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Room At The Top
Penshaw Monument (Tyne & Wear)
Member Name: michaelhudson
Penshaw Monument (Tyne & Wear)
Date: 29/11/03, updated on 11/06/05 (1518 review reads)
Advantages: See Text
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PENSHAW HILL AND THE LAMBTON WORM
The Legend of the Lambton Worm is synonymous with Penshaw Hill, despite the best efforts of historical spoilsports to prove otherwise. In the Middle Ages a young member of the Lambton family decided to go fishing on a Sunday morning, ignoring warnings that it was unlucky to do so rather than attending church. He caught nothing but a worm, which he angrily threw down a well. Years later, while the erstwhile fisherman was away fighting in the Crusades, the by now huge worm emerged from the well and proceeded to terrify the surrounding community, devastating lands and villages far and wide and swallowing young children alive. When Lambton returned from the Holy Land, he consulted a witch (as you do), who told him to wear a special suit of spiked armour and wade into the River Wear to fight the monster. However, she also made him swear to kill the first living thing he saw after the worm&
If you want to know the rest, it's best to look here:
From the bus stop and lay-by at the bottom of the hill it's a steep 100-step dirt and wooden riser climb to the top. Clambering up the base, just over a metre above ground level, I stand between columns blackened by industrial dirt, their bases spattered with grafitti that grows less imaginative with each passing decade, finally reaching its nadir in a white scrawl of initials that all but covers a century old name carved neatly into the stone. Families with dogs wander round the top of the hill, dodging nettles, horse droppings, vandalised grey cases (covers for the floodlights that illuminate the structure every night) and children playing hide and seek. Down below, on either side of the steps up the hill, the remains of the ramparts from an Iron Age fort ring the grass, though some still say the marks were caused by the worm sleeping coiled around the hill.
Standing by the hollow column in the south east corner of the monument (the spiral staircase of which is unfortunately now closed to visitors) I look out over a flat landscape stretching 450 metres down and several miles across to the North Sea, a white ferry reflecting the early evening summer sunlight as it moves silently past Seaburn, clumps of high rise buildings buildings to the south encircling Sunderland city centre, and the browns and yellows of newly cultivated land stretching beyond the waste high scrub land up on the hill.
Further to the north, tracing the coastline up towards the Tyne, the matchstick like Cleadon Windmill tops a hill over to the east, marking the border of a panorama along the banks of the river, the distant shipyard cranes overlooking half-hidden suburbs, all fronted by the light-grey corrugated factory units of Washington, Nissan's huge pre-fabricated buildings and the sprawling gr
een landscape of Washington Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.
Off to the west are the rounded hills of Durham, misted by the slowly setting sun, stringing themselves out towards Lambton Castle and Chester-le-Street. The flat land in the foreground is covered with dark green tree cover, standing defiant in the face of the steadily encroaching rows of semi-detached homes, still and orderly except for the occasional car and the repetitive melody of a lone ice cream van.
Following the slope of the monument to the south east, I peer down over green fields and terraced miner's cottages, my eyes straining to see wind turbines over the hill and failing to see Durham City in the far distance. And then it's time for home.
A number of buses stop at or near the base of Penshaw Hill, including the X6, X8, 638, 775, 777 and 778. All bar the 777, which departs from Newgate Street in Newcastle and calls at Gateshead Metro station, leave from either Washington or Sunderland city centre.
Full details on www.gonortheast.co.uk
If you're driving, try http://www.theaa.com/travelwatch/planner_main.jsp
http://www.sunderland.ac.uk/virtualtour/pensha w.htm and http://www.bbc.co.uk/wear/360/penshaw_monument.sht ml both have panoramic images of the monument and surrounding countryside.
While I wouldn't advise making a journey to Pensahaw Monument for its own sake, it's definitely worth a short detour from the A19, Sunderland city centre or Lambton Castle if you're in the area. As the Monument attracts far fewer visitors than the Angel of the North, you also may just be lucky enough to have the whole place to yourself.
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