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South Shields Seafront and Promenade (England)

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      06.04.2002 15:50
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      No matter what the weather is like Easter weekend always heralds the opening of South Shields Ocean Beach Amusement Park and brings scores of families down to the Seafront and Promenade. There is always plenty of life on and around the seafront, which has some of the best beaches in the region. The promenade is divided into two, the North Promenade and South Promenade, the North Promenade starts at the Groyne where facilities are provided for those interested in water sports, here you find a sailing club and can book a cause of sailing lessons, wind-surfing instruction and canoeing, my youngest son enjoyed a six week course of canoeing classes here, courtesy of his primary school when he was eleven, and paddled from the Groyne across the mouth of the Tyne to Tynemouth and back and he became quite an accomplished canoeist. The Groyne is situated between North Pier and the fairly new Little haven Hotel, a stylish sixty-two-bedroom hotel purposefully built to take in the panoramic views north across the Tyne to Tynemouth Priory and south over Littlehaven Beach to South Pier; the hotel has an excellent restaurant and coffee shop open to none residents. The home of the “The Conversation Piece” is next to the Hotel car park, this is a thought provoking and highly unusual work of public art consisting of twenty-two bronze sculptures. They are the work of Spanish sculptor Juan Munoz and the twenty-two figures have been set out into four groups, it’s up to you to decide why they are named “The Conversation Piece” – are they, for example, in conversation with each other, is it that as you sit looking at them you begin to converse with the person sitting next to you about them, do you wander around them and have a conversation with them? I find something very intriguing about this work of art and notice something new each time I sit and look at them. Littlehaven beach stretches from the Groyne to South Pier; this i
      s the quieter, less crowded beach away from the funfair and amusement arcades, and locally referred to as the little beach. The beach consists of very fine light golden sand and is ideal for young families, throughout the summer weekly sandcastle building competitions and pirate treasure trails are held here to help entertain the kids, the sand shelves very gently into the North Sea and is suitable for even the smallest children to paddle in, there are ample Lifeguards on duty here, public toilets and a first aid building. The North Pier was actually built to stop the sand from Littlehaven beach washing out into the Tyne and the two piers give shelter to the beach. Across the Promenade from Littlehaven beach is North Marine Park with beautifully laid out flowerbeds and a swing park for youngsters. There is ample ‘pay and display’ car parking opposite the Promenade. This is the area of the Seafront for a family day out without too many money-spending attractions. Along the Promenade and at the end of Littlehaven beach there is a T-junction leading up to Ocean Road where the majority of Guest Houses and Private Hotels can be found, along with pubs, restaurants, Curry Houses and take-aways. Right on the T-junction you find The Pier Pavilion this is the home of Westoe Amateur Dramatic Society who give performances all year round. Outside The Pier Pavilion is the Woodhave Memorial and one of England’s first lifeboats, aptly named the Tyne, is preserved here with a short history of the areas contribution to the design and development of the lifeboat. The T-junction brings you on to South Promenade past South Pier and Sandhaven beach, locally known as the big beach; this beach stretches along the coast for approximately three-quarters of a mile up to Gypsy Green Stadium and the Leas. Again the sand is fine, light golden in colour and very clean, with a backdrop of wonderful sand dunes; the beach here also shelves gently into th
      e sea and is ideal for paddling, swimming and water sports. There are an abundance of public toilets, Lifeguard posts and first aid stations along Sandhaven; deck chairs, windbreaks and beach tents are all available for hire. Ocean Beach Pleasure Park is located just off South Promenade at the north side of Sandhaven beach, the Pleasure Park offers an exhilarating choice of fairground rides, alongside ‘white-knuckle’ thrillers there are colourful and imaginative rides for younger children and for the less daring there is plenty of fun with a full range of amusement machines and video games offering the chance to strike lucky and maybe take home a prize. After the excitement of the fair you can enjoy a meal in one of the two traditional fish and chip restaurants or the American style diner; if you’re not ready for a meal there are toffee apple, candyfloss, ice cream and hot doughnut stalls. Every Monday from Easter and throughout the summer months the local evening newspaper, the Shields Gazette, has a voucher printed in it offering twenty-pounds worth of rides at the fair for twelve-pounds, it’s well worth spending thirty pence on the paper if you plan a visit to the fair. Opposite the Amusement Park is The Sea Hotel, this has thirty-two bedrooms, secure parking, a large restaurant, two bars and a separate family pub offering a wide selection of bar meals and an under the sea adventure play area for children. Next to the Sea Hotel is South Marine Park with a boating lake, which has rowing boats, pedalos and an amazing gathering of swans and ducks there is also a picnic area, beautiful flower beds, sheltered areas, a large green for ball games and a miniature railway going right round the park. Bents Park is situated next to South Marine Park; every Sunday throughout the summer Bents Park plays host to open air shows called ‘The Sunday Star Spectaculars’, some of the celebrities that have perfo
      rmed here are Tom O’Connor, The Bootleg Beatles, Rolf Harris and Johnny Cash; the shows are free and are very popular. Next to Bents Park is Sandhaven Caravan Park for both static and touring caravans. The South Promenade has an elevated walkway giving you excellent views along the beach, under the walkway there is clear Perspex along the beach side and an abundance of benches to rest and enjoy the views. There is an Amphitheatre next to the elevated walkway and this is the venue for a variety of free summer entertainment; every Sunday afternoon there is a Brass Band concert, live rock, folk and pop groups entertain the public every Monday and Wednesday evening, Tommy the Trumpeter entertains the children every afternoon throughout school holidays with magic shows, games and talent contests and Saturday afternoon is children’s party time. Just beyond the elevated walkway is the Marsden Rattler’ offering entertainment, food and drink served all day, a beer garden and a restaurant housed in a Pullman train carriage, Sandhaven Beach Chalets are also located here, the chalets over self catering accommodation with glorious sea views. The Seafront is a place for all seasons, during the summer months there is something for the young and old alike and during the winter the Promenade offers pleasant brisk walks and bracing breezes. There are ample ‘pay and display’ car parks along Sandhaven beach, a Tourist Information Centre and a choice of eating places from traditional fish and chips to pubs and hotels. It is an ideal base for touring the beauty spots of the North East with attractions such as Beamish Open Air Museum, Durham Cathedral, the Angel of the North, The Metro Centre, Newcastle and the Northumberland Coast only a short drive away and it is only a two hour drive to Scotland. Useful Telephone Numbers: Little Haven Hotel (0191) 455 4455 The Sea Hotel (0191) 427 0999 Sandhaven C
      aravan Park (0191) 454 6612 Marsden Rattler telephone (0191) 455 6789 Sandhaven Beach Chalets (0191) 455 8319 Tourist Information Centre (0191) 454 6612

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