Tag Archives: North East Coast

Blessed with Beaches

When you’re out with a young teenage kid it’s hard to beat the beaches of the North East coast. DAVID SIMPSON explores some of the best beaches in our region.

Bamburgh Castle and beach,
Bamburgh Castle and beach. Photo © David Simpson 2018

“Wow look at this view” you might hear me say as I drive through some lovely spot in the fabulous Northumberland and Durham countryside. My thirteen year old who says she loves it when I take her for drives in the countryside lifts her head, momentarily, from her phone, to see the lovely winding River Coquet up in the Northumberland dales, glistening in the summer sunshine. “That’s nice”, she says, before quickly returning to the engaging glow of that tiny screen.

Whitley Sands, Whitley Bay.
Whitley Sands, Whitley Bay. Photo © David Simpson 2018

It’s hard to inspire young people about our region’s wonderful scenery but at least when I test her patience by leaping out of the car (parking up first) to take a quick snap of an interesting castle, village, dale or vale, she can still maintain the undisturbed contact with her digital world.

“Is it ok if I take a quick picture?” I ask, though the question is rhetorical, I’m going to take that picture.

“So long as I don’t have to get out of the car”, she sighs.

Now I’m not complaining. I remember a distinct lack of passion for endless nature, knowledge, views and visitor centres in the distant days of my own youth out on those long day trips with my mum and dad. My feelings of indifference weren’t that much different to what my daughter feels now and there were no digital distractions for us kids back then.

Whitley Bay
Whitley Bay. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Head to the beach though and things are quite different, just as I’m sure they were for me:

“Here dad can you look after my phone while I explore?”

The beach, I’ve found, is the best place to bond with the girl. It’s just unbeatable.

It’s not just about bonding with your kids though. I’m single and in my occasional, mostly unsuccessful, ventures into online dating I’ve discovered just about every lovely lady out there in our region declares an interest in their online profile for “exploring the Northumberland Coast”.

Dunstanburgh castle from the beach at Embleton Bay. Photo © David Simpson 2015

There you’ll find it in profile after profile, like there’s some kind of hidden sponsorship deal. The coast is so predictably popular (though understandable given its ‘romantic’ beauty) that it makes me wonder how many couples wandering Amble, Alnmouth, Bamburgh, Beadnell, Whitburn, Whitley or wherever are only recently acquainted courtesy of findyournortheastcoastmate-dot-com if there’s such a thing.

Beautiful Bamburgh.
Beautiful Bamburgh. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Anyway, I digress. When I’m out with the teenager the beach is a definite best choice and there are so many to choose from. I only see her properly at weekends every couple of weeks and during this glorious summer or even back in the winter, we have often ended up strolling along one of the region’s beautiful beaches.

Beach at Seaburn / Roker
Beach at Seaburn – Roker : Photo © David Simpson 2015

Our coast really is stunning and not just in Northumberland. The beaches and coastline north and south of the Tyne as well as along the Durham coast or around the cliffs of Cleveland are all different and simply marvellous in so many ways.

So far this year we’ve done Marsden, Whitley Bay, Whitburn,  Seaburn, Saltburn, Tynemouth, Alnmouth, Bamburgh, Druridge Bay then Seaham, Seahouses, Seaton Carew and Crimdon and of course we’ve found the rocky shorelines around places like Craster or the Cleveland cliffs just as appealing. Some days were sunny, some days were winter grey and grim, but it never seems to spoil the fun.

Seaburn, Sunderland during the 2018 Tall Ships race.
Seaburn, Sunderland during the 2018 Tall Ships race. Photo © David Simpson 2018

You don’t have to spend lots of money to enjoy our splendid coast. Just take a packed lunch, though I admit a lovely fish shop, café or perhaps enjoying a bite on the beach with table service from Riley’s Fish Shack at bustling Tynemouth or an enormous ‘posh’ fish finger sandwich at the Marsden Grotto pub can be part of the delight.

