Category Archives: Follies & Curiosities

Fulwell Acoustic Mirror, Sunderland

A page about this interesting World War I relic – it was supposed to give forewarning of Zeppelin attacks – has been posted on the Spirit Of Place website –

http://spiritofplace.weebly.com/fulwell-acoustic-mirror.html

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Viking rowing boat to launch at Whitburn beach

An environmentalist’s dream of launching a Viking rowing boat is to become a reality next weekend.

Bob Latimer commissioned Northumberland boat -builders to construct a traditional St Ayles skiff, a wooden rowing boat designed to hold six people.

Work is now complete and the vessel – the Latimer Ledja – is to be officially launched on Sunday 12 July, from 11am at Whitburn beach.

Mr Latimer, from Whitburn, said:

“Barring bad weather, the launch will take place on Sunday so we’re hoping for a good day. We’ve invited another skiff from Amble to come along on the day.

“After the launch, from 12.30pm to 1pm, we’re planning a half hour ‘have a go’ sessions, when new ‘skiffies’ will be welcome to have a row.”

Between 1pm and 3pm on Sunday there will be a ‘social row’ into the River Wear or north towards Souter Lighthouse and Marsden Rock, after which pasties and cakes will be served.

The Ledja has been made at Boulmer near Alnwick, Northumberland, by fisherman Jeff Matthews and volunteer Ray Angus.

Full story :  http://northstar.boards.net/thread/180/viking-rowing-launch-whitburn-beach

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Sunderland zeppelin detector restored

A  piece of First World War architecture, built in 1917 to protect Sunderland from Zeppelin attacks has re-opened following a £68,000 restoration.

Fulwell Acoustic Mirror’s historic value went unrecognised for many years and its deterioration led to its inclusion on the Historic England – previously known as English Heritage – Heritage at Risk register.

This triggered a partnership between Sunderland City Council, Historic England and Limestone Landscape which has led to its sympathetic restoration.

The Acoustic Mirror was built to help detect German airships following a series of Zeppelin raids on the North-East coastline during 1915 and 1916.

It was designed to act as an acoustic early warning system against air raids, after a bomb dropped by a Zeppelin over the Wheatsheaf area of Sunderland in April 1916 left 22 people dead and more than 100 injured.

The mirror worked by reflecting sound detected by a microphone in front of the dish to an operator who could alert the authorities of approaching Zeppelins.

Full story : http://northstar.boards.net/thread/77/sunderland-zeppelin-detector-restored

 

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Prudhoe badger gets makeover

The Badger rockery artwork on the hill at Prudhoe has had a make over done over the half term holidays by young volunteers from the Princes Trust

A team of 12 teenagers have given a Northumberland town’s iconic mascot a much-needed makeover.

The youngsters spent their entire February half-term holiday sprucing up the Prudhoe Badger public artwork, which sits on a hillside overlooking the A695 bypass, adding the finishing touches last week for its official unveiling.

The giant stone and earth creation had suffered over the last two decades from vandalism, theft and the ravages of time and weather, leading the volunteers to offer their help as part of a Prince’s Trust project.

To restore the town’s emblem back to its former glory, the volunteers – aged 16 to 22 – rearranged stones to more clearly resemble the badger’s form, while they repainted the head, tail and stripes in bright white.

The Badger rockery artwork on the hill at Prudhoe has had a make over done over the half term holidays by young volunteers from the Princes Trust 

Money for the project was provided by Prudhoe Town Council, Barclays, Mid Tyne Lions Club and several local businesses, alongside The Prince’s Trust – a charity which aims to get young people into work by giving them new skills and confidence.

Councillor Tony Reid, who represents South Prudhoe for Northumberland County Council, first commissioned the £15,000 30m-long Prudhoe Badger in the early 1990s on behalf of Northumberland County Council, shortly after the A695 bypass was built.

He said:

“I had asked a number of artists to come up with ideas for the hillside and I went with the badger by Gary Power. It was controversial as public art always is, but created a conversation and I liked that. Since then it has been accepted by locals and the town has taken it to heart.

“But the problem is maintenance due to wear and tear, which I have taken responsibility for but over the last couple of years it had begun to look really shabby. It needed some investment.

“I was having no success getting money from the council but then was contacted by the Prince’s Trust, in conjunction with local young people, who had the idea of improving it.

“They have been fantastic and the response since their work is that the badger is looking better than ever. There was also support from local businesses so it has been a real community effort.”

