Here comes Summer...
Time to find your
and get your
skates on!

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Below is a selection of local walks to put some wind in your curls and replenish your inner man. Stick on some old trainers, toggle up your duffle, and off you go!
The Historic
Whitley Bay Trail

You are here!
Coastal and
Riverside Walk
Holywell Dene and Clifftops
Coming shortly!
Geoff Holland is the author of two books of self-guided walks, 'The Cheviot Hills' and 'Walks from Wooler', as well as being a regular contributor to 'TGO' (The Great Outdoors), 'Country Walking' and 'The Northumbrian' magazines. He operates the highly acclaimed website www.cheviot
and his poetry has appeared in magazines, journals and online. Born in Tynemouth, he has lived in Monkseaton for 35 years.
Walk the Historic Whitley Bay Trail
by Geoff Holland
Distance3 miles/5.6 km
StartWhitley Bay Railway Station
FinishNew Coliseum, Town Centre
At the height of its popularity Whitley Bay was a busy seaside resort attracting visitors from far and wide. Here generations of families enjoyed everything that the traditional British seaside holiday had to offer. However, as air travel became more accessible in the 1960s, holidaymakers began to seek out ever more exotic destinations where sunshine was guaranteed. Holiday patterns would change forever. As you step out on this walk you will discover for yourself some of the fragments of Whitley Bay's rich and varied past.

1 The walk begins where most visitors to the town first arrived at the beginning of their fortnight holiday, the railway station. Opened in 1910, and replacing the original 1882 station, the Renaissance-style building was designed for the North Eastern Railway Company by W. Bell. Having as its central feature an impressive clock tower, the station's symmetrical façade looks directly towards the sea, the town's raison d'être. Inside the station, on the wall facing the former ticket office, is the mosaic triptych, 'Passing' by the artist Ian Patience. The central panel features a nocturnal seascape whilst the two outer panels show a young family enjoying a day on the beach. [Inside, on either side of the archway adjacent to the ticket machines, there are four display panels full of information on the station and its surroundings.]

2 Outside the station, to your right at the head of Clarence Crescent, stands a very rare combination of a telephone box/post office kiosk. Introduced in 1928, less than 50 of this 'K4' type kiosk were installed throughout the country. Proving unpopular with customers, the majority were withdrawn in 1935 but somehow this one managed to stay, eventually becoming Grade II listed in October 1986. Leaving the station behind, head eastwards along Station Road keeping to the right hand side. Within 100 metres, on the corner of Albany Gardens, stands 18 Station Road, the former studio of reknowned photographer Gladstone Adams.

In 1908 Adams drove his motor car to Crystal Palace to watch his beloved Newcastle United Football Club play Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup Final. On his way home, having endured the 3-1 defeat of his team, snow kept obscuring the car windscreen and he regularly had to stop to manually clean it. This frustrating experience inspired him to invent the windscreen wiper, the design of which he eventually patented in 1911. In the early 1970s this building was home to Spectro Arts Workshop, a flourishing centre of artistic activity.

3 Continue to the junction with Whitley Road, one of the town's main shopping streets. Over the zebra crossing, turn left past the Station Hotel and down into the Esplanade. Take a moment to look above eye level to see some of the interesting features of the buildings that make up the four corners of this junction. Head down the B&B-dotted Esplanade, a clear sign that tourism still plays a vital role in the town, until you reach the Promenade. On the right hand corner is the site of the former Sylvesters night club, which has had, since it was built in 1910, many reincarnations; the Alletsa Ballroom, the Gaumont Cinema and the Empire Theatre.

The Esplanade is, in essence, a continuation of Station Road, therefore providing an easy and direct link between the railway station and the seafront, a fact not lost on proposals to site from this point a pier which would have projected straight out into the sea. First planned in 1908, the scheme was abandoned as it was felt that the cast iron columns, which were to support the 270 metre platform and concert pavilion, would not withstand the forces of nature. A much grander scheme was drawn up in 1935 but, once again, sadly failed to get off the ground.

4 Cross over to the seaward side of the Promenade and turn left past the Rex Hotel, once home to a popular folk club. A host of well known musicians played here in the early days of their careers, including Gerry Rafferty, Billy Connolly, Ralph McTell and local legends Lindisfarne, who 'came home' for the club's 1970 Christmas Party following the release of their first album, Nicely Out of Tune. You are now at the centre of Whitley Bay's lively nightlife which attracts revellers from throughout the country and the Continent. It is not, therefore, without a touch of irony that the artist who produced some of the most famous Guinness posters, John Gilroy, was born in the town in 1898. Working for the Irish brewery between 1925 and 1960, he is perhaps best remembered for his illustrations featuring the girder carrier and wood cutter from the 'Guinness for Strength' campaign and for the Guinness animals, including a lion, toucan and kangaroo, which appeared with their long-suffering zookeeper on posters, ads and waiter trays from the 1930s to the 1960s. Gilroy produced more than 100 press ads and nearly 50 posters.

5 Follow the main Promenade, officially opened on the 25th May 1911, passing on your right Grant's Clock, described on unveiling in 1933 as "a little sister to the lighthouse", the 1924 Central Lower Promenade below you, and the Victorian Marlborough Hotel on your left. Soon you will arrive at 'The Sandcastles' by the artist Richard Broderick, a wonderfully functional work of art which acts as a wind-protecting seating area for walkers.

