Historic coastal landmarks to get revamp under £5million project

The gun at the top of Trow Rocks.
The gun at the top of Trow Rocks.

Two prominent South Tyneside coastal landmarks are set for change under an ambitious £5m plan to reinvigorate understanding of the North East’s sea and shore.

As part of the new six-year Seascape project, the derelict Marsden Bay lifeguard station and the Victorian-era gun placement at Trow Rocks, could be redeveloped.

If planning permission is won, the station would be turned into an education centre, focusing on the area’s geology and environment, including what is going on under the waves.

Work would also be carried out to remodel the slab concrete steps that lead to it from the Coast Road.

At Trow Rocks, the Disappearing Gun, installed in 1987 and a replica of a metal sea defence weapon trialled exactly 100 years earlier, may be removed.

Work would then be carried out to redevelop the original concrete housing that remains in place.

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Landscape Partnership programme has given £2.9m, with the remainder coming mainly from the National Trust.

Heritage Coast officer Niall Benson said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to receive this major new grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“It’s going to enable us to deliver fantastic new projects under the Seascape banner that will excite local communities and visitors alike.”

Seascape is a partnership and community approach to protecting and celebrating a 35-mile stretch, from South Shields to Teesmouth, at Middlesbrough.

It is the first of its kind in the UK and the HLF’s first marine Landscape Partnership.

Thirty schemes are planned, each aiming to increase the public’s understanding of what is above and below water, including shipwrecks, and improve access to beaches.

They include creating ‘snorkel safaris,’ producing a virtual reality wreck diving experience and offering opportunities for people to enjoy being on and in the sea.

Led by the Heritage Coast Partnership, partners include the councils of South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Hartlepool, the National Trust, Northumbrian Water, and the Durham Wildlife Trust.

Also involved are North East Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Natural England, Groundwork, Marine Management Organisation, the Environment Agency, East Durham Heritage Group, Donnison School and Durham and Newcastle universities.

Eric Wilton, the National Trust’s General Manager, said: “There’s so much that’s of interest in this area and the Seascape scheme will protect and promote that human and natural heritage.

“That includes unique geology formed by ice ages, our industrial past and the history of the Napoleonic and world wars.

“We’re particularly excited by the undersea wreck surveys. We already know there are wrecks from the First World War off our coast.”

Seascape literally means an area of sea, coastline and land created by the actions and interactions of land and sea and by nature and man.

The project will begin in January with an 18-month development period, followed by four years of delivery.