Prince’s Trust team leader Adam Crolla added:

“As part of their 12 week programme, the young people have to complete a community project and they all decided to renovate the badger as something that could use a makeover.

“They all worked really hard and have done a great job.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015

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Northumberland island curio goes on show in London

 
The Coquet Island hide and the lighthouse in the background

After months of relative solitude on an island off Northumberland, Wesley Davies has just set off for London.

He is delivering a hide with character, which shelters wardens on the RSPB reserve of Coquet Island off Amble during 24-hour watches to guard against egg thieves.

The hide, which will be re-erected as part of a London festival, mimics the appearance of the lighthouse on Coquet Island.

It was made by award-winning blacksmith Stephen Lunn, from Red Row in Northumberland.

The 6ft by 6ft structure includes a metal wood-burning stove in the shape of a clam shell, also made by Stephen, who is a volunteer on the island.

It replaced a stove in the shape of a puffin, called the puffin puffin.

The disco ball in the hide roof
The disco ball in the hide roof

Since it was built in 2005, the hide has gathered eccentricities, such as a lighthouse top and a glass disco ball.

This reflects the light at dusk and dawn to signal the start and end of the overnight watching shifts.

An old paraffin lamp completes the decor.

The 24-hour watches during the seabird breeding season are necessary because the island is home to the only Roseate Tern colony in the UK.

The hide, which was erected after roseate eggs were stolen nine years ago, is taken down in the autumn and stored until next spring.

But for 11 days it will be a feature of the Migration Festival at The Forge arts and music venue in Camden in London.

One of the festival events will see 11 artists producing work on the theme of extinct birds.

Visitors will be invited to sit in the hide to observe the artists as they create in the Ghosts of Gone Birds event.

Wesley, assistant warden on Coquet Island, said: “What began life as a basic shelter has gradually developed its own unique character and evolved into a work of art. I think it will look very at home in the Forge.

A view of the lighthouse from inside the hide
A view of the lighthouse from inside the hide

“It’s a miniature version of the lighthouse and its character had grown.

“Going to London is a wonderful journey for the hide to go on. It is going to be fascinating for people in London to see it, and hopefully they will love it.”

Chris Aldhous, curator of Ghost of Gone Birds, said: ‘“The Live Art Studio at the Forge offers visitors the perfect opportunity to immerse themselves in the Coquet Island experience, while watching the Ghosts artists in their natural habitat, breathing life back into Gone Birds.”

Charlotte Caird, artistic director of the Forge Venue, said: “The Camden Migration Festival is an exploration into the migration of birds and people through the arts, celebrating cultural expansion but also considering its environmental impact, particularly on bird extinction.

“The bird hide represents the positive impact that man can have on bird populations, as well as being an interesting and rather beautiful piece of furniture, full of weather-beaten stories and a real-life connection to migratory birds and those who choose to protect them.”

The hide’s journey from Coquet Island to Camden has been partly funded by Northumberland Tourism.

It has been a good season for the breeding birds of Coquet Island. The 93 pairs of roseate terns was a 19% increase on last year.

Arctic Terns with 1,464 pairs were also 19% up, and the common terns total of 1.196 pairs was an increase of almost 15%.

It’s been a very good season, with good food supplies and weather, and no disturbance,” said Wesley.

Source – Newcastle Journal, 30 Sept 2014

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Marsden White Horse revamp ‘leaves a bad taste’

COUNCIL bosses have been challenged over the future upkeep of a historic local landmark.

South Tyneside Council came under fire after it restored the White Horse, which was painted on the rocks at Marsden Craggs in the 19th century – but decided did not to tell anyone about the revamp.

Now local resident Kevin Flett is demanding to know who is going to going to look after the iconic landmark which he and other people in the community had been taking care of over the years.

Council bosses say they want to work with local people to maintain the site.

Mr Flett said:

“The way it was handled has left quite a bad taste in the mouths of those of us who have been looking after the horse for a number of years now.

“We have all worked hard to maintain the area, seeking donations of paint and going on a regular basis to remove graffiti.

“Then along comes the council who just disregard everything we have done.

“They have managed to get rid of all the layers of history which had culminated over the years. You are never going to get that back.

“I know people who have volunteered their time to look after such an important part of the history of South Shields, but are very much reluctant to stay involved now the council has just steamrollered ahead with this.

“There has been no consultation about any of this work, and I would like to know now if the council are going to taking care of the upkeep of The White Horse in the future.”

