Like most people from Sunderland, Roker Pier & Lighthouse means a lot to me. It’s a famous landmark, the highlight of our stunning coastline and it hosts beautiful sunrises. It’s something to focus on and take your mind off a coastal run and somewhere that all Mackems will have wanted to explore as a child.
For me it is a bit more than that. The lighthouse featured in my first two novels, Leg It and Idle Threats. It briefly gained some notoriety due to an unfortunate cover choice for Leg It and has therefore been known in certain circles as the ‘Leg It lighthouse’.
I recently wrote a blog for the Roker Pier & Lighthouse website about it being used in literature and anyone who follows me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram will know that 50% of my photos are taken at Roker.
You can therefore imagine my excitement when I was invited to visit the recently refurbished lighthouse. I was originally invited a couple of years ago until Mother Nature intervened and washed away part of the pier. I was gutted at the time but I hoped I would get a chance in the future.
It was worth the wait.
Yesterday I was invited along with members of our writing group to do a test tour before it is fully open to the public. I was possibly a little more excited than I should have been and I could have been building myself up for disappointment but it far exceeded my expectations.
We donned our hard hats and set off down the dark tunnel that runs underneath the pier. Our guides for the day were Barry and Matthew and they pitched the tour at just the right level. They gave enough information to keep it interesting without turning it into a history lecture. Their relaxed approach also was a big help to anybody who may have had reservations about walking the tunnel.
It is dark but we had torches and it’s a little damp in places but it was fascinating. The scratches on the hard hats are testament to the fact that anyone over six foot will have to do a bit of ducking along the way but there’s plenty of space to move around.
Once we arrived at the lighthouse the excitement really began to build. Each level brought a new view and a new insight into the incredible craftsmanship that went into the original lighthouse and the restoration. We were given new titbits of information at each level and Barry and Matthew handled any questions we threw at them.
The views from the top are nothing short of spectacular. I could have stayed all day, or longer, watching the view and taking photos. Give me a chair and I’d happily move in with my laptop and write a few novels there.
It was a fantastic experience and this blog hasn’t gone anywhere near doing it justice. You have to experience it for yourself when it is open to the public.
There’s plenty more photos on Instagram.
Big thanks to Barry and Matthew and to Glenda Young who organised it and indeed all of the volunteers who are making this lifetime dream come true for the people of Sunderland. The restoration has been a huge success and everyone involved should be very proud.