Posted on December 8, 2019
On a wet day in July Sophie and I went to the outdoor market held once a month on Dunston Staiths.
The History Bit
The Staiths are believed to be the largest timber structure in Europe, maybe the world, but who knows? It is also a Grade II listed scheduled monument and is owned by registered charity Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT). The structure is made of North American pitch pine timber, no longer available, from the once unlimited forest. Most of the timber used was 20 metres long, 14 inches deep and 14 inches wide. The total weight of timber is 3,200 tons. The Staithes are 526 metres long with 4 railway tracks, 6 loading berths (3 on each side), with two chutes to each berth.
The North East Railway Company opened the Staiths in 1893, and it’s purpose was to facilitate the loading of large quantities of coal from the Durham coal fields onto the waiting coal ships, (known as colliers) which then transported the coal to London and abroad. At it’s peak, the coal industry moved 5.5 million tons of coal each year from the staiths. Waggonways were used to transport the coal from the North Durham coal-fields, of which there were quite a few. The coal waggons were pushed by steam engines up the gradient, to the Staithes. It was a very skilled job to shunt the wagons onto the Staithes, as the driver worked “blind” from behind, and had to make sure they were on the right track. The men had their own signals, maybe a touch of a cap, or some other gesture, but there was nothing written down, so the driver had to depend on them. If he didn’t gauge the end of the track just right, the trucks could fall over the edge.
Once on the Staithes, and at the berths, the “teamers” and “trimmers” were waiting in the colliers to level the coal, as it came down the chutes, to keep the ship level. The empty wagons rolled back to the Railway siding by gravity. It was not a pleasant place to work, as it was noisy, oily and very, very, dirty. There were occasionally some very serious accidents, because of the poor lighting. They worked by candlelight until electricity arrived in 1930. Some of the men lost their limbs, some were crushed between the ship and the Staithes, however, it was still considered a privilege to work there. Trimmer’s and teamer’s jobs were nearly always handed down from father to son, or some-one in the family. They were the “elite” of the Staithes, very well paid, as in 1930 they earned around £8 to £10 per week, I don’t think anyone knew how much they really earned, (not even the Tax Man).
Interesting factoid:- In 1912, a dug-out canoe was found at the West Dunston Staiths, it dated back to Neolithic times, (New Stone Age circa 5000 BC). Not sure where that ended up.
The coal industry declined at the end of the 19th century, and so too did the staiths, no longer needed, it fell into disrepair. In 1990 though, the Newcastle Garden Festival was held and extensive restoration work carried out, with the Staiths taking a leading role as a key installation with performance space and an art gallery. But then a fire broke out in 2003 damaging the Staiths extensively, and it was put on English Heritages ‘at risk’ list. It has been subject to a few arson attacks too sadly. Somehow the TWBPT raised the funds to recommence the restoration, which is still ongoing, and the Staiths is once more a visitor attracton, with a Saturday Market open once a month on a Saturday, which is when we visited.
So on with the show!
Firstly, on the menu..
who doesn’t love a Carpathian sausage?? 🙂
The structure is quite amazing
We went topside to see what the view was like. Looking back towards Newcastle the fire damage was evident and that part was cordoned off.
Looking the other way, a sea fret was rolling up the river
It passed over, we got wet and then we got a better view.
It was a good spot for people watching
and it was a perfect day for umbrellas
We didn’t stay very long as the weather just kept getting worse, but did go and visit St James Cemetary nearby in the afternoon, which has some interesting gravestones. So stay tooned for that 🙂
all pictures by moi and you can embiggen them with a click.
Some more fascinating images of it HERE 🙂
Posted on June 20, 2019
In 1964, a 15 acre lake was created to help drain the ground for Killingworth New Town, and almost straight away a boating clubhouse was built which is alongside a public car park. Several different groups still use this clubhouse and more use the lake and park, which is run by North Tyneside Council. A bunch of retired chaps interested in building, racing and sailing model boats formed a sailing group, which is now affiliated to the MYA (Model Yacht Association).
Sophie and I stopped off here on our way back from somewhere as I knew there were swans on the lake, and the racing was in full swing.
Posted on October 21, 2018
These are some more photo’s of re-enactors taking part in WW2 and their vehicles.
I loved this next chap, thought he really looked like he’d stepped out of a movie
and this lady was spot on with her costume and hair do
mustn’t forget the Germans!
channelling Clive Owen?
