeds

And a few noble weeds

There are good views out to the lighthouse from the cafe that sits above the marina, and the RNLI have an excellent museum, showcasing the lifeboat, if you have time to browse.

Leaving the marina, I look out to the lighthouse

Leaving the marina, I look out to the lighthouse

And the view around the bay

And back across the bay, at Seaham , above the cliffs

There are miles of cliff tops so you can extend the walk as far as you want.  There are parking facilities at both ends of the seafront and also by the Green.  A lower promenade takes you closer to the beach, or you can check out the craft shops and sample local cuisine if that appeals more. But now it’s time to return to Tommy.

Could anything be more sad?

walking logo

Time I shared with you some brilliant walks from last week.  You can click on the logo above or my Jo’s Monday walks page for details of how to join in.  You’re always very welcome.

First up we have Elaine, fresh from the Three Peaks Challenge on Saturday.  I think she’s earned a rest this week!  :

Drake has been a loyal supporter since I started my walks.  Come with us to lovely Strasbourg  :

Jude always has an eye for a beautiful garden and this week is no exception  :

The Alcazar in Seville is a special place, especially when seen through Amy’s lens  :

You need a strong stomach for Sue’s post this week.  Deep fried Oreos?  After you!  :

Happy walking folks!  I hope to see you next week.

Cee’ s Which Way challenge- no. 8

Approaching the coastal footpath north of Seaham

Approaching the coastal footpath north of Seaham

Better get my skates on with this challenge- I’m running out of week!  I am determinedly clinging to blue skies and beautiful walks, even if the reality might be changing.  You may remember this walk from my Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea?  I love the coastal footpaths around our coast.

Click on a photo to step out with me.  You can choose which way.

Many thanks to Cee for the encouragment .  Click on the link or Cee’s logo to view the other entries.


Weekly Photo Challenge : Sea

IMG_9070There’s nothing I like better than to crest the brow of a hill and see it sparkling in the distance.  It’s like a magnet from then on and my gaze keeps returning to it, imagining myself on that shore.  I’ve lived within sight of the sea for most of my life, and cannot imagine a time where I couldn’t stroll on a beach at will.  It’s lucky for me that there are endless stretches of cliff top walking in my rugged corner of north eastern England.

IMG_9087IMG_9092IMG_9095IMG_9099IMG_9108IMG_9110IMG_9112IMG_9115These photos were taken this morning on the stretch of coast just south of Seaham.  You may remember, I posted recently about the town and its regeneration in No time like the present.

This is my entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge.  The sea is a subject that never fails to engage me.   I’m off now to check out the other entries.  Come with me?

No time like the present

Seaham's burgeoning marina

Seaham’s burgeoning marina

I was pleasantly surprised, on Saturday, to come upon the view above.  Seaham Harbour, as I’ve always known it, is a former mining village, whose pithead once dominated the landscape. Regeneration has taken place, and the marina and visitor centre for the RNLI now lie in the old harbour, with its iconic lighthouse banished to the distance.

Come and take a closer look at these galleries with me.

There’s a great cafe called “The Lookout” pointing right out to sea, and below that some exhibition space.  I really enjoyed the visitor centre for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.  It’s full of photos, nautical maps and stories of heroism. There’s no entry fee but it’s a pleasure to slip a few coins in the boat.  The bravery required on these sometimes stormy seas is worth every penny, and the staff were informative and very pleasant.

I gave a little history of the town, and it’s rather surprising connection to the poet, Lord Byron, in Windswept in Seaham.

There was a nice breeze blowing on Saturday, but not one to bend you double.  It’s raining again today so I’m using my normal walking time to look back at sunnier skies.  I almost forgot to mention the delicious pana cotta and Swiss chocolate icecream I indulged in.  I know there are a few of you with a sweet tooth.  “Leaf, bark and berries” was my cafe of choice.

A last look at the lighthouse

One last look at the lighthouse

Every which way?

A quick getaway by jet ski?

A quick getaway by jet ski?

With that blue, blue water and matching sky, you could be excused for thinking I’m somewhere exotic.  Well, it’s a matter of definition.  Seaham, on England’s north east coast, was enjoying a rare balmy day.

