Day 23. Mon 30th Jan. Blackhall Rocks to Sunderland.
My dad would constantly remind me, "you're old enough and ugly enough to make your own decisions", he was clearly right about the ugly enough but when will I be old enough ?? When Paul suggested I should head for the Hardwick Hotel, which was owned by a couple of Freemasons, I should have been old enough and wise enough to stay on the beach and keep walking past !!! Nigel didn't drag me from the street into the bar, he welcomed me inside and offered me a brew. A cup of tea or coffee, but, it was Sunday, I was standing at the bar, I'd just walked 13 miles and it was already 2.30pm so I wasn't walking much further before I planned to pitch the tent. He must have read all that in my eyes as he then quickly said, Nahh, let's have a beer... Beer, food, bed.... Why did I wake up with a bad head then ??? Surely all of my decisions weren't bad ones, I did eat and I was in bed by 10pm... 🥴
It was only a short walk down the slopes in the morning to the beach and when I got down there I was amazed. It was as if I'd been teleported to a beach somewhere on the Mediterranean.
I managed to walk along the beach for over an hour before the tide forced me up onto the cliffs but not before I had to nip into the sand dunes for a short interlude !!! 🥴 I thought it might have been the remainder of the calzone that I heated up for my breakfast but on reflection, it's more likely that it was the 8 pints of Caffreys.... I say 8, it might have been 7 but equally, it also might have been 10 !!! The conversation was good, the company was excellent, my feet were aching and Caffreys is a very nice pint !!!! Note to self, research decision making processes.... Must try harder.... 😳
The walking on the cliffs was good, a few sharp descents and climbs through the ravines heading down to the sea but nothing too challenging. I passed another two viaducts, one redundant but one still carrying the occasional train. Even if you're not a 'bridge geek', you can't help but stand and marvel at these incredible structures, constructed before we started using iron and when you consider the primitive equipment the builders used and the size of the gaps they were trying to bridge.... Quite incredible and will never get bored standing for while taking in their enormity and the reminder of our engineering heritage.
I knew I couldn't walk all the way up to South Shields in a day but as I had been invited to a Masonic Meeting up there, my plan was to walk as far as Sunderland and then jump on a bus. At the very southern end of Sunderland I was forced out onto the road by a very deep ravine so was making my way up the side of the road when a car pulled up. The driver jumped out and came running over, introduced himself and asked if we could have a picture together. He offered me a lift but I gratefully declined, I intended to walk this coastline so accepting lifts would clearly be cheating... About 15 minutes later, I was cursing my missed opportunity of a lift as I was falling about trying to walk up the side of a very busy road which had no footpaths, the same car pulled up again. This time, Jim, the WM from the Lodge in Seaton was a little more forceful and insisted I got in the car, for which I was very grateful. 😰 Jim and his wife kindly said they would drop me at the bus station so we set off having a good chat. After a while Jim asked where I wanting putting down to which I responded the bus stop, no he said, where in South Shields, we are here !!!
Thanks Jim, that saved me having to drag my kit on and off a bus... You're a good man and I know you'd only nipped out with the wife for some shopping so I hope you didn't have any frozen goods...
They dropped me at the town hall, within 5 minutes I was picked up by Paul the Durham Communications Officer and driven to meet Chris, the gentleman who had kindly offered me a bed for the night.
Coffee, shower, shirt ironed and Chris drove us to the Lodge. I had a lovely evening in the company of some great guys, a lovely meal and another donation from the Lodge into the funds for the MCF.
It might not seem much to you good readers but the effort these guys in Durham are putting in to look after me is quite incredible. They are all busy men with plenty to do already but as a team, they are looking after me like I'm one of their own.
Before I left Lincolnshire on New Year's Day, I did wonder if this amazing fraternity I'm so proud to be a member of, would behave as it did in times of old. The stories of the journeyman Mason being accommodated and looked after while travelling to the next place of work.
I could never have dreamed that it would be as good as this and it's not over yet. I still have two more meetings in The Province of Durham before they send me through the tunnel into Northumberland.
These men of Durham truly are, Worthy men indeed.