Hetton Lyons Country Park, on the outskirts of the town of Hetton-le-Hole, rose like a green pheonix from the ashes of the mining industry – where once people worked and died (there’s a monument to those who perished in a mining disaster) there are now three lakes, woodland, wetland and acres of open space.
I had business at the park in the morning, but free by 1 p.m. I thought rather than catch the bus back the 8 or 9 miles into the city I’d walk back, trying to avoid traffic wherever possible (I find the sound of moving traffic increasingly annoying).
I left the country park by another relic of mining days – an old mineral line, now a footpath, which once carried coal wagons.
On the hillsides, Gorse bushes are in flower. Those yellow flowers can be used to make a very nice wine, but you need a lot of them, and Gorse thorns exact payment in blood.
The footpath climbs steadily in an easterly direction.
Eventually the footpath intersects with a minor road, and I turn onto this heading north. This single-track road is called Salter’s Lane, which suggests it may have once been part of an ancient saltway – an old trading route.
The road passes through a farmyard, and then I’m in a landscape of wind-turbines that’d have freaked out Don Quixote.
In some areas there is a lot of anti-wind turbine feeling, but I like them, I think they enhance, rather than spoil the landscape. If the hillside was dotted with old-style windmills, that’d be thought scenic. But what’s the difference really ? Both use the power of the wind to create power.
A little way beyond the farm I leave the saltway and head eastwards again, along a track that leads through fields and woodland before eventually depositing me on another old railway line turned footpath just outside the village of Murton – somewhere along that track I crossed the boundry from the City of Sunderland into County Durham.
Murton was a pit village – small town, really - that for centuries was a small farming community, which grew due to the Industrial Revolution and the need for coal.
Heading northwards again, a little further on I get a first glimpse of the North Sea on the eastern horizon.
One problem with old railway lines as paths is that they’re often boringly straight. So is this one, but at least most of the way its raised up above the surrounding countryside on an embankment, giving good views to either side.
After a cold Spring, this warm May day has brought out flowers along the way, both wild and feral escapees from gardens. Here’s some Cowslips…
My only real brush with traffic along the way is when the path crosses the A19 (a motorway in all but name), and I ponder that its predecessor, the railway, is now given over to pedestrian and cycle use (as are the railway’s predecessors, the canals) – will there come a day when motorways too become footpaths ?
A sign-post along the way. It’s numbered 1, but I passed no others along the way.
Ah – now this bench is a piece of personal history. Several years, and jobs, ago I painted this, and its sibling benches along this stretch of the path. I particularly remember this otherwise mundane job because it was a raw Winter’s day in January or February, and a cruel wind was blowing in from the North Sea, giving every impression that the last landmass it had crossed had been northern Scandinavia, and bringing with it gifts of intermittant rain and hailstones.
You might think – and I certainly did – that it wasn’t a good idea to be painting benches in the rain. The paint might not take properly, and, more to the point, people do not do a good job when being subjected to the icy blast of the elements and can no longer feel their fingers, feet and other parts.
But the boss was not a flexible man. Once he decided a job had to be done on a certain day, that was it. I guess we were just lucky it wasn’t under 3 feet of snow – he’d have had us digging them out, then painting them.
Looks like its due for a re-paint. But not by me !
And now I was approaching the end of this footpath, Ryhope – once a village, now the outer limits of Sunderland. This last picture is looking back, southwards, along the path…
After a warm, sunny afternoon, dark clouds were piling up and the first raindrops falling as I walked the short distance to the nearest bus stop… a short distance within which two buses going my way passed me !
Luckily its a route well-served by public transport and so I only had to wait about 10 minutes before another two buses came along, one behind the other ! I caught the first one back into the city centre.
This journey was probably somewhere in the region of 8 to 10 miles. Hard to be sure, because I detour to look at things.