• Start: Heugh Battery Museum
  • End: Heugh Battery Museum
  • Country: England
  • County: Durham
  • Type: Beach
  • Nearest pub: Jacksons Wharf
  • Ordnance Survey: Middlesbrough (Landranger sheet 93)
  • Difficulty: Easy
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The Hartlepool coast can certainly be associated with bracing walks Words and pictures by David Taylor

The festive season is now well and truly over, which is a pity because I really do enjoy a good party game. My favourite is Word Association. This is where, without hesitation, you have to say a word that is relevant to one supplied by your opponent. Saying biscuit after tea, you know the sort of thing.

Hartlepool came up during a game, and, do you know I couldnt think of a single word that you would naturally associate with the town. It was infuriating. Needless to say, I lost that round and so I vowed to make Hartlepool the subject of this months walk to see what I could find out.

Start the walk outside the Battery Heugh Museum. The museum is open most of the year and aims to show the visitor something of Hartlepools military past. If you think the First World War was easy on British civilians, youll be shocked to discover Hartlepool was bombarded from the sea on the December 16th 1914.

From the museum, walk south past the Headland Lighthouse, following the promenade to South Crescent. Continue along the promenade as it curves around the tip of the Headland until you reach the old Town Wall.

In 1314 Edward II stayed the night in Hartlepool, so far the only reigning monarch to do so. Edward was on his way home after defeating the Scots at Bannockburn. The Scots were a feared enemy at this point in English history, and the Town Wall (completed in 1322) was built as a defence against a potential invasion. Not much of the wall is left now and what little is left is there to defend against a more implacable enemy, the sea.

Follow the Town Wall around and onto Southgate. At a junction follow Friendship Lane and from there onto Northgate. Continue north east along Northgate until you reach the junction of Old Cemetery Road on the right. Take this road (signposted for the Spion Kop Cemetery) until you reach the entrance to the cemetery itself. Cut through and onto the top of the dunes of North Sands.

If the tide is in your favour make your way down onto the beach and continue toward Steetley Pier. Otherwise, start back toward Hartlepool along the path that runs along the top of the dunes.

Think of a pier and you think of something like Brightons, a Victorian amusement park that happens to stick out into the sea. Steetley Pier was built for a far more practical purpose. In 1938 the Steetley Magnesium Works was built to extract magnesia from seawater. During the Second World War it was the only source of magnesia in Britain. The pier was used to pump the seawater to the works.

The works themselves are now gone except for acres of rubble, a few of the huge seawater traps and a distinctive chimney. The pier itself is no longer accessible either, though it makes a fitting monument to an important northern industry.

From the pier walk along the beach toward Hartlepool until you reach Parton Rocks. Climb back up on to the promenade and from there to Marine Drive. If you followed the dune top path you should eventually reach Marine Drive too.

When you reach the Town Moor follow the path to the promenade along the sea edge. The Town Moor has been the site of a beacon for centuries. The current beacon was lit to commemorate the Queens Golden Jubilee in 2002.

The need for a beacon was of great importance during the Napoleonic wars. Then, if Napoleon had attempted to invade Britain at Hartlepool, the beacon would have been lit to raise the alarm. The fear of a French invasion must have been a constant worry to the people of Hartlepool during this time. Fortunately for us, Napoleon had other plans and didnt try to invade. Rather disappointingly therefore, from what I can tell, nothing of significance happened in Hartlepool during this entire period of history.

The Town Moor is common land available for use by the citizens of Hartlepool. This land was granted in 1201 when King John freed the Hartlepudlians from feudal bondage. Since 1924 an annual carnival has taken place on the Town Moor in the first week of August.

Youll eventually reach a large open area. This was a recreational area built in the 1800s. At one time a bandstand stood here, and was by all accounts an exceedingly popular place to hear and see all kinds of entertainment.

The bandstand is gone now but entertainment can still be had dodging the waves as they crash against the sea wall of the promenade
at high tide.

When you reach the Heugh Battery Museum you have completed this months walk. As for me, I never did discover a word that could be associated with Hartlepool. Perhaps Id better quit monkeying around and do some proper research some time soon. n

Walk facts

Start point: Heugh Battery Museum

Grid reference: NZ 531 337

Ordnance Survey map: Middlesbrough (Landranger sheet 93)

Length: 4.1 miles (6.6 kilometres)

Difficulty: Easy (some walking on sand)

Time: Three hours

Nearest pub: Jacksons Wharf

Nearest town: Hartlepool

For more information about Hartlepool visit
David will be back next month with a walk around Druridge Bay in Northumberland.

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