Continue straight ahead crossing Watt's Slope before climbing slightly uphill to join the large grassed area known as The Links. This ever-popular recreation area was, during the early part of the 19th century, strewn with ironstone workings and colliery spoil heaps. Eventually work to totally transform this area was begun and in 1890 it was used by Whitley Bay Golf Club.

6 Follow the main path across The Links and on descending to the Panama Dip, with the circular gardens to your left, turn right towards the sea and the Northern Lower Promenade. The gardens were laid out by the local council in the 1930s and the Dip was named after a café which had occupied the site since the end of the 19th century. In Whitley Bay's heyday, this unspoilt stretch of golden sand would be teeming with holidaymakers.

Continue northwards, passing first the Panama Swimming Club and then the art déco-style drinking fountain which was erected to commemorate the coronation of King George VI. Within 200 metres you will arrive at one of the town's real gems, the Rendezvous Café. This delightful ice cream parlour has provided refreshments to generations of holidaymakers. It was a favourite haunt of the poet Julia Darling whose poem 'Rendezvous Café: Whitley Bay' perfectly captures the flavour with lines such as "Rendez Vous with the sea, and the sugary breeze, Come eat strawberry flan, while we can, while we can."

7 Now it is time to part company with the sea and sand, turning left through either one of the two archways adjacent to the café and across the car park to join the main road along the coast. Cross over and turn left past the 1970s Leisure Pool, which stands on the site of the former Prudhoe Memorial Convalescent Homes, opened in 1866 in memory of Lord Prudhoe, the 4th Duke of Northumberland.

A short walk brings you to the junction with Marine Avenue and the site of the former Spanish City fairground. Founded in 1908, the fairground was for many years the entertainment complex around which the seaside resort revolved. In 1980, the rock group Dire Straits thrust the Spanish City into the international music spotlight with their song 'Tunnel of Love' with the line "Like the Spanish City to me, when we were kids...", conjuring up the thrills and spills of a trip to the fairground. The unmistakeable white dome of the Grade II Listed Empress Ballroom rises to your left and, currently undergoing major renovation, is very much a major symbol of Whitley Bay.

8 Turn right into Marine Avenue, passing on your left the Playhouse, formerly the Essoldo and once one of four cinemas in the town. In 1897 Marine Avenue was still known as Seaside Lane and linked the village of Monkseaton with the coast. Continue along this pleasant tree-lined avenue, crossing over to the left hand side as you reach the tennis courts and bowling greens of Souter Park. In 1859/60 the Blyth & Tyne passenger railway line was constructed and the first station to serve the surrounding area, Whitley Junction, was erected where Souter Park now stands. The line by-passed Whitley Village, as it was then known, as it made its way to the docks at North Shields. The track was realigned in 1882 and a new station was built in Whitley Village. On reaching the westerly corner of Souter Park, turn left into Norham Road and cross over to Monkseaton Station, which replaced the old Whitley Junction station in 1915. Inside the station, at both ends of the curved canopy, are the stained glass artworks, 'Beach' and 'Shipyards' by Mike Davis. The 'Beach' artwork refers to its immediate locality and holidays by the sea, whilst the more abstract 'Shipyards' echoes the business of the River Tyne. On the platform there are two sets of five seats, terracotta in colour, by the artist Colin Rose and these are the only seats of this unusual design on the Metro System.

9 Outside the station again, cross back to the other side of Norham Road and turn right towards Whitley Bay town centre. Within little more than 100 metres, on your left at the end of the park, stood the former Northumberland Village Homes. Opened in the 1880s, the Homes were occupied by up to 150 girls, kitted out in a distinctive uniform of a blue serge dress and red cape, and were given instruction in household duties. The Homes closed in March 1985 and have now been tastefully converted for housing.

When you reach the bottom of Norham Road you will join Park View, another of the town's main shopping streets. Head to the right. Soon you will pass on your right the 1864 St Paul's Church, designed by London architect A. Salvin. The first vicar of the church was the Rev. R.F. Wheeler who was a founder member of the Cullercoats Volunteer Life Brigade. In his 1957 book 'The Buildings of England', Nikolaus Pevsner thought, rather oddly, that this was "not a church of much architectural merit." On your left stands the Fat Ox public house which derived its name from the famous, locally-reared animal which, when killed in March 1789, weighed an astounding 216st 8lbs (1375kg). A large copperplate engraving of the animal by Thomas Bewick was published the following month. Follow the road as it curves to your left and, where it turns sharp left at the traffic lights, cross straight ahead into Whitley Road.

10 You are now in the centre of the town and you have reached the end of the walk. Before you leave, take time to look around you. The 'Whitley Bay Clock' was commissioned from Cumbrian-based artist Chris Brammall by the town's Rotary Club to celebrate their 75th anniversary. The work was inspired by the coastal location and reflects, in its materials and structure, the engineering traditions of the area. The clock was installed in October 1998 and was formally presented to the people of the town. Look upwards and see the light coloured façade of the New Coliseum which was opened in 1910 and provided live entertainment until the advent of the 'silent movies' in 1919, when the building was extensively altered. The ABC Company introduced the first 'talkies' to the cinema in 1929 and these continued to be shown until the very last film was screened on the 1st May 1971. Not far from this spot, for a short while in the 1960s at the top of South Parade, the Club A Go-Go reverberated to the music of the day and on the 9th November 1963 a fledgling band played at the club. They were called The Rolling Stones and as they say......the rest is history!
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