Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Middle (north) East

North Yorkshire (Sunday)

I met with Richard at Saltburn by the Sea to investigate the surf conditions that are well thought of in the region. The messy conditions were already being endured by many so we decided to head off for quieter and cleaner conditions elsewhere. Skinningrove, where the fishing fleet are celebrated with this fine monument, looked gloomy and messy too so we decided to descend upon quieter cleaner conditions at Runswick Bay.

Teeside (Monday)

Our presence along the coasts of Redcar, Teesmouth, Seaton and Hartlepool were met with comic suspicion and a relentless supply of 'John Darwin' jocularity. I came to the conclusion that the main attraction to paddling from Saltburn to Hartlepool is avoiding the traffic chaos of Teeside. After visiting the ancient semi submerged wreck at Seaton Carew beach we went in search of enlightenment at the dockside Museum Of Hartlepool. Following our taxing day off the water we found refuge at the Crimdon Dene Caravan Park north of Hartlepool where Peter was waiting with baited breath anticipating a cunning plan for paddling.

The Durham Heritage Coast (Tuesday)

Our paddle along the Durham Heritage Coast took us from Harlepool past the famous headland where there are 3 historical sites in stark contrast. The peaceful Church of St Hilda stands dangerously close to the Heugh Gun Battery, yet close by seemingly undetterred by the proximity of bibles and battles, stands a bronze statue of Andy Capp clutching a pint of ale. A little to the north the coastline is dominated by Magnesian Limestone outcrops, caves, pinnacles and deserted shingle beaches. One landing in dumping surf was enough to keep us in our boats for the rest of the day. The only potential exception may have been amongst the relentless and disorientating clapotis ridden seas near the entrance to Seaham Harbour. Thankfully we safely crossed the harbour entrance. Bums remained firmly planted upon seats until kayaks were firmly planted upon Seaham Beach. Upon our return to the caravan we were joined by Ray and Graeme.

Sunderland (Wednesday)

The 5 of us continued in the morning with a short sunny interval but once we arrived at Sunderland dark grey clouds began to gather once more. The coast between Sunderland and South Shields is a delightful mixture of rocky coves and caves, with arches, inlets and islets. We spent over an hour marveling at this short stretch beneath Souter Lighthouse before landing close to the Marsden Grotto pub at Marsden Bay.

Back at the caravan a great feast was prepared in honour of the days fine and respectable journey, then devoured by all in minutes with less than honourable style.

The Tydal Tyne (Thursday)

In search of calmer waters we aimed to go placidly amongst the noise and haste of Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne. The paddling idea of descending the ebbing waters of the Tyne was simple but the reality of the logistics took plenty of cunning and patience. If the peace of the paddle wasn't shattered by the dumping surf landing beside South Pier then it was lost amongst the Gateshead rush hour traffic.

The North Tyne Coast (Friday)

The adorably named Seaton Sluice was to be the start and finish of the day's paddling. We headed south towards Tynemouth. Our journey took us past 'the Sluice' and beyond the desolate reefs disused lighthouse of St Mary's Island. After crossing Whitley Bay and Cullercoates we landed through the surf at Longsands for a delicious hot chocolate treat at Crusoe's beach cafe before heading back. The return was slower than anticipated as wind and tide turned against us but the final hurdle was yet to come. Surf was now breaking heavily off the headland, over the sands and across the harbour entrance at Seaton Sluice. Careful timing and questionable skills aided our return. Not so much landing but controlled washings up!

Cresswell and Newbiggin (Saturday)

Overnight rain, the forecast of strong winds and heavy swell brought about anticlimactic feelings amongst Peter Ray and me. Peter went off in search of tea shops and surf whilst Ray and I opted for a spot of bird watching amongst the flooded dune slacks of Cresswell. Twitchers had flocked in from a far to catch glimpses of various lost feathered souls. Buff Breasted Sandpiper, Black Tern and Ruff were amongst the scrutinees.

The three of us gorged ourselves on a final supper washed down with plenty of wine before sleep preceded our respective journeys home. Thanks are due to Ray, Peter, Richard and Graeme for their company through various parts of the week.

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