Posted: Saturday 01 December 2018
North East Associates
Earsdon, Seghill and Backworth Walk
- Thursday 25th October -
On Thursday 25th October, seventeen Associates set off from the Red Lion Inn in Earsdon - a small village on the outskirts of Whitley Bay.
It was a bright but chilly start as we walked through the village and then down to
St. Alban’s Church cemetery.
St. Alban's Church, Earsdon
We then proceeded along farm paths and ex-pit waggonways, skirting a reclaimed landfill site in Seghill and walking alongside a 'real' railway line.
The way ahead
This was ‘coal-country’ with a network of waggonways, initially with wooden rails, on which coal was transported in waggons, or chauldrons, which held about a couple of tons.
At first the chauldrons were hauled by horses - or 'slowed' by them - as the routes to the River Tyne were set at a slight downhill slope.
One chauldron, one horse, one man!.
From Seghill to the river was, and is, about seven miles.
Also at the early time of their use the coal they carried came from ‘bell-pits’
– below ground these were shaped like a bell – being dug at random and just abandoned when thought to be unsafe.
Problems exist today with sink-holes appearing in the area – the locations of these pits were not usually recorded.
These waggonway track-beds are now maintained as public bridleways in the region - and there are 150 miles of them in the borough of North Tyneside.
Following the bell-pit era several large deep-mine collieries were built in the area, through which today’s walk progressed.
With these pits came steam railways to handle the coal volumes.
Very, very, little of the remains of this industry are to be seen today, but the rail alignments have been added to the network of paths.
The image above shows what is left of the pit-heap at Backworth, and as kids we would stand in awe of this 'mountain'. It was a no-go area, though, as it was on fire, and often showed a red glow as darkness approached. This could be seen from miles away.
Even today the land recovered remains unsuitable for farming and it's best use is for grazing. Yes, for horses - with the bridleways as excellent riding territory. Watch where you walk!
Returning to the real railway line, coal is still carried on this Network Rail track, with daily trains of about twenty-five 100-ton wagons filled at open-cast mining sites in Northumberland.
Diesel power rules today - 3,300 horse power compared with the original one!
Crossing under the railway line, we made our way to the village of Backworth where we walked along the main street and then back out into open land, then skirting a new housing development in Shiremoor.
Earsdon beckons, still about two miles to go
We then headed back to Earsdon and the only major climb of the day was up to the start point where the Red Lion Bitter was especially welcome and helped to wash down the Daily Special of three courses for £6.99.
Yes, that's correct - UNDER 7 POUNDS.
The Black Pudding in Peppercorn Sauce starter was a popular choice for starter as were the main courses of Mince & Dumplings and Roast of the Day.
Yours truly had to leave early so missed out on the pudding, but again there were plenty from which to choose.
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