Simply pottering about just seems to pass the time when I’m with the girl. This delighted beach dad can enjoy the views and take the occasional snap shot of spectacular scenes, passing ships or shapely sea shells but is just as happy gathering together a collection of countless coloured stones to make a mosaic on the beach or searching for crabs and limpets in a rock pool.

The North East coast simply rocks
The North East coast simply rocks and is never more than a stone’s throw away. Photo © David Simpson 2018

The girl loves this kind of thing too or perhaps just writing her name or mine or her mum’s in huge letters in the sand. It’s good simple fun and so too is ‘plodging in a pool’, to use a North East phrase.

My daughter found a nice pool formed by one of those huge concrete cubes, designed to keep the Germans out, though in fairness I saw no beach towels here. This was on the beach at Alnmouth and she was strangely engrossed by that pool. A great place for her to test her briefly reclaimed phone’s waterproof photography credentials (it fortunately passed), before it was returned to me and forgotten again.

Whichever beach you choose, simply wandering along the shoreline with the mesmerising sound of crashing waves is just so peaceful and life affirming and if there also happens to be an extraordinarily majestic giant sand castle called Bamburgh looming in the distance, well that’s just a bonus.

Now we’re not going to choose a favourite beach or coastal spot because, well, we couldn’t possibly be forced into any particular coastal corner. They’re all so different anyway with their own individual charms, so I’ll start by mentioning the last beach we visited at Alnmouth.

View of Alnmouth
View of Alnmouth. Photo © David Simpson 2018

We do love Alnmouth. So often people comment on how pretty it seems from the passing car as they head north along the coastal route but if you take a right turn and actually get out and explore this place it really is rather charming.

River meets the sea at Alnmouth
River meets the sea at Alnmouth. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Park up near the golf course to the north but watch out for golf balls. From here you can wander south along the beach, which then continues slightly inland along the little estuary of the River Aln itself and then onwards into the harbour with its moored up boats. From there you can wander into the delightful little village of Alnmouth itself – or is it, perhaps, a very tiny town?

Incidentally, my favourite fact about Alnmouth is that it was once fired upon by American privateer John Paul Jones during the American War of Independence when he came by in his passing warship. The cannonball missed the village church , bounced a couple of times and hit a farm building. Nobody was harmed.

Down at Saltburn in the far south of the region (a part of Yorkshire we especially love) there’s a slightly stony stream that cuts across the beach to enter the sea where you can roll up your trousers, take off your socks and shoes and plodge across. Ah, the simple pleasures!

Saltburn.
Saltburn. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Here at Saltburn the daughter and I spent quite a lot of time at the end of the pier just watching kids effortlessly catching crabs in nets on long fishing lines dropped into and raised from the sea below. The daughter was delighted when she spotted a curious whiskered seal that popped its head out of the water to watch a couple of kids paddle by in a dinghy.

Saltburn Pier.
Saltburn Pier. Photo © David Simpson 2018

The sands of Northumberland’s Druridge Bay at five miles long are a delightful find that are perhaps not so well-known. They’re relatively sedate, quite different to the buoyant beaches of say Whitley Bay or South Shields to the south. Part of a country park, Druridge Bay has the added bonus of the lovely Ladyburn Lake, a substantial freshwater lake to the rear of the Druridge dunes.

Druridge Bay
A grey day won’t stop play at Druridge Bay. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Tynemouth and Cullercoats are always firm favourites and justifiably popular. Whitley Bay looked lovely and lively in the sunshine on our recent visits even before they reopened the beautiful, elegant revamped Spanish City.

St Mary's Island near Whitley Bay.
St Mary’s Island near Whitley Bay. Photo © David Simpson 2018

We love the sandcastle sculptures there which are quite quirky and as for St Mary’s Island, I’m sure it’s been said so many times before but it’s simply picture postcard perfect.

Marsden Bay near South Shields.
Marsden Bay near South Shields. Photo © David Simpson 2018

South of the Tyne, Marsden Bay is still a great spot and the novelty of the lift down the cliff to the grotto pub and beach below never loses its simple appeal.

