Sunderland Walk - Roker Terrace, Seaburn Marina, Wearmouth Bridge

PUBLISHED: 12:35 11 October 2011 | UPDATED: 11:54 09 October 2012

Roker Pier

Roker Pier

This month's walk takes in Sunderland, with its rich history of ship building and its modern heart of glass Words and pictures by David Taylor

Can you imagine a world in which you have salt but not pepper? Tom without Jerry? Or, closer to home, Tyne without Wear? Thats right, despite the undoubted rivalry, the two cities of Newcastle and Sunderland really do go together and one would be the poorer without the other.

They both share a common history of industrial might, two cities dependant on their respective rivers for trade and identity. Both have premier league football teams that occasionally meet for (sometimes) good-natured matches. And both, in recent years, have reinvented themselves for the 21st Century. So readers from Newcastle, if youve not been to Sunderland, now is your chance to find out something about this fine city to the south.

Start this months walk on Roker Terrace, with its long row of houses looking out to sea, and head north along the path that hugs the coastline. Along the way you will pass a sandstone cross dedicated to the Venerable Bede, who lived in nearby Monkwearmouth in the
8th century.

Bede was the superstar scholar of his day, writing the influential Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the standard text for historians for many centuries. He also gets a mention in Dantes Inferno, the only Englishman to do so. And, unlike the Lindisfarne Gospels - another Christian treasure - his remains are still in the northeast, in a chapel in Durham Cathedral.

Continue along the coast until you reach Seaburn Lighthouse. Less substantial than Souter Lighthouse a few miles to the north, Seaburn Lighthouse once did sterling service warning ships away from Parsons Rocks on the coast below.

From the lighthouse cut across the grass back to the road. Cross over and walk west along Chichester Road. This leads onto Sea Road and then Station Road. At a triangular junction of road cross over to Mill Bank and from there up and onto the A1018.

On the opposite side of the road is Fulwell Windmill. This is a familiar landmark for those who commute daily along the A1018 (off to, dare I say it, Newcastle). The windmill was completed in 1808 and was in use until 1949. Unfortunately, after this the structure was allowed to deteriorate over time and this important building could have been lost.

Happily in the 1990s, Sunderland City Council began a programme of repairs culminating in the windmill opening to visitors in 2001.
Cross over the A1018 and follow it north past a car showroom. Immediately after the showroom take the bridleway on your left and follow it west to Carley Hill. The path skirts around a housing estate to take you eventually to Fulwell Quarry Nature reserve.

The rocks in this, now abandoned, quarry are Magnesian Limestone formed some 230 million years ago in the Permian period. The limestone was an important commodity used in the production of fertiliser. The quarry, thanks to its geology, is now an important habitat for plants and insects, including large numbers of summer butterflies.

Follow the path around the reserve (or if youre more daring, cut through the reserve itself) until you reach Whitchurch Road and the Witherwack housing estate. Walk along Whitchurch Road to Wembley Road, turn left and then right onto Old Mill Road. At a large roundabout take the Northern Way down to the A1231 / Wessington Way.

At the traffic lights cross over to a wooded island. Follow the path down into the trees and turn right, through an underpass. When you reach a direction sign, take the path that takes you down to the River Wear through a cluster of business and commercial units.

Once you reach the river path, head east toward the Stadium of Light football ground. Continue to follow the river, crossing under the Wearmouth road and rail bridges. Along the way you will pass the impressively modern University of Sunderland buildings and then the National Glass Centre.

The National Glass Centre is rightly placed in Sunderland. Before ships, glass was one of Sunderlands major industries. The first glaziers
in England were based in Wearmouth Monastery, the monks beginning their trade in 674AD. Remarkably, English glass-making had its birth at roughly the same time as the Venerable Bede.

It is of course ship-building that Sunderland was once renowned for. Follow the path as it curves gently north along the course of the river. Across on the south side can be seen the sites of the various ship-building yards, now all sadly gone.

Ships were first built in Sunderland in the 14th century. During the intervening centuries over four hundred ship yards were registered along the river. This all came to an end in 1988 when, thanks to foreign competition and underinvestment, the final yard closed on the Wear.

However, not to get close to the end of this walk in a gloomy mood, boats are still important to Wearside. This is amply proven when you reach the busy marina crammed with pleasure vessels of all shapes and sizes. The call of the sea is obviously still strong to Wearsiders. Stroll around the marina, skirting the attractive and well-placed housing estate until you reach Marine Walk.

Across the water is the impressive sweep of Roker Pier, terminating in the distinctive shape of Roker Lighthouse. If the pier is open its a pleasant stroll to the lighthouse and to see the view back towards Roker. Once youve done that, take a path back up to Roker Terrace to complete this months walk.

Walk Facts

Start Point: Roker Terrace

Grid Reference: NZ 407 589

Ordnance Survey Map: OS Landranger Sheet 88

Length: 6.8 miles (11 kilometres)

Time: 3 hours

Difficulty: Easy paths though some slopes

Nearest Pub: The Harbour View, Roker

Nearest town: Sunderland

For more information about Sunderland visit

The print version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of North East Life

We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here

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