South Shields to Whitburn – via a haunted lighthouse ….

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On a bright but cold morning Elaine (a fellow service user) and I, prepared to set off on our walk, around 7 miles.

The starting point was South Shields ferry landing. But first, we had a wander up to the Custom’s House and took a look at the war memorial to the town’s seamen of WW2. The statue is ideally placed, looking across the Tyne. It all made for an evocative scene.

Elaine and I were well wrapped up against the cold, our route taking us along the riverside to South Shields beach. There were loads of people out and about. It was a glorious day, despite the cold.

We made our way along the promenade and thence onto the cliff tops. First port of call here was the WW2 gun emplacement. There is something rather forlorn about the site now, Elaine thought, and I had to agree. The cliff-top path headed south, with the sea booming and crashing off the rocks and rolling, sizzling, up the beaches.  There was also the constant shrieking of sea gulls. This part of the coast is famous for its colony of gulls, of course, especially at Marsden Rock.

The coastal pathway makes for delightful rambling, along the high bare cliffs and down into little sandy bays. We found one such, a sheltered cove, an ideal spot for a tea-break. It was very quiet down here, away from the wind and shrieking gulls.  Elaine and I went down to the shore and sat on a boulder and with hands rested on the rock, gazed across shimmering water. Waves rolled gently ashore. Apart from that, there wasn’t a sound, just the ceaseless, gentle lapping of the waves on beach.

There were the colours to enjoy too, of sunlight on the sea, sparkling like thousands of diamonds. It was quite dazzling and I had to shield my eyes. The colours varied so much. On the other side of the cove, beneath towering, jagged rocks, the water was a rich emerald green, gently rising and falling, rising and falling. The cliff and the great, gaunt standing stones were a sharp contrast to the sea, rich red earth and massive grey boulders. Elaine and I sat there for some time, enjoying the sun on our faces. Elaine said just how peaceful this place was and I agreed with her.

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Finally, we stirred ourselves and took to the trail again, along the cliffs. The rocky bays along this part of the coastline have their fair share of smugglers’ tales, with secret caves filled with ill-gotten treasure. There is also a well-known haunted venue, namely, Souter Lighthouse. The ghost is supposedly a previous light-house keeper. Sadly there was no sign of him today and I was rather crestfallen. I was looking forwards to interviewing the ghost for this story!

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Lunchtime saw us trekking into the pleasant coastal village of Whitburn and to a pleasant little pub.  One of the great things about the walks is the interesting people you meet along the way.

Me and Elaine got chatting to a retired couple. It turned out they had spent some years in Singapore, this was in the 1960s. The chap had been a policeman. He told us about the strangest case he’d ever worked on …..

“There had been a spate of thefts, pick-pocketing. So we were on the look-out for the culprit. All the eye-witness accounts agreed that he was a short, well dressed chap with rather nimble fingers …..

“One day I was on patrol, walking through the crowds and everything was normal, until there was a cry and sudden hubbub, down a little alleyway. A woman’s handbag had been stolen. I could see the thief scarpering off, past the little shops and market stalls with fine silks and herbs, exotic food-stuffs and drinks. The air was rich with the smell of far-eastern perfumes.

“Anyway, I was running after the thief, he was just a little chap but by, he could not half move. I was blasting on my whistle. It was a very humid afternoon and even though wearing short-sleeved shirt and shorts, I was soon lathered in sweat.”

The policeman did catch up with the thief who was finely dressed in suit and hat. “Got you!” Exclaimed the policeman. But when he grabbed the miscreant and spun him round, it was to see that the thief …. was a monkey.

“Absolutely amazing. The only thing we could presume was that the money was being used by some – I hesitate to use the phrase criminal mastermind – but by someone, to carry out the thefts.”

What happened to the monkey? I asked. Did you arrest him?

“Oh we took the monkey back to the police station. But he wasn’t very cooperative. He had to be given a caution at one point for climbing the walls ……”

Lunch-break over, Elaine and I said cheerio to the retired couple and walked west, out of Whiturn. The second part of the day’s ramble was to Cleadon.

It’s a pleasant trek through Whitburn and past the Cleadon Hills. These are crowned with an early 19th Century mill and a Victorian water pumping station.

Elaine and I arrived at the end of the walk, having enjoyed a great day out. Elaine said that she thought the best part had been the little sheltered cove with the waves gently lapping the shore.

And once again, I agreed with her. It had been lovely.

 

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