St. Mary’s Lighthouse

Jo’s Monday walk : Spanish City


‘Girl you look so pretty to me, like you always did

Like the Spanish City to me, when we were kids…’

I don’t know for sure what holds me in thrall with those words from Dire Straits, but as I walk along the seafront at Whitley Bay they play over and over in my head.  The Spanish City takes me back to my childhood, when it was a funfair.  It all looks very different these days.

A £36million renovation plan is in operation to restore the Dome and create an attractive seafront promenade.  Currently it still has a few rough edges, but progress is underway.  Come with me, and we’ll do ‘the walk of life’?

If you look off into the distance you can dimly see one of the purposes of a walk along this shoreline.  Remember St. Mary’s Lighthouse?  She sits at the end of a causeway that attracts the crowds, whatever the weather.  What are we waiting for?  Let’s get down among the rock pools.


Did Meg say she was collecting feet?  No, it’s no good!  I need both to balance on these slippery rocks.  Let’s hop back up on the promenade. There’s a skate park up ahead.  The kids love those.  The beach is full of dog walkers, and the odd warning sign.


I stop to read a sign about Tide Wrack and Rock Pipits.  Apparently the latter feed on the insects, crustaceans and snails found among the seaweed and rocks.  Conditions are so good here that visitors pop over from Scandinavia in the winter months.  You’ll be pleased to know there’s no waste. Leftover seaweed is used to line the local pipit’s nests in spring.  We’re much closer to the lighthouse now.



You can see already the numbers St. Mary’s attracts.  It’s an overcast day, but warm by north east standards, and whole families have come to play in the rock pools.  Not forgetting the dogs, of course.  It’s essential though to keep a close eye on the tide times.

There is another attraction here, aside from the obvious charms of the lighthouse.  St Mary’s Island is a grey seal haul-out- an area of land that the seals use regularly to rest and digest food.  Seals come onto the rocks and, if undisturbed, will remain there until the tide floats them away.  Grey seals are amongst the rarest in the world, and 40% of them live in UK waters.

Seals are normally solitary creatures, but they often haul-out in groups.  At just 3 weeks old, a seal pup is independent.  Many of the seals on St. Mary’s are youngsters, and it’s essential that they have time to restore their energy levels undisturbed, whilst learning to fend for themselves.

St. Mary’s do their best to educate about and protect the seals.  I have to admit to a great fondness for this lighthouse, which was built on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel.  The monks maintained a lantern to warn passing ships of the danger of the rocks. Sadly the current lighthouse no longer maintains this function, but it’s still a very welcoming space.  A variety of activities take place here, including Fossil Frolics, Rock pool Rambles and even Extreme Rockpooling!  Not quite that brave? How about the Lighthouse Bake Off party?  Set Sunday, 2nd October, aside.

If you’d like to see inside the lighthouse, this post will take you to the top of the 137 stairs.  Opening times and other useful details can be found on the website. (including where to find cake, naturally)  Which reminds me- time to put the kettle on!

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Thank you once again for your generous support.  I have heaps of great walks to share again this week.  Impossible to pick a favourite. If you have one you think I might like, why not join in?  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.


Ice Age!  That’s a wonderfully cool image after the hot weather we’ve been having in the UK.  Thanks, Drake!

Hidden history

Caught between a rock and a hard place with Anabel?

Dumbarton and the Denny Tank

Jackie’s on a mission to find the post office museum in Toronto :

Return to Sender- Address Unknown

Welcome back Violet Sky, and nice to meet you Big Bruce!

The nicest town around

Wine anybody?  It’s totally taken for granted in pretty French villages is :

La Couvertoirade Village

Ruth is taking us for an adventure with bears (or without!).  Don’t miss her superb blog :

Sequoia National Park : Tokopah Falls

I do try to bring you an interesting mix of walks, and am delighted to invite Sartenada here, from Finland :

White bridges

For those of you who prefer to ride to doing too much walking, Jaspa has the very thing :

The Funiculars of Valparaiso, Chile

My lovely mate Cathy’s not afraid of a bit of walking.  And she has an eye for beauty :

Philadelphia Gardens : Chanticleer

More beauty, from NYC this time!  Don’t you just love a meander?

Meandering through the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Denzil’s taking it slowly too this week, after a back injury.  But not too slow :

Bierbeek and Mollendaal Forest

I’m sure there must be a Dire Straits song to fit this one, but I really can’t think of it.  Thanks, Susan!

Walking the Cruise Ship

More cruising, with Carol this time.  I’m going to jump ship in the Whitsundays.  Can you blame me?

At the Beach

All good things come to those who wait, right?  Absolutely!  Please welcome Madhu back :

An Amble through a Storied Park- Lodhi Gardens

Did you ever have a really, really good day?  I just did!  Badfish came to town.  Loud fanfare!

