The Land of the Sand Dancer

Sheila Newton By Sheila Newton, 6th Aug 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/15w3msfv/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>England>The Northeast

Walking and sightseeing in the pretty town of South Shields - the land of the Sand Dancer

Catherine Cookson Country

On the South side of the River Tyne’s estuary in the North East of England, sits South Shields – the land of the Sand Dancer.
South Tyneside, wherein lies South Shields, markets itself as ‘Catherine Cookson Country’ and has much to offer visitors. People hailing from South Shields proudly call themselves ‘Sand Dancers’, bantering in humorous, albeit competitive Geordie accents, with the ‘true Geordies’ from the North side of the River Tyne. There’s even a pub in South Shields called ‘The Sand Dancer’ that hosts rock bands on a regular basis. It’s a great little pub, right on the sea front, where the white surf sprays up in silver spume and seagulls screech as they crash the waves.
There’s so much to do in South Tyneside that you couldn’t possibly do it all in one day – or a couple of days, for that matter.
There’s Bede’s World, where you can discover life in early Medieval Northumbria.
There’s Marsden limestone caves, where a set of stairs, the ‘Jack the Blaster Stairs’ were built to run down into what is now known as Marsden Grotto.
Arbeia Roman Fort is here too: built around AD 160, you can get free entry to the excavated ruins that are part of the famous Hadrian’s Wall.
Today, our goal was to visit Littlehaven Beach, Harbour Beach and South Marine Park.

Dolly Peel's Statue

We set off from the ferry terminal, following the signs to Littlehaven, passing Dolly Peel’s statue on the green at the Law Top, overlooking the Tyne.

Dolly Peel, officially a fish-wife – unofficially a notorious smuggler –was born in 1782. She was a real character, famed for her fight against press-ganging. It’s said that she hid fugitives underneath her vast, voluminous skirts. Her statue is entrancing as she gazes out over the river, clutching her wicker basket.

We couldn’t resist making a detour to Commercial Road, to check out the Dolly Peel pub. Selling gorgeous real ales, including ‘Landlord’ – a favourite of Madonna’s, apparently – they promote the history of Dolly Peel on their walls and surfaces – and any of their ‘locals’ will gladly tell you tales of Dolly and her dealings! The pub is also known for its display of china ducks: definitely worth a look. After downing a sand-dancin' noggin or two, Littlehaven was only another ten minutes or so leisurely stroll.

Littlehaven Beach

Greeting us when we arrived at Littlehaven’s Harbour Beach was a matchless sight: a plethora of statues scattered randomly at the entrance walkway. Twenty-two of them in all, named ‘Conversation Piece’, made of bronze and weighing over a quarter of a ton each, they were created by acclaimed Spanish sculptor, Juan Munoz.

It was exhilarating to be here with so many people out and about on this windless, dazzling day, wandering amidst weird and wonderful statues with faces that wear a vivid assortment of expressions. Some are male, some female; their arms set at strange angles; all uniquely sculpted. With a backdrop of sandy dunes and long, wind-swept grasses, they look sensational.
On the beach, we foraged among the sand-dunes for shells and stones and played in the waves that scatter spray onto the shore and over the promenade.
Littlehaven is so well-sheltered from the often rough, notoriously-aggressive North Sea by the North Tyne and South Tyne piers that it’s a great place to get in a little bit of sun-bathing in the summer months.

The Groyne

There’s a landmark here too, named the ‘Groyne’. It sits atop a short pier and protects the Harbour Beach. Painted in overtly vivid pillar-box red, it’s a blot on the beautiful landscape, in my opinion: nevertheless, it’s a familiar and popular attraction to thousands of visitors every year. It doesn’t take anything away, though, from the beautiful panoramic view of Tynemouth Priory and North Shields. But Tynemouth, where the river Tyne meets the North Sea, is another story for another day.

South Marine Park

Our next port of call, toward the pretty town of South Shields, South Marine Park was awash with gaggles of geese, bevies of swans and waddling ducks. We were fortunate enough to catch sight of eleven beautiful cygnets and goodness knows how many ducklings. Mothers with strollers and toddling tots fed the hundreds of birds from bread bags. Screams of delight could be heard all around the duck pond.

The cafe at South Marine Park was a welcome sight and we ambled in to have a choc-fest – hot chocolate drinks and death-by-chocolate cake. A young girl blushed painfully as she ran up to ask for an autograph from Joe McElderry (of X Factor fame). Joe is a Sanddancer too – as is Cheryl Cole.

'Fleet'


Retracing our steps toward the South Shields ferry landing, we took a left turn just before the bridge, striding through the yuppie village of Market Dock to take a look at sculptor Irene Brown’s ‘Fleet’. It’s a collection of seven miniature tall ships set inside waterways: wonderful daily visions for the lucky people who can afford to live here.
We gazed over iron bridges, down onto these sculpted silver ships in full sail. Made of stainless steel, they sparkle so brightly that their reflections gleam under the still canal water.

The 'Spirit of South Shields'

On the riverside of Market Dock, Irene Brown has again done South Shields with her evocative sculpture of ‘The Spirit of South Shields’. As the ‘Spirit’ looks over the water – robes flowing, sparkling gold tall ship enveloped in one arm, raising the other toward the river in a gesture of welcome– she represents the North East’s rich shipbuilding past and promises a bright future for the area.