You can walk along the cliff top, or the beachside walk

You can walk along the cliff top, or the promenade, down by the beach

It's a nice little town

It’s a nice little town

With an industrial heritage

With an industrial heritage

And it’s the start point for my venture into Cee’s Which Way photo challenge.  There’s so much more I could tell you about Seaham, but I’ll save it for another day.  I know Cee rather likes a sign.  I almost captured this one.

Don't you love a coastal footpath?

Don’t you love a coastal footpath?

I wonder where else Cee might take me.  Click on the logo below or the links and we’ll go and see.


Chasing the Byron connection? Windswept at Seaham

Rough seas at Seaham Harbour - copyright Ian Britton at

Life is strange sometimes, isn’t it?  It was one of those “blowing a hooligan” days, but the sky was blue and bright and I just couldn’t stay home.  As always, it was the lure of the sea that pulled me up the coast to Seaham.  It’s a place I don’t often visit, but whenever I do it seems to have improved.  Over the years it’s had to pull itself up by the bootstraps.

Revitalised Terrace Green, Seaham

The Durham coastline is rugged in the extreme and Seaham Harbour was hacked out of these cliffs to provide transport for locally mined coal.  Seaham’s deep mines reached out more than 3 miles beneath the North Sea.  Seacoal and waste despoiled these beaches as far as the eye could see when the last mine finally closed in 1992.  Almost 20 years later, the sea has washed and groomed them back to a semblance of their old selves.

Of course, man has pitched in to help with the repair.  The success of this is evident in the Coastal Footpath which now graces the clifftops.  At numerous points along the coast road it’s easy to drop down onto wide sweeping stretches of coastline.

Seaham itself has a vast panorama.  At the southerly end the lighthouse juts out into the harbour.  Sometimes, returning home by train from Newcastle, I’ve witnessed the sea battering its way in over the harbour wall.  Today was not so ferocious, but I had to lean into the wind.

Lower promenade

From North Terrace you can descend to a lengthy promenade which hugs the cliffs.  Not pretty in itself, still it gives shelter from the wind and the chance to observe the nooks and crannies of the giants above.  Dogs foolishly bark at the waves and small wellie-wearers enjoy the rock pools.

Seaham Hall Beach Car Park Sculpture

At the northern end I clamber back to the cliff top to admire the Seaham Hall Beach Car Park sculpture.  Shaped like the layout of St Mary’s Church, it’s one of a number of sculptures which pay tribute to the town’s heritage.

Vane Tempest Sculpture

The Vane Tempest Sculpture is a striking piece of art work, depicting the skyline of the former Vane Tempest Colliery.

The upper promenade leads back to Terrace Green.  Opposite, at 17A North Terrace, is my favourite coffee stop in Seaham, “Leaf, Bark and Berries”.  An intriguing mix of food emporium, café and furniture shop, the homemade quiches are excellent and I always enjoy a browse at the crafts and cabinetry on display.  Using the sizeable properties to their full potential seems to be a Seaham trait, as I noticed that the newer “Black Truffle Coffee Shop” on Terrace Green boasted a boutique at the rear.  Must check it out, next time.

Leaf, Bark and Berries- cafe-cum-browsing opportunity

Looking back at my subject, you could be forgiven for wondering what all this has to do with Lord Byron.  On 2nd January, 1815 he married Anna Isabella Milbanke, the daughter of the owner of Seaham Hall.  The marriage took place at the Hall rather than at nearby St Mary’s, and was thought by many to be doomed for this reason.  Whatever the cause, they were to last only a year.  A child, Augusta Ada, was born on 2nd December.  She never knew her father, but at her own request was buried next to him in the family vault at Hucknall Torknard Church, Nottingham.  Which, completely coincidentally, brought me full circle with my last post on Byron’s ancestral home, Newstead Abbey.

Seaham Hall today is a very grand and successful hotel, the only obvious connection, Lord Byron’s Walk.

Many more details of history and heritage can be found on from whom I have borrowed a number of photographs.  The most recent addition to the town sculptures sits beside the new Byron Place Shopping Centre.

The Brothers- waitin t'gan down

Life as it was in Seaham, a town proud of it’s industrial past, yet reaching out to the future.