Further south, Sunderland is a city of super beaches which are always good for a wander. We recently walked down from wonderful Whitburn to Seaham and Roker during the Tall Ships Race as the ships headed out to sea and it was certainly a serene sight to see.

Crimdon Beach
Crimdon beach looking towards Hartlepool and the distant cliffs of the Cleveland coast beyond. Photo © David Simpson 2018

The Durham coast, once shunned by tourists for its industrial blight of now distant times has emerged as a new jewel following decades of intensive clean up and has several smashing beaches to explore. Many are still largely unknown even to residents of that county.

The unique terrain and natural environment formed by the meeting of the Magnesian limestone and the sea  makes the Durham coast a special spot for nature especially when coupled with the beautiful neighbouring wooded denes that are a regular feature of this particular coast.

The town of Seaham Harbour has seen a stunning transformation and despite the rather industrial names of two of its  beaches –  ‘Blast Beach’ and ‘Chemical Beach’, –  the names are in fact quite misleading as it is nature that now rules.

Blast Beach, Seaham
Blast Beach, Seaham Photo © David Simpson 2018

Speaking of jewels you may find pretty gems of many colours washed up on a beach here at Seaham. These wave-weathered, smooth, rounded pieces of glass were discarded into the sea by a Victorian glass works that once stood hereabouts and create a delightful little treasure to hunt for if you know where to look.

Indeed the whole North East coast could be described as a wonderful gem in itself. I’m always flabbergasted to hear even the best-known beaches of our region described as ‘the best-kept secret’.  For me and my girl it’s no secret at all, the North East coast is our familiar friend and a place where happy memories are made.

External sites:

Northumberland Coast AONB:

http://www.northumberlandcoastaonb.org/

Durham Heritage Coast: 

www.durhamheritagecoast.org/

A North East Beach Guide:

www.thebeachguide.co.uk/north-east-england

England Coast Path: 

www.nationaltrail.co.uk/england-coast-path

Joanne’s colourful, quirky seaside scenes will make you smile

In our latest interview featuring creative people in the region we talk to 40-year-old Ouseburn-based artist Joanne Wishart.

Newcastle-based artist. Joanne Wishart
Newcastle-based artist. Joanne Wishart

Where in the North East are you based?

My studio is based at the Mushroom Works in Ouseburn, Newcastle, but I live a little nearer the coast in North Shields.

How would you describe your work?

My work is colourful and quirky capturing nostalgic seaside memories of days out at the coast, in particular the North East coast. I have an extensive back catalogue of works depicting Northumberland’s favourite coastal landmarks. I like to paint summer days and sunny skies to create images that will give you a lift and make you smile.

Seaside Donkeys by Joanne Wishart
Seaside Donkeys by Joanne Wishart

I work mainly with acrylic paint but I like to add a bit of collage material including fabrics and old maps into my work to give added layers and a textured surface.  My ideas have developed over the years and have introduced new work including driftwood boat sculptures, and deckchair artworks.

Tell us how you first started out as an artist?

I’ve always been creative ever since I was a child. Then after school I went on to study Printed Textile design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee. As part of my degree I spent a term in Nova Scotia studying at their art college, which was a fabulous experience.

I would say the progression form graduation to where I am today was a slow process, I initially got work freelancing for agents in the U.K. and New York designing Hawaiian shirt prints and children’s furnishing fabrics. I also worked part time in a small gallery and picture framers. In 2006 I met my now husband and moved from Berwick upon Tweed to North Tyneside and together we set up our current business where we self publish my paintings into limited edition prints and greetings cards and we haven’t looked back.

Towards Dunstanburgh by Joanne Wishart
Towards Dunstanburgh by Joanne Wishart

What work are you most proud of?

I do love the old 1940’s deckchair frames with my paintings on the canvas. They are something just a little bit different and really capture the essence of seaside nostalgia.

I am also proud to have won North East England’s “Best Creative Business” in 2009.  I am proud to be able to make my way in the world doing what I love for a living.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

Growing up near Berwick upon Tweed and now living in North Tyneside, North East England has so much to offer in terms of inspiration.

