Monday, 2 May 2016

Seaglass in Seaham

For a while Cathy had wanted to visit Seaham Beach in County Durham.  There was a Victorian glassworks here and, when it closed down, most of the glass was dumped in the sea.  Over the years the action of the sea and the tides had slowly turned the glass into pebbles of various sizes.  The hope was to find some multi-coloured pieces that Cathy can use in the future for some art projects.  I'd booked a CL just outside the village of Witton Gilbert, about half an hour's drive from Seaham.

A little history: Until 1921, Seaham was the location of the largest glass-bottle works in Britain.  Founded by John Candlish in 1853, under the patronage of the 4th Marquess of Londonderry, the Londonerry Bottleworks turned out up to 20,000 hand-blown bottles a day. Every week the "bottleboat" left Seaham harbour to deliver its cargo to warehouses in Rotherhithe, returning via Antwerp with silver sand.  Candlish had a reputation as a benevolent employer, providing a school and library for his 500-strong workforce, but eventually the company had been driven out of business by competition from continental moulded bottle makers.  Little evidence of the industry remains, except for wave-worn bricks on the beach with the Londonderry stamp and the sea glass that's washed ashore with every tide.  Almost a century after the bottleworks closed, the sea still returns the waste glass that was routinely dumped in the sea, now transformed into sand-polished green, ultramarine and yellow beads that provide raw materials for a local cottage industry in sea glass jewellery.

Friday 29 April 2016
I finished work at midday and we drove up to storage to load up and start the journey north. It was a long, boring schlep up the M62 (with the usual traffic jams) with snow on the moors, then M1 and A1. Four hours later we turned off and dropped into Durham to fill up with diesel before driving to the CL. On arrival I pulled over and the owner came out with 4 lovely free range eggs from the hens pecking around our feet.  The grass was very sodden but there were a couple of hardstanding pitches. We were soon up on the levellers, electric plugged in and silverscreens over the cab windows.  We had the remains of a box of wine onboard already so I had some of that, Cathy opened a bottle of Doom Bar, her new favourite beer. After a pasta dinner cooked in Oska, we chilled out for the rest of the night before turning in.

Cold drive along the M62

Saturday 30 April 2016
A sunny morning, so we packed up and drove to the car park above Seaham beach, with a great view over the sea, for breakfast.  Cathy grabbed a bag and we walked down to the beach, turning left to walk along the high tide line.  We were soon finding the sea glass and Cathy was already topping up her wellies in the surf!  I also found some sea-seasoned aluminium of various shapes and sizes.  After a couple of hours we soon had a decent collection of mainly small pieces of seaglass, with a few larger pebbles.  Back at the van Cathy had a snooze while I walked into Seaham.  It's a town that has clearly felt the economic downturn, particularly as it was a mining community - all very sad.  They had a poignant WW1 memorial on the promenade - a British Tommy sat, head down leaning on his rifle.  It's made of iron that has weathered by the sea air into a burnished, rusty epitaph. I found an Asda and bought us some lunch.  After this we popped down to the beach again but were driven back to the van by rain, before driving back to the CL.

Searching for Seaham seaglass - wellies already topped up in the surf!

Great free parking spot for the day - breakfast with a view

Poignant - visit it and you'll agree

Back at the CL it was quite sunny but too chilly to sit out.  However, the van's sliding door was facing West and I was able to sit on the bench inside the van but in direct sunlight - lovely.  With a glass of red wine and my eyes closed soaking up the rays, it almost felt like Spring!  I cooked a Thai chicken red curry and warmed the shop bought naan on Oska's lid. The rest of the evening we read before bedtime.

Sunday 1 May 2016
It rained steadily through the night.  We had a long lie in before enjoying a brunch of the CL's eggs, poached with toast. I did the outside fluid emptying jobs while Cathy washed up, then we de-camped and drove to Seaton Carew beach, just outside Hartlepool.
Seaton Carew beach
This was a long sandy beach but the seaglass pickings were in short supply, so we didn't stay too long, before driving back to Seaham - we liked the views from the car park. After a quick brew it was back down to find some more seaglass, aided by a couple of people who stopped to ask what we were looking for, then gave us the glass they'd found - it's very addictive!  Although the rain stopped when we left the CL, it started again when we returned. Cathy prepared a lovely sausage, potato and veg bake in Oska, enjoyed with a bottle of red wine.  Despite the rain, we were warm and cosy with the heating on in the van.  Weary from another day of fresh sea air, we soon crashed for our last night.  Tomorrow we'll reverse the boring drive home before the start of another, albeit short, working week.

1 comment:

  1. Beachcombing for glass at Seaham is a great activity - the excitment of not knowing what gem you might find next. And that war memorial is beautiful, thank you.

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