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Summers in England are very different from those in India. A summer-y day here introduces you to the sun that is being shying away under the clouds all this while. The wind takes a break from its routine and people can wear the floral prints that have been in the closet for a really long time. One of my first outings in the UK was on a typical summer day. It was a Saturday afternoon; the sun was out and there wasn’t much traffic on the road. I along with my Indian family (living in the UK) drove to Sunderland, only 14 miles away from the city of New Castle. Though the plan was to spend the day at the Sunderland beach, something more exciting struck our minds – the Souter Lighthouse. Only 5 miles (10 minutes’ drive) ahead of the beach, in the sleepy village of Marsden, lays a vibrant picnic spot – the Souter Lighthouse.
As we reached Marsden after an hour’s drive from our home, we were delighted to see a lot of families enjoying the sun and the home made food packed in lunchboxes. On the coast road, by the sea, it is a building of historic importance, standing tall since the 19th century. It is a tiny campus amidst the fields, edging the North Sea on one of its boundary walls and on the opposite side across the road is a beautiful residential estate with the view of the lighthouse.
A quick research on the web about this lighthouse suggests that there are two kinds of people who would be itched to visit this light house – science freaks and ghost freaks! While the science side of it claims that it was one of the first lighthouses of its time to work on an advanced technology including the alternate electric current, the quirky side of it holds the rumours of the building being haunted by the ghosts of a maritime celebrity and the strange incidences that have been reported by a few. Though both sides were interesting to know, I did not belong to any of these clans. I was happy to enjoy my homemade cheese and tomato sandwich, sitting on one of the wooden tables, which had a bit of everything – the breeze, the sun and the view of the sea. The Lighthouse Café on the ground floor of the light house, though serving minimum variety on the menu, was seeing a busy day. I entered through the green door, hurdled through the loud voices, looked around the tall walls, and came out carrying with me the aroma of hot pancakes.
Post my lunch and a game of hide and seek with the local kids there, I decided to climb inside the light house. A 10 pound for entry ticket is worth the view from the top of the structure. At the very entrance, you would find the memoirs of 19th century shipping marvels, the machinery and the naval equipment that was once put to use, but now only find its use in the museum placements. As you enter further, you may spend some time on the history of the kingdom that ruled the Souter point and the wars where this light house played a significant role in waving the ships away from the land. There are ancient maps and routes being displayed along with the pictures of the emperors that look more like pirates. If you are a history nerd who gets excited with the mention of dates, then this section might entice you, I merely scrolled through it and ran towards the artefacts in the office space of the light house. A typewriter and a telephone caught my eye the most, their buttons were beautiful. They represented the comfortable pace at which men once operated, it is things like these that take your imagination to people who would have valued them so much for they were pretty much the base of inventions. I get a bit too excited in the antiques section and wonder if the bygone era could return once more.
Anyhow I started climbing the staircase that led to the top of the lighthouse. It’s a long way to the top. The spiral staircase becomes riskier towards the top. The last few stairs turn sharply and end on a wooden plank with a hooter in the middle, surrounded by huge glass windows. Through the windows you can see the far and wide of the sea on one side, a walk way by the sea on the other, the city on another and a grey sky that covers everything. It is a distant view of everything that is there on the ground. This part of the city seems to have a medieval appearance because of the light house, though it is modern in every sense. After enjoying the peace and the view for a while, we descended back to the ground. As we moved out towards the car park, we also saw many of the locals indulging in fun filled family activities; reading the book, cycling in the fields, playing with their young ones and the likes.
A lot of people crossing the town also take a break here at the lighthouse. It is an ideal stopover for stretching the legs for a while during a long journey. Once we were back on the motorway, we could not get our eyes off the windmills that just appear out of the blue in the fields on both the sides of the road. Sometimes they are lonesome, sometimes a duo and sometimes a family. They are huge especially when they are near to the road.
A good day out is the one which is nearly the same as imagined; a long drive, picnic basket full of sandwiches, juices and fruits and a beautiful new place to explore. This was one such day.