 What inspires you?

I love the great outdoors, the beauty of the North East coastline, the coastal landscape, the sun, the sea, the flowers and animals. Most of my inspiration comes from walking the coastal paths or spending a sunny day on the beach with my kids. I like to get out and about with my sketchbook and camera, taking it all back to my studio with a head full of ideas.

Puffins by Joanne Wishart
Puffins by Joanne Wishart

What has been your most challenging creation?

My most challenging creation has to be my exhibition in the Bridge Gallery at Tynemouth station. It is such an unusual space to hang work in and that can be view from both sides of the walkway. I am used to hanging a painting on a flat wall so I had to think differently to make this exhibition work as a whole.

 Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

My tips would be to work hard, create your own style, evolve and develop. Go into galleries and ask for feedback (make an appointment first, you will get a better response!), learn from this and don’t let the knock backs get you down.  An artist’s life is a rollercoaster and you never know what is around the next corner.

Joanne Wishart, artist
Joanne Wishart, artist

Which other artists or photographers inspire you.

I try not to get too inspired by other artists work so that my own signature style develops. 

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would love to run my own studio gallery one day, this might be when my kids get a bit older, but for the moment I am happy juggling being a mum and artist.

If you would like to visit my studio at the Mushroom Works and see where the magic happens please pop along to Ouseburn Open Studios on the 30th June & 1st July.  The Mushroom Works will be open to the public and welcomes visitors behind the scenes. I will have a selection of new North East paintings on show in the Mushroom Works gallery and will be on hand to talk to anyone in my studio.

Discover more ofJoanne’s art at : www.joannewishart.co.uk

Treasure troves of the coast an inspiration for Kate

An interview with Durham-based artist, Kate Van Suddese. Kate describes how she is inspired by the North East coast and the different artists who have influenced her work and passion. Part of a continuing series exploring the work of artists, photographers and other creative people in the North East.

'Sea Kiss' by Kate Van Suddese. Depicts the rocks at Marsden Bay.
‘Sea Kiss’ by Kate Van Suddese. Depicts the rocks at Marsden Bay.

How would you describe your work?

It’s hard to define my work as I have changed so much over the years both in style and subject. I have sold my work professionally for over 30 years and in such a timescale things change drastically in every way or I feel they should do!  Always learning, always growing, always changing, always new things to see and paint.!

To give a recent point of focus I would say I have been a seascape artist for the longest time. Back when I was younger I painted portraits and then went on to large abstract paintings that were purely involved with colour and form. I loved Cezanne and Rothko at the time and they influenced me a great deal.

'City Life' Kate Van Suddese, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.
‘City Life’ Kate Van Suddese, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

Tell us how you first started out as an artist.

I first started out after Uni in my early 20s painting portraits. I worked lots of part time jobs to keep funds going so I could paint. I dropped in and out of Art degrees and courses as the mood took me, travelled around a few places. Always painting and always trying to get my work into galleries etc. and always working if I ran out of cash. Eventually I built up a selection of galleries who exhibited my work nationally including the Biscuit Factory, Red Rag Gallery, the Leith gallery. And things went on from there.

Kate Van Suddese
Kate Van Suddese

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

In 1993 my mother died and it had a profound effect on my painting world. I began to paint the coastal world around me. It was a place where I found peace and the raw energy and sense of limitless space was comforting. A bridge to another world.

Mum loved the North East coast and I found myself wandering around in her footsteps, reliving the childhood memories I had of days at the beach with my family. I ended up painting a whole series of seascapes featuring huge crashing waves and local landmarks all with a link in my mind to my mother and my family.

From then on I have been painting my beloved Northern coastline in all its glory as a tribute to both my mum and the whole Northern ethos.

Warmth, family, roots, history: who cannot but be inspired by our beautiful coast? The variety and breadth of the coast from Redcar up to Amble etc and beyond is amazing.  The beauty and wide expanse of beach and white light of Bamburgh is just breathtaking. Both Lindisfarne and Dunstanburgh with their history and isolation are magnets for people seeking open space and a sense of belonging.

