Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel

We’re taking it easy today, breaking the journey on the way down to Lincolnshire. Aiming for Newcastle without any concrete plans except to see the Millennium Bridge opening up. The journey is quick and uneventful. The M74 is familiar now. Probably my favourite stretch of motorway with all the hills around it. Crossing the border, we think about stopping to see Hadrian's Wall but decide it sounds too boring. Heading towards Newcastle I phone and find out we’ve missed the bridge, so we head towards Tynemouth. The journey, through industrial North Shields is fascinating. It's a bit like the road into Liverpool on our summer holiday. One of those long straight deserted roads, like Clyde St in Glasgow, that runs through a city's industrial heartland. There are lots of industrial relics on the way - huge cranes, ginormous sheds, tunnels and funnels. On a Sunday afternoon it's really peaceful and grand. Glasgow used to look like this, but most of the shipyards have been ripped out and turned into luxury flats. We walked along the Clyde the other week and it felt a bit featureless without the Meadowside Granary, a much-loved (and equally despised) brick building which dominated the skyline. But it’s far from redeveloped here. Driving along we accidentally find one of the things I'd read about in England: a guide to post-war listed buildings – the Tyne cycle & pedestrian tunnels. The little rotunda is deserted but we take a look. Inside they are the most beautiful things – green tiled tunnels stretching under the river. Functional but somehow calm and peaceful. We spend a while there wandering about taking pictures and playing on the longest wooden escalators in the world. Tommy likes the echoes.

Red Robot, South Shields

Next stop Tynemouth. Neil and I have been there once before, when he was working his way up the coast. Going by the names I thought Whitley Bay would be nice and seasidey (it was grotty) and Tynemouth would be grim and industrial but it's not like that at all. There are some nice houses in the town centre and a spacious beachfront with a ruined castle and a little boating pond. I'd heard about the Childhood Memories Toy Museum, which doesn't disappoint. More of a collection than a museum it’s got toys of every kind (see photos). It has Nothing To See Here written all over it. Perfect.

Unable to resist a bridge or tunnel we go through the Tyne Tunnel and end up in Jarrow. Not one of England’s beauty spots, we head on to South Shields. It’s starting to get dark now but we get out to have a look. There are some odd sculptures here that I’ve seen on Flickr. They're like big green Weebles. A bit creepy. But there’s a great thing – the "Red Robot" or Groyne Lighthouse that I've seen in one of the seaside books. It's solid but looks a bit hand-knitted with corrugated iron patched all over it. It’s lovely and we wander about here for a while while another lighthouse lows away in the distance. We come to rest in an Alan Partridge-style travel tavern beside the Metro Centre. It's been an interesting first day.

I've been thinking about redesigning I like for a while. It really needs it. But I don't have time so am starting to cram things unceremoniously onto the home page. Today's addition - a blogroll. On the right there. Down. Right down. Past the pointless ads. It's still a work in progress. After being quite sceptical of RSS I converted to Bloglines a while ago and have never looked back, so the next step to display my subscriptions here seems worth a go. For the past few months I've been subscribing and unsubscribing to blogs like there's no tomorrow. For all the ones that suddenly disappear there are others that spring up, all fresh like, in their place. The only downside is the few blogs (like Flip Flop Flying) which for some reason don't have compatible feeds. Along the way I feel like I've lost a few old favourites so no doubt it will keep growing for a while to come. If you can recommend anything new to chew, please do.

Rebels Are We

From a fab set of Sleeper bubblegum cards at Bubblegum Fink. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5,

All the fun

We get all our hoidays from The Sun now. Ones where you save up tokens and choose your holiday park for £9.50 or whatever. It worked for the first Great British holiday at Pontins so we tried it again, choosing Nairn or Dornoch for the September weekend, with a wild card of Mablethorpe in the October week. And as the north of Scotland proved suprisingly popular Mablethorpe it was. I'd never heard of it, along with almost everyone else in the UK it seems, but it nestles on the Lincolnshire coast between two seaside big-hitters of Skegness and Cleethorpes in what seems like a mysterious part of the country. When I told people we were going there the response was usually "Where?" and then "Why?" which made me wonder if it was going to be a disaster. But it wasn't.

Before reporting back in more detail I wanted to mention 3 books that helped to get more out of the trip:

  • Piers and other seaside architecture by Lynn F. Pearson (2002) Shire Books. Very informative wee book that gives a concise history of seaside development in the UK with some great old photos.
  • The English Seaside by Peter Williams, (2005) English Heritage. Also available in paperback. Probably the best book about the seaside ever as it's nearly all pictures. It focuses almost entirely on seaside incidentals - pages of seaside shelters, barometers, benches, model villages - amazing details that add to a vivid seaside-y whole.
  • England: a guide to post-war listed buildings by Elain Harwood. (2003) Batsford. Another brilliant book that has come in very handy. As the title suggests it's a guide to mainly modernist buildings. There's some fantastic stuff here like schools, churches, industrial relics, that you woudn't find signposted anywhere else. I got this as a present from Simon James, a reader, and it's one of the best things I've ever been sent. Thank you Simon James!

These were all instrumental in sending us to places we wouldn't have found otherwise. I'll report back later as we saw lots on the way. No epiphanies like last time but lots of great places and fodder for Nothing To See Here. Sadly, back to work first.

Caravan of Loveliness

Thanks for all the recommendations. Off to sample them now. I've switched comments off so there's no funny business. Back in a week.

Washeteria, Prudhoe

We're off on holiday again next week, working our way down the east coast of England. We got as far as Bridlington last time so are doing the next bit - Humberside/Lincolnshire kind of way. I'm still not sure what's there. It seems like quite a mysterious part of the country so I'm hoping for lots of interesting things and old-time seaside action. Any recommendations?

Slow/Fast dial

We went to a power station a couple of weeks ago. A lovely 1930s art deco one in south-west Scotland. The dial in the middle was one of the best things about it - it only goes Slow or Fast. Nothing more exact than that. In a power station when you'd think things need to be quite precise. The whole place was great and then we got to walk over a dam. I've written it all up on Nothing To See Here.

Recommended reading