Tynemouth to Segedunum.
Sun 6th February 2011
Guided walk date - Sunday 23rd January 2011
The Romans never had this problem.
Our planned Metro ride from Wallsend to Tynemouth didn’t take place because the Metro was closed for maintenance so a quick vehicle transfer had to be organised to position vehicles at both ends of the route so that everyone could get home at the end of the walk. Next we were told that the gates of Segedunum would be closed and locked at 3.00 pm not 4.00 pm as advertised! Now we had an hour less for the route and jogging became a possibility!
Once we got parked in Tynemouth Front Street (on the site of the medieval market) we were off. Tynemouth Castle and Priory, plus the former Coastguard Station in the grounds, along with the Volunteer Life Brigade (VLB) building, Collingwood’s Monument, the Black Middens passed in a flash along with the house that was the location of the “Supergran” children’s TV programme (years ago) overlooking the river. On past Knotts Flats with good views south to the sea stacks at Lizard Point and Souter Lighthouse. The low tide revealed the need for the Tyne Improvement Commissioners, VLB, the RNLI as the rock of the Black Middens were well exposed. Even part of the promenade near the 16th century Clifford’s Fort (the Dutch wars), well within the protection of the Tyne Piers, was breached and awaiting repair.
Morning coffee was taken on the newly refurbished North Shields Fish Quay just below the High Light where we picked out the sites of the old slums on the south facing slopes demolished n the inter-war period. The changes of use of buildings were noticeable, fewer fishing related commercial premises and more catering and retail uses plus flats “over the shop.” Some of our number purchased fresh coffee; the rest of us had to make do with our flasks. On past the ice house that used to service the fishing boats towards the new riverside apartments near the Haddock Shop, a former dry dock that specialised in the maintenance and repair of these particular fishing boats. Beyond that was more industrial dereliction before coming to the refurbished building near the ferry terminal that was known locally in the 1970’s as “The Jungle” had been converted into smart apartments as had the old sailors’ home adjacent to it. The short stretch between the Fish Quay and the corner of Borough Road, an former toll road, up towards North Shields provides a social and economic history of residential and commercial buildings since the 18th century - and that is without mentioning the former Tynemouth Literary and Philosophical Society building later to become the offices of the Stag Line who’s emblem still adorns the south gable of the building. We didn’t have time to view the statue of Stan Laurel in Dockwray Square on the bank above but we know where to find it.
The next section of the walk deviated from the map due to the large scale reclamation of the former shipyard areas between the Ferry Landing and Royal Quays, brown land ripe for redevelopment that afforded good views across the Tyne to South Shields and upriver towards Tyne Dock also on the south side of the river. A sudden transition to modern soft landscaped roads and new homes signalled our arrival at Royal Quays Marina. We walked across the locks and around the marina. Alongside the marina was moored HMS Chatham, a Type 22 frigate built by Swan Hunter, launched in 1988 and in service with the Royal Navy since 1990. In the marina, along with the yachts was a North Sea Fishery Protection vessel, two training craft of the RNLI and two naval patrol boats.
It was lunchtime and we sheltered from the breeze on the landscaped approaches to Royal Quays Retail Park using their facilities on the way past but resisting the temptation for retail therapy en-route to cross the site of the new Tyne Tunnel Toll Plaza currently under construction and skirting north of Howdon Green Industrial Estate. The final section of the walk took us via the residential roads of Willington Quay to cross Willington Cut in the shadow of the massive Willington Viaduct built in 1839 to carry the Newcastle and North Shields Railway across the valley. George Stephenson lived near hear following his marriage in 1802 and his son, Robin, was born here in 1803. The link still exists today in the form of the Stephenson Memorial Schools. After the climb back up from the valley the route followed the line of the former Newcastle and North Shields Railway, which predates the present Metro line, back to the Segedunum site adjacent to the former main entrance to the Swan Hunter shipyard. We arrived back with a few minutes to spare before the gates were due to close to retrieve our cars and transfer everyone back to their own cars in Tynemouth.
A good time was had by all, we didn’t get wet or too cold and at no time did we have to jog to get back to the cars in time to beat the gate closing deadline at Segedunum. Next time I’ll make sure that there is time to include the Metro ride, information about Howdon Pans and Jarrow Slake, even an excursion to the Pedestrian Tunnel or a ferry trip across the Tyne to view our route from a different perspective, there are lots of possibilities, we have only just scratched the surface!