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Monday, 19 January 2009


The windswept and wave battered coast of County Durham is not used for beach holidays by the British even though it has outstanding sandy beaches and stunning cliff scenery. A visit to Marsden Bay on a Saturday of blue skies and sunshine in the middle of January was not overcrowded!

This is a view looking south along the cliffline towards Sunderland. Marsden Bay has a sandy beach covered with pebbles, rocks, seaweed and the occasional flotsam and jetsam of the present day. The cliffs are riddled with caves said to be the haunts of smugglers in times past. The Permian Magnesian Limestone forms the cliffs and stacks and the bays are cut into the softer Dolomite. The elements combine to alter the face of this area and rapid changes follow stormy weather.

The immense changes that have occurred during my own memory are displayed in some of the before and after pics on this site. I remember visiting the beach as a child with my family and finding the area as crowded as the 1930s photo shows it to be and the "rock" a lot closer to the cliff than it is now. NO! dear reader, the rock has not moved but it has shrunk all around because of the wave bashing it has received and appears to have moved out to sea. Sadly I don't remember the massed choir performance from the top shown in one of the old pics.

It can still be approached at low tide. It is possible to climb and circumnavigate it and its rock pools are havens for the curious of all ages, but people no longer picnic on the top as they did decades ago in the company of the kittiwakes, gulls and guillemots. Rough steps can still be seen, hewn into the rock on the far side but they defy easy access.

In fact most people now eat here at the Marsden Grotto Pub and Restaurant. I have had excellent seafood and fish there in recent weeks and it remains one of my favourite haunts.
From the beach it is an amazingly dreadful eyesore. The worst stye in the world. The lift which carries you from the carpark to the bar was built in the 1930s, obviously not an era of outstanding design in the service industry. But the pub has a grand history of hospitality, smugglers, characters and ghosts. The christmas tree traditionally re-sites itself to its chosen spot if attempts are made to relocate it and the ghost of a smuggler shot dead by the excise men has a tankard of beer left on the bar every night. Sometimes he drinks it, sometimes he doesn't but disaster follows if the tankard gets broken. Marsden Arch collapsed after the tankard was broken in 1996...
Cheers Gillian


sue said...

It is so nice to see what the beaches look like over in England. I enjoyed your story on the history of it too. I hope you have some nice weather over your side of the world too.

chillsider said...

I lived in Durham for 3 years, I never knew that was there!

carol said...

I've been missing so much not keeping up with your blog Gillian. The cottage looks wonderful and its history only makes it more colourful. If Tigger is happy I guess there are no spooks. Animals hate them!

These rocks are wonderful. Lovely exposures - as a geologist friend of min would say.