When you see the regeneration of the coal coast it just astounds with the changes that have happened over recent years. There are still the scars of the mining industry within its folds but the beaches and coastal paths are now well on their way to their own form of well-hewn beauty. Its good to keep a sign of past times too, to remember life as it was. I spend a fair bit of time at Blast Beach , Seaham, looking for glass from the old glass works and painting the crashing waves at Noses Point.

I spend every weekend at Tynemouth Market with my paintings and prints and have come to love the coast in the area. I set off early to watch the early sun from different vantage points before I go to work at the market.  Sitting watching the early waves come in at North Shields fish quay and the Groyne is One of the most peaceful and happy things I like to do. It never fails to make me want to paint it.

Kate Van Suddese's 'Treasures Hunters' depicts the fabulous market at Tynemouth.
Kate Van Suddese’s ‘Treasures Hunters’ depicts the fabulous market at Tynemouth.

All the way along, St Edwards Bay, Longsands and our magnificent St Mary’s Lighthouse is a treasure trove of inspiration, both through memories of times past and present day happiness. In rain or shine, calm or storm.

I paint in lots of different styles, it depends on how I feel at the time and what the image needs. But mainly I am an oil painter, using canvases both tiny and large.

I adore Turner and Atkinson Grimshaw and much of my work has a feel to it of both. Its not deliberate, I just feel that my love of light and beauty is so ingrained that is just comes out as it does because that seems to be the only way I can try to capture what I want. Turner’s use of light and colour and almost abstract form was far advanced for the time and seems to me to just capture the essence of another world with its sense of beauty and translucence.

'In The Soft Light of Morning' St Mary's Lighthouse near Whitley Bay. Kate Van Suddese.
‘In The Soft Light of Morning’ St Mary’s Lighthouse near Whitley Bay. Kate Van Suddese.

In painting local landmarks and local seas I also wanted to find a way to paint beauty, as to me the sense of place and belonging is a link to love and life.

I try to find the beauty in whatever it is that has inspired me to pick up my brush and paint it.

As I said the focus of my work is mainly as a seascape artist but recently I have enjoyed creating small series of fantasy works. All have to be beautiful in one way or another though. Story telling is something I like to do and to tell a story with a painting is a satisfying way of making magic from nothing.

'Night Life'. The Tyne Bridge, Kate Van Suddese.
‘Night Life’. The Tyne Bridge, Kate Van Suddese.

What inspires you?

Everything inspires me. The world around me, words , poems, colours, stories, memories, sadness,happiness, my family, my love of the sea and my love of the North and its history and encompassing nature.

Which other artists or photographers do you admire?

Turner for his love of light. The Pre-Raphaelites for their love of romance and magic. Monet for his colour and expression. Charles Napier Hemy for the sea and motion. Norman Cornish for my Grandad who was a miner. Vuillard because everything he does is so beautiful. Jeremy Mann breathtaking. Berthelsen for his warmth like being wrapped in a blanket. Dame Laura Knight for memories and sunlight

'The Sunshine Bay', Cullercoats. Kate Van Suddese.
‘The Sunshine Bay’, Cullercoats. Kate Van Suddese.

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Be yourself, paint what you want  and keep experimenting and changing.

Decide which way you want your career to go, what is the most important thing and go for it . find which side of the fine line between Art and Commerce it is that motivates you and make your choices accordingly. Its hard being an artist for the love of it if you cant make enough money to buy paint and pay your bills.  Just keep going and don’t let the knock s set you back, there will always be someone who loves your work  and someone who doesn’t.

Roker Lighthouse. Kate Van Suddese.
Roker Lighthouse. Kate Van Suddese.

What has been your most challenging creation?

My most challenging creation hasn’t happened yet. Everything is hard, I call it a bitter sweet occupation, the love and pain involved in creating anything is all encompassing whether it is 2D or 3D, for yourself or a commission.

What are your ambitions for the future?

As far as ambitions for the future goes: I just want to paint!

See more of Kate’s work www.katevansuddese.com