Walking back to the ferry for the seven minute trip to North Shields, we agreed that South Shields, the land of the Sand Dancer is a grand place to visit.

Details

Read the author’s blog review article of the blues band ‘The Boneshakers’ at the Sand Dancer pub in North Shields at:
http://rockinwiththeboneshakers.blogspot.com/2011/05/boneshakin-sanddancin-bank-holiday.html

For information about the ‘Sanddancer’ pub, visit:
http://www.sanddancercrabshack.co.uk/

To view photographs of Irene Brown’s ‘Spirit of South Shields’ and other attractions in South Shields, visit:
http://www.picturesofgateshead.co.uk/south_shields/index.html

For information about South Tyneside, visit: http://www.visitsouthtyneside.co.uk/

For information about Dolly Peel, Marsden Grotto and the ‘Jack the Blaster Stairs’, visit: http://www.rondrew.co.uk/shields/dates.htm

Tags

Littlehaven Beach, Medieval Northumbria, North Sea, River Tyne, Sculptors, South Shields, Statues

Meet the author

author avatar Sheila Newton
A retired nurse and teacher, with two cats, a husband and a grown up son, I write short stories, articles - and I'm an ardent blogger. Catch up with me on my blog at: http://sheilanewton.blogspot.com

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Comments

author avatar Songbird B
8th Aug 2011 (#)

What a great page, Sheila, and I loved walking around with you. You are such a natural tour guide my friend. I am a huge fan of Catherine Cookson's books, so really connected with this. Loved this article plus great links...Well done!

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
9th Aug 2011 (#)

Fascinating stuff here!

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author avatar Buzz
10th Aug 2011 (#)

A very educational tour on your great page, Sheila. Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Tranquilpen
10th Aug 2011 (#)

Great penmanship Sheila, thank you:-))

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author avatar Hugo La Rosa
12th Aug 2011 (#)

Great article, nice places. You're an excellent travel-writer.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
13th Aug 2011 (#)

Lovely










Shelia great places and history:0)

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author avatar Carol Kinsman
13th Aug 2011 (#)

Thank you for taking me on a tour through the 'land of the Sand Dancer'. Your descriptive writing made me feel like I was there. :o)

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author avatar Rathnashikamani
13th Aug 2011 (#)

Wow! Amazing tour to Land of the Sand Dancer!

I like your generous references!

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
13th Aug 2011 (#)

I loveds this article. So well-written and presented. I'm so pleased to have ahd you join wikinut. Welcome, Sheila. I'm looking forward to more of your articles.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
13th Aug 2011 (#)

Thanks to all of you kind Wikinutters for commenting so positively. I love writing. I love YOUR writing too. I'll keep on revelling in your work. I hope you keep revelling in mine too!

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author avatar johnnydod
14th Aug 2011 (#)

Good one Sheila, its a beautiful view of that part of England, I am right down in the south in Sussex so its very different.

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author avatar MidgetGem
19th Aug 2011 (#)

You have a great way with words, Sheila. I used to have an auntie in Wallsend but I have not been to the north east for many years. You have pricked my interest about South Shields. Maybe I'll visit next year.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
19th Aug 2011 (#)

Good for you Midget Gem. (I LOVE Midget Gems - haven't tasted one for years! Maybe you should come to the North East - and when you do I'll buy some Midget Gems!)

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author avatar MidgetGem
21st Aug 2011 (#)

I might hold you to that Sheila:)

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author avatar Sheila Newton
21st Aug 2011 (#)

Yep! Sounds great to me.

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author avatar ppruel
23rd Aug 2011 (#)

I feel like I already got there through your tale and those fantastic photos. Thanks.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
23rd Aug 2011 (#)

My pleasure ppruel. Glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed taking the photos too.

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author avatar Retired
29th Aug 2011 (#)

oh! I am tempted to visit this place on earth and then savour your descriptions doubly

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author avatar Sheila Newton
29th Aug 2011 (#)

And so you should, my friend. It IS a lovely place.

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author avatar Bridgitte Williams
30th Oct 2011 (#)

Fabulous!! :-) I loved the gorgeous photos!! BRAVO!!

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author avatar Sheila Newton
30th Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks, Bridgitte.

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author avatar Funom Makama
3rd Nov 2011 (#)

This is nice... Hoping to be there someday

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
17th Dec 2011 (#)

Smooth reading..

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author avatar Sheila Newton
18th Dec 2011 (#)

Mmm...thank you, kind sir.

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author avatar Tranquilpen
15th Feb 2012 (#)

Your writing skill really shines through in this article Sheila. Thank you for sharing.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
15th Feb 2012 (#)

Thanks, Tranquilpen. A positive critique from you gives me great pleasure. So - oooh thank you!

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author avatar Noreen Ann Snyder
27th Apr 2012 (#)

Wow, Sheila, thanks for the tour of the Sand Dancer. It sounds like a very beautiful place to go. You made me feel like I was there.
Thanks, Sheila
Have a great night!

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author avatar Sheila Newton
27th Apr 2012 (#)

What a lovely comment Noreen. Thank you so much, friend.

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author avatar Melinda Bocook
31st May 2013 (#)

I have been reading your blogs, I haven't been on in a while, trying to save our kids, but every time I read your blogs, I get to go places that make my soul just relax, you do very good in your blogs, i always come back to read them, it takes the stress away that the world bring on. Thank you.

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