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September 24, 2011
From journal A weekend in Newcastle
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
September 1, 2005
A white stick propping up the northern edge of the bay, the lighthouse was built at the end of the 19th century and stands on a rocky island above a huddle of red-roofed cottages and whitewashed outbuildings. Reached on foot by causeway at low tide, you can climb the 137 steps to the top for a lovely panorama up and down the coastline.
The rest of the town can be skipped without any sense of loss. The beach itself, a 1.5-mile stretch of around 50m from cliff to sea, has won awards for cleanliness, but still looks distinctly unimpressive compared to those a couple of miles down the coast at Tynemouth, while the park around the war memorial tries its best to be nice, but feels bare and unwelcoming. What else is there? The kind of shops that you can find on any stagnant high street in any declining small town, an ice rink and golf course, metal benches on a concrete promenade, and the town’s only thriving industry: a congregation of pubs and clubs around the Rex Hotel that attract binge drinkers, stag and hen parties, and teenagers from all over Scotland and the north of England every weekend and bank holiday.
There’s a desperate feeling to this place; the remaining touches of Victorian grandeur are relics of another time. The modern attempts at a facelift are too few and far between to make any difference. Whitley Bay is dead.
From journal The Sea, The Sea