This vehicle is (acccording to Phil, who knows these things) a Hanomag SDKFZ 251 Ausf C. Called “Magda” she is a half-track armoured fighting vehicle built on an OT-810 chassis, badged to the Panzergrenadier Divison Großdeutschland. Designed and built by the Hanomag company during World War II. The concept was to allow panzergrenadiers to keep up with panzers and provide infantry support as required. In practice, there were never enough of them and most panzergrenadier units had to make do with trucks. She was brought in by the Northern World War 2 Association, and I believe all the WW2 re-enactors belong to that.
They also brought along an American M24 Chaffee Light Tank. This appeared during the latter stages of World War 2 and saw considerable service in the Korean War that followed.
Not sure what type of jeep this is but I do like the motorbike fastened on the front.
That’ll do for today, stay tooned for our finale next time, when they all go into battle.
Posted on March 17, 2018
Last weekend, Sophie and I got together and this time went off to Herrington Country Park. It sounded promising on the website- an adventure play area, skate boarding, Nordic walking, model boat sailing in the lake and a variety of sculptures that celebrate the heritage of the area. Wasn’t sure if Nordic Walking involved Viking re-enactment groups having a stroll, but according to Wiki it’s walking with poles, a bit like ski-ing without snow. Anyhow it all sounded very interesting so off we went.
The History Bit
Back in the days when England had industries the North East was a mine of ..well..mines really. And shipbuilding, but heaps of mines. The park was made on the grave of the Herrington Colliery, which closed in 1985, and had a waste heap of 11,000,000 cu. M. of shale, which must have looked like a mountain to the surrounding villagers.
For the transformation of the park, only the coal was removed, the minerals left behind went into making the park, sandstone for the sculptures, red ash for the walkways and clays to line the lakes. Over a hundred different species of birds have been sighted since it’s inception, and many events are held there.
The weather wasn’t too bad, at least it was dry, but the promised-by-the-weather-forecasters sunny day never happened. No matter, there was a big lake and loads of birds on it. We couldn’t believe how close the swans allowed us to get to them, no hissing or chasing us off, and I assume that is because of all the people who go there and feed them.
As well as birds, a couple of chaps were sailing remote controlled boats
After a while at the lakeside we went for a walk around the park, and we’ll set off in the next episode to have a look at the sculptures, so stay tooned.
Posted on February 25, 2018
After our encounter with the Giant Spoon and the Alien Sophie and I got back in the car and headed off to Druridge Bay and the country park there.
The History Bit
Druridge Bay is a 7 miles long bay on the coast of Northumberland. During World War II, defences were constructed around Druridge Bay as part of the anti-invasion preparations. The defences included scaffolding barriers and anti-tank blocks overlooked by pillboxes; and behind these were minefields and an anti-tank ditch. Between the hamlets of Druridge and Cresswell, anti-glider ditches were dug and there is still a brick-built decoy control there somewhere. But there was a bitter wind coming in off the sea and we didn’t spend a long time photographing on the beach. Job for summer.
In the 80’s there were plans to site a Pressurised Water Reactor nuclear power station there. There was a long campaign to prevent that happening, and with new government rulings on Nuclear Power happening, the plans were shelved in 1989. In 2015 the Banks group Mining company applied to do open cast mining in 900 acres immediately to the west of the beach, for the extraction of 3 million tonnes of coal. Six weeks after the application was submitted the UK government announced that all coal-fired energy generation would cease by 2025. Over 1800 letters of objection were received but Northumberland County Council approved plans for the open-cast mine in July 2016. In September 2016, the plans were put on hold subject to a government inquiry. Instead the Banks Group are open cast mining near Cramlington, but that will be covered in the next post.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust purchased the sand extraction site from RMC Group in 2006. The shore is known for populations of birds including the golden plover and the purple sandpiper. Druridge Bay is best known to birdwatchers for hosting, in 1998, the Druridge Bay curlew, a controversial bird which was eventually accepted as the first record of a slender-billed curlew in Britain, although this identification is still disputed by some. I don’t suppose the birds care, being as controversial as they like, and we didn’t see any anyway :). Druridge Bay is also used by naturists. The North East Skinny Dip, first held in 2012, is an annual event to raise funds for MIND, the mental health charity. It is held around the time of the Autumn Equinox in late September each year. We didn’t see any of those either. Thankfully.
Those were my last shots there, as the main event for us was the 1.5 mile walk around Ladyburn Lake at the country park on the other side of the nature reserve. The park is centred on the lake with surrounding meadows and woods which has been restored from an old opencast coal mine and is maturing into a very pleasant landscape for walks and picnics. It’s reasonably quiet here in February, a few dog walkers of course, and a couple wrapped up well and having said picnic, as you do when it’s 3 degrees outside with a wind chill factor of -6!
The lake and surround is home to quite a few birds,
We could see swans and other birds on the far side of the lake but meandered slowly around, enjoying the sunshine and having a natter.
