Sunday, March 30, 2008

Home to Home to Home

Please bear with me if you visit my blog to see if I've got any new crafty stuff to share, because today I'm going to head off on a different tangent and share a couple of photos of what can be done with a bit of imagination and a lot of money........and sand!

I really really miss being near the seaside. I love where I live now, but once a seasider, always a seasider, so walking on the prom (and it doesn't really matter where that prom is located) always makes me feel better. So far this year we've been lucky enough to get to the coast a couple of times already, but our trip up to stay with my rellies in the ol' hometown of Newbiggin by the Sea in Northumberland was extra special this year

It's an old fishing village and my ancestry goes way back within the fishing community for many generation. Then during the first decades of the 20th century the coal mines were started up and a lot of the menfolk in my family left the sea and went down the mines instead of out in those little cobles to fish for a living. Great choice eh? risk your lives out on the North Sea in a wooden rowing boat or go and dig the seams underground with all the dangers surrounding that particular occupation.
No wonder really that my dad went off to night school to do more studying and get more qualifications so he could get himself away from the coal - he wanted to make sure too, that we kids would have more opportunities when we grew up. That's how we came to move away from the North East.

Anyway, the coal mines are all closed now, but they went right out for a mile or more under the sea (my Grandad used to swear that sometimes he could hear the boats overhead when he was down the mines....) and they reckon that that, plus the wild storms that batter the coast up there is what "did for" the once lovely beach that Newbiggin boasted. I have old Victorian postcards and photos showing the beach absolutely stuffed with holidaymakers and daytrippers. Even when I was little there was plenty of sand to play on - even if there was a lot of the coal "dross" washed up along the shore a lot of the time. At various times new sea defences have been erected and most have looked a right mess - an awful lot of concrete must have ended up on Newbiggin bay! It got so bad that in recent years any sand at all was only in the very east and west bits of the bay and in the middle was all concrete and was really very ugly indeed.
This photo was taken a couple of years ago - see what I mean about the concrete?
So, back to why I was excited to be going back this Easter.
Well they spent most of last year building a new breakwater in the middle of the bay, taking out most of that horrible concrete and bringing in new sand from Norfolk to rebuild the beach - they brought tonnes and tonnes of it up every couple of weeks by dredger and then pumped it onto the beach. The excitement in the town was immense, my Aunt and Uncle said they'd never seen so many people walking the prom. Loads of visitors came to watch and there wwere even webcams set up in the houses above the bay so you could watch progress online!
We drove up to Newbiggin a week past Thursday, were in my aunt's house long enough to say hello and dump our bags and then we were heading across the road to the top of the big steps to get our first glimpse of what had been done!
I just stood there saying "WOW WOW, I can't believe it, it's amazing"
Because now Newbiggin bay looks like this:
OK so the sand isn't as soft an white as the "old" Newbiggin stuff was, it's a bit coarser and redder than that, but it's 100% better that it was and to see the old bay looking more like I remember it when mum used to meet us out of school and we'd go to play on the beach for an hour or so gave me such a thrill - even if a lot of it is already up on the prom thanks to the high winds and rough seas over the winter!
It's brought such a feeling of excitement and optimism to the place - you can feel it in the air. The village has had a really rough recent history, the fishing industry being dpleted, the mines being closed, and little new industry to replace them. To be honest it was all looking really sad and shabby and you got the feeling that the people were equally downtrodden with little hope for the future. Now it's all so different, the bay looks amazing -ok so those enormous statues are a bit on the strange side....but hey, they are a "talking point", see below for closer pics. There's a buzz in the air that wasn't there before, people are coming from all over the world to see whats been done - and maybe even to look at Ebb and Flo as those two weirdos standing on that very odd platform on the breakwater in the middle of the bay have been "christened". I doubt it'll be the sort of place you'd go for your fortnight's holiday like the Victorians did, but if you're ever in my beautiful home county of Northumberland do go and have a walk along the prom at Newbiggin by the Sea. And if we have a good summer this year - well, who knows...
Maybe the future for my old hometown is looking a tad brighter nowadays

I took the photo above just before we left on Wednesday morning - we went for a last look before we headed out of the village. Must admit it brought a tear to my eyes. Actually I was snivelling like a baby till well after I'd had my last glimpse of the Angel of the North. But then I always do that - leaving "home" is so difficult - and then after another few miles I start looking forward to getting home to "now" home. Funny old world

"Couple" is a sculpture by Sean Henry that stands out on the breakwatrer in the middle of the bay - Britain's first permanent off-shore art work, apparently. hmmm.....
Not sure anyone really knows what the point is, but I'm sure loads of people will visit just to stand and stare and ask the same questions I was asked by a visitor to the town when we were walking along the prom
"What are they there for? What is it trying to say?"

For more about Newbiggin by the Sea, click here


Janice said...

I am so glad it lived up to your expectations Kathy. It certainly looks worth visiting, the sand looks great - mind you I bet the sea isn't any warmer! I grew up on the east coast of Scotland and the north sea was always freezing even when it was roasting hot on the beach.

Karen said...

What an interesting story about Newbiggin Kathy. Doesn't it make a change that the powers that be want to improve someething in that way instead of just bunging more concrete down like they did in my hometown of Looe. It must give a real hope for the future to the locals.

Hazel said...

I enjoyed reading this, Kathy - you are so right that once a seasider, always ... I grew up by the sea, and, although I love living here, still miss the walks along the prom - with the waves sometimes splashing right over (those were the days)

seedlingsmum said...

How wonderful to read your story- I am glad it made you happy and it is nice to read something positive about a place!

Angelnorth said...

What a transformation! There are some lovely bits of coast up here and Newbiggin has just joined in again by the look of it. Glad you enjoyed the trip and that you can view more than one place as 'home' - it's the only way to do it, I reckon!

Susan (Sue H) said...

Sounds like you had a lovely time Kathy, it looks like you'll be able to pack your bucket and spade next time you go 'home'!

Such an intresting story and it really sounds like they've done something for the better for once.

Rosie (Freycob) said...

Kathy, thanks so much for sharing your home town with us. When you first told me you were going 'home' I Googled it and thought it looked lovely. What wonderful memories you have of your childhood and the beach.

Nick said...

what a lovely story Kathy, and I love Ebb & Flo!
I grew up near the sea too-although a stony beach, but we do stil go for a walk there now and again-brings back so many memories

Lisa said...

Yeay to them! So glad they did this. As another ex-seasider I know exactly what you mean! I fill up when I hear a seagull!!

Sam said...

glad you enjoyed your trip 'home' Kathy!! I've never actually been up to Newbiggin, but may do so now!! you could of called into say hi, on your way past - I live just off the A19!