Sunderland (With Washington):
Status: City of Sunderland District, City (Town), England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Wearmouth Bridge, Tyne & Wear Metro, Sunderland Minster, Stadium of Light, Riverside, Riverside Sculptures, Empire Theatre, Museum & Winter Gardens, National Glass Centre, Washington Old Hall etc
On our way to Sunderland, we stopped briefly at the Galleries Shopping Centre in the town of Washington, just outside Sunderland. As we went in late November, all of the Christmas decorations were up so it was pleasant finding a bite to eat and looking at the decorations. We didn’t have time to see anything else in Washington itself but it does have an impressive hall as well as an arts centre.
We moved on, towards Sunderland and parked up near the Wearmouth bridge. It is similar looking to the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, and was built in 1929, a third in a succession of bridges on the spot. This is the nearest bridge on the picture, and is a green colour. Behind it is the must shorter rail bridge, of the same design, which local trains as well as the Metro both use. The rail bridge is much older, dating back to 1879. These bridges are the final ones to cross the river Wear (which we previously saw in Durham) before it reaches the North Sea. Further up the river, we cross the Queen Alexandria bridge, a very impressive Truss Bridge built between 1907 and 1909.
The are various sculptures down the River Wear once you get passed the bridge. One of these is the above picture, which is in the shape of a tree, and constructed out of metal. There is a pattern on the floor in front of it, and when the sun shines at exactly the right angle during the day the shadow of the tree elongates and forms the pattern on the ground. We found this rather fascinating, however we weren’t there at the right time of day. Other sculptures include a massive nut, as well as a massive bolt that would slot into it.
We moved further down the river, and the docks with their large cranes were visible. It was a very pleasant area, but November might not be the best time of year to visit, it was absolutely freezing that day but we have a great time anyway. A lighthouse is visible at the end when you get further round, and is on the end of the two walls extending out to see to mark the entrance to the river. After moving down the river, we headed into the city centre, going past the main shopping centres, the central station and by the time we had gotten round it was getting dark.
This is the entrance to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. The museum is notable for containing the only example of a gliding reptile in Britain.
The museum was opened in 1846, before moving to the current building 1879 and also contains a library, with the main Winter Garden at the back. The new building started construction in 1877, and the laying of the foundation stone even had the current US President Ulysses S Grant (1822 – 1885) in attendance. The library moved out of the building in 1995 leaving more space for extra exhibitions to be added to the museum.
During World War II the Winter Garden was hit by a bomb, and eventually demolished. In the 1960’s a new extension to the museum replaced it, and in 2001 a new Winter Garden was created.
Exhibitions inside include the first Nissan Car to be made in the city, and a Walrus from Siberia in the 1880’s.
Our last stop on the way back was Sunderland Minster, which was lit up in the dark and looked very impressive. The minster used to be the church of St Michael, however it was renamed in 1998 following Sunderland being awarded city status. Although churches on the site date back to 940 AD, the current church was rebuilt substantially in the 20th century, due to subsidence in the area.
Sunderland is a nice city, with some brilliant views around the river, as well as attractions such as the Museum and Winter Garden, and the Glass Centre that can keep families busy during the day, and for the football fans the impressive Stadium of Light is visible over the bridges from the city centre.
For transport, the Metro runs all the way back to Newcastle, and local trains run through to Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees. Connections from Newcastle can take you up to Berwick-upon-Tweed and into Scotland, or South to York, Peterborough and London.