Although it was cold and the wind was snappy, we had some sunshine, everything seems better in the sun don’t you think?
We normally think of catkins as being yellow, but the Alder trees have lovely purpley ones
That will do for Part 1, but stay tooned for Part 2 when we find some strange rocks, and beautiful swans.
Posted on February 3, 2018
2017 saw the 4th year that the Camel Parade has been an event in South Shields, Sophie and I went for the first time last year a few photo’s of which I posted HERE, so this year we made a return trip knowing what to expect. It involves 3 camels with their handlers and riders dressed up as wise men, parading the length of Ocean Road, which is quite a long old road, followed by stilt walkers and a drum group called Sparks! It’s been controversial as the animal rights group PETA, who I have a lot of time for usually, have decreed it bad, and say that camels shouldn’t be used for public entertainment. I kind of agree with the sentiment, but really, all they do is walk the camels down the road, and then put them back in their vehicle and bugger off. They don’t get prodded or poked or stand around being gawped at. PETA Campaigns Strategist Luke Steele said: “Using live animals in these sorts of events sends a damaging message to young people that animals are little more than living props”, according to our local newspaper, with one of the comments underneath being “it’s disgraceful that anyone should find this acceptable. It’s not about the climate, it’s about the crowds, noise and the basic lack of respect enough to use animals for our entertainment. Animals are sentient beings, they are here for their own purpose, not for human monsters to use and abuse as they wish. It’s archaic and needs to be stopped!” I have to say the human monsters, particularly the baby monsters loved the whole shebang, and this monster doesn’t get to photograph many camels in our neck of the woods so was happy to see them. I expect eventually the council will give in and the camels will come no more.
A lot of monsters turned up for the parade, and luckily it didn’t rain.
The trees along Ocean Road were all lit up
and the kiddies all waiting for the show to begin
the camels came first
they were followed by stilt walkers I think representing the 3 shepherds
and this guy who was I think, the star of Bethlehem
then “The Creative Seed” wagon came, but I’m not sure what that was all about!
and these were followed by my favourite part, the Sparks! drum group
at the bottom of the road a stage was set up which Sparks! ascended and then played a cracking set of drum tunes. Well not tunes really but whatever it is that drums do without other instruments being about.
they somehow illuminate themselves and the drums and the whole thing is quite exciting to watch
stay tooned for the 2nd part when we see the firework display!
(pictures clickable for embiggening)
Posted on January 28, 2018
We’ll finish up walking the last leg of our trek around the park today, there were not many leaves left on the trees
so it was nice to come across some pops of yellow
but mostly it was grey and brown
I’m not sure what this next thing is, maybe stocks for naughty giants?
even when the leaves have gone, and there are no bright little flowers to photograph, there are always some interesting shapes and textures to find,
and reflections in puddles
and that’s the end of our visit to the Rising Sun Country Park, though I think we may do a return at some point, when spring finally arrives.
Stay tooned for next time when we’re off to see the Camel Parade!
Posted on July 8, 2017
A couple of weekends ago Sophie and I had a long day out visiting the pumping station at Tees Cottage in the morning, and Hardwick Hall Country Park in the afternoon. I’ll leave the park for a later pos and start with the pumping station.
The History Bit
Tees Cottage Pumping Station is a Victorian waterworks in Darlington in the North East of England which began supplying water to Darlington in 1849. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument with two completely original pumping engines in full working order. These are displayed running under their pumping load on about four weekends each year. One engine is a two-cylinder compound steam beam engine, still supplied from its original Lancashire boilers and driving its original pumps. The other engine is a two-cylinder gas engine, the largest preserved example in Europe, also driving its original pumps.
The engines are housed in their own purpose built buildings, dating from 1847 to 1901, in themselves superb examples of Victorian architecture. The engines and buildings are carefully maintained, preserved and run by volunteers, supported by the site owner, Northumbrian Water.
I have no idea what any of this is, or does 🙂
I think Frankenstein could have been made here
Posted on March 11, 2017
I was quite impressed with all the cannons
They should be OK when the next boatloads of Vikings come 🙂
Built on the site of the medieval Great Hall, the King’s Hall is a Victorian masterpiece. Its magnificent false hammer beam ceiling is made with teak from Thailand, then called Siam. The King of Siam, a good friend of Lord Armstrong who visited Bamburgh, is said to have helped carve some of the intricate designs. The King’s Hall was to be the castle’s main social reception and banqueting room. Lord Armstrong built a minstrel’s gallery where the musicians playing at the balls performed.
Beautiful old clocks
and suits of armour
Lots more to see yet so hang on for the next part.