Coming down river from Newcastle: As we rounded the heavily wooded Hill of Hebburn, a beautiful, timeless sight bestowed us: Hebburn fishing village - an ancient Hamlet nestled on the shore of the Cockcrow Sands. Just beyond the shore, on open pasture, where the roses bloomed and the berries ripened, lay the fisher-peoples’ dwellings: three green upturned barges, with a single black funnel protruding atop each one.
An old fisherman sat cosily on a sturdy wooden chair, under the window of one of the dwellings, weaving a bobbin of string through a broken fishing net sprawled across his knee; his wife stood at the doorway throwing grain to a few well-fed hens. Their sons were out fishing at sea. Their grandchildren, playing in the orchard behind the village, noticed our ship, and with great joy ran down beside the coble boats and creels on the golden sandy shore. They began to smile and wave at us - we smiled and waved back.
Geordie, still smiling, looked up at me as we sailed by and said, “Wasn’t that nice Granddad?”
“Geordie, Sonna”, I replied, “as you know, Hebburn people are some of the most charming folk you’re every likely to meet.”
All was well as we passed the Ballast Hill: a fairly recent landmark, built from almost twenty years of discharged ships’ ballast. This is predated by the nearby Halfway Tree - or Mid Oak - a giant and ancient maritime landmark, situated high on the Hebburn Fell ‘halfway’ between Newcastle and the open sea at South Shields.
We followed - but steered clear of - the Cockcrow Sands, which stretched almost the full length of Hebburn Shore; at places, pushing well into the river. A little further up the hill, lay a more active scene - the Hebburn Colliery...
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