‘There is rapture on the lonely shore’

The shore was anything but lonely last Tuesday when Ramblers’ groups walked all 55 kilometres of the new coastal access between South Bents in Sunderland and North Gare in Hartlepool—no mean feat.  It took some organising by Northumbria Area’s access officer Nuala Wright.

This was the day after the Ramblers’ launch of coastal access in Cumbria.

The groups converged at Seaham on the Durham coast, about 10 kilometres south of Sunderland.  Seaham is a former port, developed by the Marquesses of Londonderry to  export coal from nearby mines.  It has a fine harbour and a long promenade which incorporates the coastal path (in fact there’s a choice of three routes for this section: the beach when the tide is out, or the upper promenade).

Seaham promenade

Seaham promenade

I walked some way north of Seaham on the magnesian limestone plateau.  The clays on top are crumbling into the sea, illustrating the benefits of the wide spreading-room and the ability to ‘roll back’ the path should the cliffs erode.

web Durham 4

This coastline was, not so long ago, a black, industrial mess.  The Turning the Tide millennium project, which began in about 1997, changed all that.  See here too.

Looking south to Seaham

Looking south to Seaham

As part of the project, a heritage trail was created along the coast.  This has made it easier to introduce the new coastal access: with a path largely in place it was a question of defining the spreading room and ensuring the route was waymarked as a national trail. Natural England worked closely with Ramblers’ volunteers to achieve this.

web Durham 3

In the afternoon we walked the path en masse for the Journal‘s photographer,

web Durham 6

and I cut the ribbon with a pair of shears (which were not as sharp as they look, it took three tries, to much hilarity).

Cutting the tape - with shears

Cutting the tape – with shears

We were joined by Grahame Morris, Labour MP for Easington, as we repaired for tea to Seaham Hall.  Here Byron was married to Anne Isabella Milbanke.  It was in honour of Byron’s connection with Seaham that I chose the title of this blog (from his Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, CLXXVII*).  Seaham has honoured him by naming its unattractive shopping-complex Byron Place.

The new access will be a great boon to the north east, opening people’s eyes to this splendid reclaimed coastline and providing enjoyment for residents and visitors.

web Durham 7

*The full verse is:

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.


About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, Coastal access, Natural England, Ramblers, Ramblers' president. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to ‘There is rapture on the lonely shore’

  1. ossjay says:

    Really interesting to look at the link which shows the change with photos from before and after. I hope that the people of Easington enjoy their new coastal access even more than the visitors – it is hard to compare the coast with employment.

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