Residents are also concerned that the work involved the entire crag face being scoured and that the horse is not so easily seen.

The background limestone turned black over the centuries – creating a stark contrast with the white horse. It is now a white horse on a light grey background.

South Tyneside Council said the work is being paid for with cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it did not publicise it to combat potential vandalism.

The council insists the work was carried out to restore the White Horse “to its former glory”.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said:

“The White Horse is a landmark of significant local interest which holds a special place in the hearts of the people of South Tyneside.

“We have spoken to the community group, and a countryside officer will be meeting with them in the next few weeks.

“We would like to work with them, and any other interested groups, to agree a co-ordinated approach to protect and enhance the area of the Marsden Old Quarry Local Nature Reserve for both local people and visitors.

“We are carrying out further work in the area, such as repairs to fencing and litter picks.

“Any volunteers who would like to help to preserve the area are asked to contact the council. “

Source – Shields Gazette, 18 Sept 2014

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Marsden White Horse – local council under fire over revamp of landmark

2013_0925sept0016

Council bosses have come under under fire after leaving residents scratching their heads over the revamp of a South Tyneside landmark.

People were stunned last week when the White Horse, which has been painted on the rocks at Marsden Craggs since  the 19th century, disappeared.

It later emerged that the landmark was being restored by South Tyneside Council – which had decided not to tell anyone about the revamp.

The painting is thought to date back to at least 1887, and has regularly been repainted and cared for by local people.

Janice Collinson, 59, from Buckingham Close, Whitburn, said:

“I saw the horse had gone, and I was very shocked. I was just sad.

“It is such an iconic symbol of South Shields and I think it is a shame the community wasn’t consulted.”

South Tyneside Council says the work is being paid for with cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund and it did not publicise it to combat potential vandalism.

The council insists the work was carried out to restore the White Horse “to its former glory”.

A spokesperson said:

“We are delighted to have been able to secure funding from Limestone Landscapes partnership – a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – to have the White Horse re-painted.

“The restoration involved the removal of the existing paint and graffiti. Work started on Monday using a needle gun to remove the paint.

“The removal of the paint was completed yesterday.

“The horse has been repainted by a qualified artist, who works as a sign-writer for South Tyneside Homes and is the same man who has repainted it in the past.

“The council didn’t want to highlight the proposed works, as this may have attracted additional graffiti, which would have delayed the restoration.”

Some residents are still concerned that the history surrounding the painting has been ignored – and have vowed to examine the new version closely to make sure it is up to standard.

Jim Robertson, 65, from Boldon Colliery, said:

“It was repainted about a year ago. In the past, the people have over-painted so you could see the layers of paint and the history of it.

“What this council seem to do very well is wipe history away like it never existed. There is now no way you can see the history behind it, as there will be just one layer of paint.

“I am disappointed. In my opinion it was totally unnecessary.

“There was no consultation about this whatsoever, and I think it has been handled very badly.

“I will be comparing photographs to see how the new one compares to the old one.”

Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Sept 2014

By coincidence I was in the vicinity a couple of days before the story broke and, as I usually do, payed a visit to the White Horse. Work had evidently started, tools were lying around, but no-one was in attendence. To be fair, they were probably on their lunch break.

I took this photo –

2014_0913sept0016

The workmen appear to have removed the black painted background and retouched the Horse, which is now white on natural limestone – not the greatest of contrasts.

This secretive revamping seems to have got a lot of backs up – I wouldn’t be particularly suprised if at some stage the black background  reappears, no doubt the work of fairies.

Of course, the Horse does change from time to time. Here’s a photo I took…well, its undated, but I think probably in the 1990s –

Marsden White Horse4

For more on the history of the Marsden White Horse, see –

http://spiritofplace.weebly.com/marsden-white-horse.html

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Unique Holy Island hut torched in suspected arson attack

An organic hut at Holy Island, Northumberland, has been damaged by fire in what is thought to have been a deliberate attack.

The fire damaged hut at Holy Island

 

Arsonists are believed to be behind a blaze that almost destroyed a unique attraction at Holy Island.

Seal Hut is a wood and stone structure positioned on a remote sand dune, which was created by visitors with items they had collected on the beach.

It also housed a book in which people could write their thoughts.

But the unusual hut’s roof was completely destroyed by a fire that broke out, on Wednesday.

And the blaze is believed to have been started deliberately.  Northumbria Police have  arrested and questioned a 49-year old man in connection with the fire.