Prague : Up Close and Personal

Many thanks for keeping me company again this week.  I wrote this walk with my friend, Viv, in mind.  I think it’s one she would have enjoyed.  Have a great week, and take good care of yourselves.

Jo’s Monday walk : Seaton Sluice

The harbour at Seaton Sluice

The harbour at Seaton Sluice

Seaton Sluice isn’t the most inviting place name I ever came across.  Yet I knew from a previous expedition to nearby Seaton Delaval Hall that it provides an interesting gateway to the sea.  A bright and free day took me back up the north east coast to explore.

Seaton Burn flows into the North Sea midway between Whitley Bay and Blyth.  Place names are interesting, aren’t they?  Seaton Sluice was once part of the village of Hartley, and was called Hartley Pans because of the salt pans, where salt was panned as far back as 1236. The area once belonged to Tynemouth Priory, but in 1100 the land became the property of Hubert de Laval, nephew by marriage to William the Conqueror.  The Delavals, as they became known, settled about half a mile inland at Seaton Delaval Hall.  Seaton derives from Old English and means a settlement (‘ton’) by the sea.  Let’s go look around, and I’ll explain a little more.

The approach to the sea

The approach to the sea

At low tide, the area fails to look its best, but there was excitement to come.  First, a little more history.  Up until 1550, the salt produced at Hartley Pans was transported to Blyth for export. After this it was shipped directly from the small natural harbour, and the village, now known as Hartley Haven, was used to export coal as well as salt.

The little harbour was prone to silting and this limited access by ships, but in the 1600s Sir Ralph Delaval had a pier constructed, and sluice gates which trapped the seawater at high tide.  Hence the name, Seaton Sluice.  At low tide, the gates were opened, flushing the sand from the harbour.

The harbour remained like this until the 1760s when another Delaval, Sir John, had ‘The Cut’ blasted through solid rock to make a new harbour entrance.  54ft deep, 30ft wide and 900ft long, the result created an island of the land between the old entrance and the new channel. Enterprising men these Delavals.   The new channel could be sealed off at both ends so that boats could carry on loading, irrespective of the tide.  For me, the excitement begins when the channel meets the sea.

This sight had me skipping with excitement!

This sight had me skipping with excitement!

How beautiful is this?

How beautiful is this?

I’m on the southern edge of Northumberland here, and if you know anything at all about Northumberland you’ll know it has magnificent beaches.  In the distance you can see Blyth and an offshore wind farm.  Next year there will be a Tall Ships Race too.

I'm happy just to gaze

I’m happy just to gaze

Salt continued to be exported from Seaton Sluice until the advent of a new salt tax in 1798.  It was replaced by a new export, glass bottles.  In 1763 Sir Francis Delaval obtained approval from Parliament to develop a glassworks.  Skilled men were brought from Germany to train the locals in glass making, using the materials to hand- sand and kelp from the sea, and local coal and clay. The bottles were sent to London on ‘bottle sloops’, with a main mast that could be lowered to enable sailing beneath the arches of old London Bridge.

Hard, now, to believe that such industry once took place.  Competition from other glassmakers brought the bottle trade to an end, and a major disaster at Hartley pit, in which 204 men and boys perished, spelled the end of the coal trade.

Crossing Seaton Sluice Bridge we can look back at the harbour

Crossing Seaton Sluice Bridge we can look back at the harbour

My adventure with the sea isn’t quite over yet though.  Following the other side of the channel I come to a narrow cut.  Looking south along the coast I am thrilled to find that in the far distance I can see St. Mary’s Lighthouse at Whitley Bay.  You might remember my post.

Can you see it, across the bay?

Can you see it, across the bay?

Quite a way off

Quite a way off

It's a wonderful coastline!

It’s such a wonderful coastline!

I follow the coastal path back into the village.  Looking down at the rocks I’m astounded to find a heron, nonchalantly checking out the seafood.  I do hope he approves.

I returned to Seaton Delaval Hall that afternoon.  Very nice chocolate fudge cake!  I’ll share my visit when Paula returns from her holiday, but we might look at the garden before then.

Meantime I should thank Wikipedia for all their information, and you for sharing it with me.

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Kettle’s on and I just have time to tell you that I have lots more wonderful walks to share this week before it boils.  Details of how to join in are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  A click on the logo should do it.  Thanks to all of you, old friends and new.  Bring on the walks!


Violet Sky was first to share this week, with such a good-looking lighthouse, too!

Cabot Head

And Anabel is going for broke- 3 for the price of 1!!!

Cairnpapple Hill

Exotic Wats and stupas all the way from Thailand, with Junk Boat Travels :

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

And Jesh has me wanting a goat’s life in Zion National Park!

