Attention North East writers, bloggers, creatives, businesses, venues and PR professionals. In this video DAVID SIMPSON highlights some of the opportunities available on the England’s North East site:
One of our ambitions for the New Year is to further develop the England’s North East site as a forum for promoting culture, arts, heritage, venues, visitor attractions, places to eat and stay as well as highlighting the talents of creative people and small businesses in the North East and North Yorkshire.
Writers, bloggers and PR professionals are encouraged to share content or submit stories to the site to showcase their work or that of their clients. Our only stipulation is that there should be some kind of North East connection.
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.
“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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In our latest feature on North East creative talent we talk to artist Fiona Carvell who is based in the Northumberland countryside near Shotley Bridge.
Where exactly in the North East are you based?
On the border of County Durham and Northumberland, perched on the edge of the Pennines – beautiful space! Fine Studios at Fine House Farm, Kiln Pit Hill, Consett. DH8 9SL.
How would you describe your work?
Ideas-led, which means I let the subject matter inspire and direct how I respond (as opposed to working in the same way, or having a ‘style’ regardless of subject). Visually, I am interested in line and space, the connections between objects and relationships of pattern in nature.
Tell us how you first started out as an artist?
I graduated as an illustrator and moving image designer, which led to work both as a freelance Illustrator in publishing and then a career in broadcasting. I later moved into teaching but throughout all of this never stopped drawing. I would finish a shift for doing the on-air graphics for Sky News and then go straight to a life drawing class! Teaching in F.E. meant I could spend more time experimenting with materials but it wasn’t until I started running community-based art classes that I finally realised I needed to create more of my own art. It was clamouring to get out!
My love affair with pastel started around this time and a few years later I entered a piece for the Pastel Society Open Exhibition in London which made the first selection round. I was invited to be a Unison Colour Associate Artist soon after this, which I am immensely proud of, especially as they are a North East company and sell around the world.
I was offered studio space at Fine Studios at the end of 2016, which is perfect for me as it’s just a few miles from home and an amazing place to run workshops from.
Which work are you most proud of?
Probably ‘Treasure of The Deep’, which was the first of my seaweed series. It was very big (over 3ft high once framed) which is huge for a pastel piece, and incredibly detailed.
What inspires you?
Lots of things – I go through obsessions! I had a thing about grasses and then trees for a while last year and my current theme seems to be seaweed. I am drawn to connections in nature – patterns of line and surprises of colour, that echo from one life form to another.
What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?
The North East has a wealth of inspirational landscapes. From the Pennines to the beautiful Northumberland coastline, there is so much to draw upon. My parents live on the coast and so I spend quite a bit of time photographing and sketching at beaches and castles.
What has been your most challenging creation?
Probably ‘Treasure of The Deep’. There were so many colours in each tiny section, that I would cover only a few inches a day at some points. It drove me to distraction. I would often go to the studio in my running gear so I could run a few miles of tension off in between pastel painting!
Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?
Work hard, be practical and approach what you do as any profession. If you seriously want to develop a career as an artist, you must get the balance between personal creation/production and all the other stuff that makes it possible. Admin, promotions, attending events, keeping galleries supplied and happy are all part and parcel of the job. As a qualified teacher I still enjoy teaching workshops and have found this a valuable part of my practice as it helps to develop my own artwork.
Which other artists or photographers inspire you?
My favourite pastel artist is probably Sarah Bee. Just gorgeous line work and energy. The most inspiring exhibition I attended was in Paris a few years ago by fashion designer, Issey Miyake. He presented fabric as lines and forms of pleated colour in the most astonishing display that played with light and shade. I am a great believer in looking at everything the world presents to you for potential inspiration – it can come from anywhere.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I have just returned from running my first pastel workshop in France, (which was fabulous!) and I now have another planned for May 2019. I am also in the midst of planning my workshops at Fine Studios for 2019 alongside exhibitions at various venues across the country.
Long term, I would love to exhibit with the Pastel Society, that would be an achievement and a great honour.