News of the suspected arson has saddened regular visitors to the hut, but is  hoped it can be re-built.

Patrick Norris, from Belford, who runs walking tours in the area : “It is sad. My feeling is if the surrounding walls which are just built up from stone off the beach are still there, people will start to put the roof back on again.

Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle

 

In a couple of years time, it will once again become a place where you can sit inside and have your sandwiches. The whole organic process will start again.

At just after 3pm on Wednesday, Humber Coastguard was notified of black smoke on the dunes by tourists and dispatched its island team.

Local coastguards searched the area and discovered the hut on fire.

They returned to the village where they met a Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service crew which had been dispatched from Berwick.

The coastguards transported the crew in their 4×4 vehicle to the hut, where the fire was put out after around 20 minutes having damaged the structure and destroyed its roof.

Discovered inside the hut were tyres, suggesting the fire had been started deliberately.

Seal Hut is is on the sand dune close to Caves Haven and Sandham Bay, roughly three miles from Holy Island village.

It is believed it first appeared around ten years ago although the reasons for its creation and who instigated it are a mystery.

The structure is said to be popular with tourists and walking groups, who take shelter from the elements inside, or use it as a palce to eat lunch and watch seals and other wildlife through its small window.

A book was left inside in which visitors would record their thoughts while it also contained visitor information and items people had left on the beach.

The hut is said to have grown over the years as people have added to it using driftwood washed up on the beach.

At one point, Natural England – which is responsible for the dunes on which the structure sits – dismantled the Seal Hut amid apparent health and safety concerns.

But it was soon built back up again.


Source – Newcastle Journal,  23 Aug 2014

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Teeside Airport – UK’s least used railway station

Just eight people used Teesside Airport railway station in a year – helping it keep its title as the UK’s least used.

The single-figure total for the 12 months to March 2013 has emerged in new Government passenger figures.

And the dismal performance was even worse than the previous year, when only 14 passengers used the airport link.

The station has just two Northern Rail services on each Sunday – the minimum required by law to avoid formal closure.

So remote and underused is the platform that even the Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) website ignores the station less than a mile from the terminal and claims that: “Darlington Train Station is the nearest train station to Durham Tees Valley Airport, located just 7 miles away.”

The Peel Group, which owns the majority of DTVA shares said it would “welcome” improvements to the station.

Peel Group’s strategic planning director, Peter Nears, said: “It has been recognised for a long time that, while the rail line is in close proximity to the airport, the current halt is not suitable and we are aware that there are proposals to include a new station as part of plans to improve local rail services.

“Implementing improvements is, of course, a matter for Network Rail and the local transport bodies and we would very much welcome early progress.”

The low usage, revealed by Office of Rail Regulation, comes after the airport was hit by falling passenger numbers.

Just 161,092 people passed through the terminal in 2013 compared with 900,000 at its peak in 2006. But it since suffered the loss of various flights, including its London link.

A Northern Rail spokeswoman said: “The service which calls at Teesside Airport station is one which is specified in our franchise agreement.

“The line between Darlington and Middlesbrough has attracted a growing number of passengers over recent years. However Teesside Airport station on the route, has not enjoyed the same success.

“We support proposals to relocate the station, as part of the wider Tees Valley Metro development, to better serve the needs of passengers.

“We are already working with partners involved on initial stages of the scheme including the opening of a new station at The James Cook University Hospital and improvements at other stations on the route.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette  10 May 2014

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W.D. Stephens Fountain, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne

A rather grandiose Edwardian public drinking fountain.

Situated at the junction of the Great North Road and Clayton Road, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Not working.

Erected in memory of William Davies Stephens 1827-1901, mayor and sheriff of Newcastle, methodist and temperance reformer. He started out in business with a chemical firm, Hugh Lee Pattinson & Co, and later developed the Tyne Steam Shipping Co. with William Laing. He was elected a Newcastle councillor in 1874, alderman in 1890 and mayor in 1879 and 1887.

The inscription reads –

Erected by public subscription in recognition of the open hearted charity, ceaseless activity and unfailing geniality of W.D. Stephens, Alderman and J.P. of the city of Newcastle on Tyne, Sherriff 1879-80
Mayor 1887-88

Distinguished as the president of great organizations for the promotion of maritime commerce he earned still higher appreciation in the cause of temperance and the betterment of the poor and needy.

A citizen of lofty ideals and strenuous endeavour.

More info & photos of this fountain at –

http://spiritofplace.weebly.com/newcastle-upon-tyne1.html

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