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The Morning

A slow morning for many of the family after spending much of yesterday in the car. Kas was going to go for a run but was still in bed when I got up. The kids were still hiding beneath several layers of bedding. I planned to go and do a clutch of new(ish) geocaches around the north side of Sunderland, through the district of Roker, mainly, and then meet the family for lunch. As I was walking, I left my car keys so that the girls could get around. I didn’t bother with breakfast at the hotel. I wasn’t really in the mood. Anyway, the sun was up, so it was time to get busy.

Wearmouth Colliery

First up was a walk around the Stadium of Light. It’s quite impressive from close up, but my main purpose was the two or three caches. The car parks have a handful of monuments and memorials. Some relate to the football club, but most are historical in nature, relating to either the WWI and WWII servicemen who came from the club or, more prominently, the coal mine that used to be here.

The piece of land on which this stands is relatively small and is trapped between the river (on three sides) and housing on the other. When Wearmouth Colliery was here, the headgear for the shafts was right in the middle of what is now the playing surface of the stadium. So they had to begin by putting a solid cap onto the shafts to avoid any issues. I mean, I know the football there hasn’t been great recently, but a literal opening up of the ground and swallowing up of the team is still beyond reasonable limits. It hasn’t happened yet, anyway.

Personal History

Towards the end of my time as an A-level student I made a visit to Newcastle University for a few days introduction to their Mining Engineering course. It was a varied mix of tours around the campus and some drink-filled evenings in the halls of residence. The highlight of the trip, though, was a full-day visit to Wearmouth Colliery. I don’t mean a quick jaunt around the surface site either. No. A full-on tour of the underground workings.

From the surface you could never get a feel for what Wearmouth was like. It was, in its day, one of the biggest collieries in England. It was severly limited by the fact that all its working were out under the sea. That’s not dangerous (there’s lots of impermeable rock above the coal), but it meant it took proportionately a very long time to get to the working faces. Extra travel time equals lower productivity, and hence extra cost.

A second issue was that the main coal seams they worked were quite thin. The face we visited on the tour was no more than four feet thick. When you add the depth of the props the men were left with a crawl space of about 3 feet. I’m not a tall person, but I had to shuffle my battery and gas mask from my back to my stomach to avoid banging them on the roof as we crawled along the 250m face. That was an experience. I have the greatest of respect for men who did that every day. It wouldn’t be a great place if you were claustrophobic.

A few years later, as I approached the end of my final year studying mining in London, I was assigned a major design project that started with the original borehole data for Wearmouth and finished with a fully designed mine operation (at quite high level). My conclusion, not surprisingly, was that if it wasn’t there already you wouldn’t start digging. There were multiple places, even in the UK, where coal was much easier to extract than it was at Wearmouth. So much for my personal history of the place, though.

River Front

Next up was a walk down to the River Wear. There was a set of caches along the riverside walkway that started near the sea and finished under the Wearmouth Bridge. That meant a long walk to begin, but then a pleasant walk back along the riverside towards the bridge. It was quiet. Clearly mid-morning on a weekday is not a busy time for dog walkers, runners and general amblers. There were a few more people around the National Glass Centre, where I stopped to grab a quick drink, but not enough to be troublesome to me.

From the bridge I walked back through the University building and past St. Peters Church.

Monkwearmouth and Roker

From here I headed north into the housing and commercial estates. There was a smattering of urban geocaches that made it worth the walk, plus it was the natural route to my next destination. The area is generally a bit run down on some streets and then starkly new in others. A lot of the new bits are where the previous football stadium was – Roker Park. This area now has housing (mainly) and streets named on a footballing theme.

There were a few caches of the “urban” variety in the area, and I was fairly successful in finding them. All of this lead me in the general direction of the other Roker Park. This other Roker Park is a an old Victorian affair with formal gardens, a few newer playground facilities, and an exit to the seaside. That exit involves walking down a steep valley (which I guess is natural). It leads out to a small bay from which there are few escapes that don’t involve a big hill.

Lunch O’Clock

From here I climbed up to road level and then headed north. Kas had called and we’d agreed to meet for lunch at Seaburn, about half a mile from where I was. They’d spent the morning at Nana and Grandad’s.

For lunch we went into a new (new to us) place called The Stack. The architecture of the place is sort of “converted shipping containers” but inside it was quite creative. There are multiple small stalls selling food and drinks in varying different styles, and they have communal seating. So you grab a space and then everyone wanders off to get their own food. Most places give one of those red flashing alarm jiggies so you know when your food is ready. It works well for casual eating. The only downside (on this day) was that it was school holidays, so they had children’s entertainment. By that, I mean loud irritating music and lots of shouting. Thankfully if you found a table upstairs or out front it wasn’t so bad. The food we had was very good.

Walking on the Beaches

But probably not looking at the peaches. No fruit farms round here.

So after lunch the weather was still good, so we walked along Seaburn Beach in a northerly direction. The sea was most of the way out, so there was a big expanse of sand to work with. At the northern end is our favourite local ice cream vendor, so we stopped there before walking back. I love walking on the beach every time we’re up in the north-east.


By mid- to late-afternoon we were done, so we headed back to Nana and Grandad’s house for some industrial-grade snoozing. All this fresh air is bad for you, I reckon. Anyway, snoozing right up to the point where we went to fetch a takeawy Indian for dinner. That was good too.

And then we were done, so we drove the 15 minutes back to the hotel and went to bed.