Utah’s Colours

Quite a few wild orchids down Eastbourne way.  Cheers, Geoff!

Eastbourne to Birling Gap and back

Can’t you almost feel the rain dripping down your neck with Ruth?

A walk in the rainforest

Jude is taking me to unknown parts of Cornwall this week.  Please bring a walking pole for safety!

Down the Cot Valley

Drake is dallying by the water (in his element).  A peaceful and idyllic place to be :

Out of Town 

Keeping an eye out for bears seems a good idea when you’re in the woods!  Please say ‘hi’ to Woman’s Eye View :

Humbled again

Gilly has a lovely new look!  Have you seen it yet?

Strolling the garden in the wood

And a beautiful garden sequel.  Don’t miss it!  Even the title is beautiful!

Falling for a silver pear at Knightshayes

Pauline’s gone all modern and high rise on us.  Come and look (if you’ve a head for heights)!

On top of the world

And take a peak at what’s in store for the future :

Browsing in Brunswick Heads

That’s it for another week!  Hope you can join me next Monday.  In the meantime you could do worse than pop in to Monday Escapes.  Happy walking!

Thursday’s Special : St. Mary’s Lighthouse

Looking down at the reception area

Looking down into reception

You might have thought I’d gone to Paris, but I couldn’t resist one more Thursday’s Special before I go.  Much earlier in the year I paid an evening visit to St. Mary’s Lighthouse and I’ve been itching to go back ever since.  Saturday afternoon, warm and sunny at home, seemed to present the perfect opportunity.  I could have lingered in the garden, but that lighthouse was beckoning.

All too often my north east coast fools me.  As we turned down the coast road to Whitley Bay, the skies darkened.  The beach was shrouded in mist, and none too warm.  The planned saunter became a scurry up the lighthouse steps, to keep warm!  As I approached the causeway I was rather surprised to see a wedding car coming towards me.  What a spot for wedding photos!  Alas, I was a little late for the photo shoot, but I did get to see the bride.

Hand in hand!  No- this isn't the bride and groom

Hand in hand on the rocks- no, this isn’t the bride and groom!

It looks a little bleak today

It looks a little bleak today

But it's a good-looking lighthouse

But it’s a good-looking lighthouse

With some interesting outbuildings

With some interesting outbuildings

The last time I had been inside was with a school party when my son was about 6 years old.  I was curious to see what, if anything, had changed in those 18 years.


From the peeling condition of the walls, not a lot has changed!

From the peeling condition of the walls, not a lot has changed!

I wondered for a moment about the safety of climbing the stairs

I wondered for a moment about the safety of climbing those stairs

But there was only one way to find out!

But there was only one way to find out!

And I made it!

And I made it!


Got to go! Someone's waiting for me on the stairs

But I’ve got to go.  Someone’s waiting for me on the stairs

There’s something about a lighthouse, isn’t there?  Even though it’s not in the very best condition, I love that it still sits there in its incredible position.  The opening times necessarily vary, according to the tide, but in general it is open every day from May to September, and at weekends and school holidays in the winter.

Various events take place throughout the year.  The Ghost Stories Halloween Special on 31st October sounds like it will be a lot of fun. In addition to weddings, you can have a birthday party at St. Mary’s or even a Stranding Party at high tide!  I don’t know anybody who’s done that.  This link to their Facebook page will keep you up to date.

Let's share a bit of poetry, shall we?

Let’s share a bit of poetry, shall we?

And one last image

And one last warm image!

I hope your Thursday is special, too!  Many thanks to Paula, our lovely hostess.  Come with me and see what she’s been up to this week.  A bientôt!



Six word Saturday


Still chasing romance in the moonlight!

St. Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay

St. Mary’s Lighthouse, in the dark

I often accompany my garden designer husband if he’s working somewhere interesting so, when he took on a job at Whitley Bay, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity for me to see St. Mary’s Lighthouse.  I remembered it, from a school trip with my son many years ago, as a particularly scenic spot.  Perched on tiny Bait Island, and reached over a short causeway at low tide, I envisaged taking photos of the lighthouse with a backdrop of rock pools in the sweeping bay. The reality was somewhat different.

When the design was complete, Michael asked me if I’d like to come with him.  Unfortunately the appointment was for 7.00 in the evening and, as you can see from the above, a little dark for rock pools.  It was just about possible to navigate my way across the causeway in the glimmering moonlight. Very romantic, I think you’ll agree.


I guess I'll have to go back in daylight

I’ll just have to return in daylight another time.

If you’re wondering where my six words came from, maybe you missed my romantic Six word Saturday last week.

Do you have six words (or more) you want to share?  Cate at Show My Face will tell you how it’s done.  Just click on the link or the logos.