Weardale Way Section 14 (Deptford to Roker)
The final (or first) section of the Weardale Way links Queen Alexandra Bridge, Deptford, almost in the heart of Sunderland, and the Bede Memorial Cross, overlooking the North Sea in the ever-popular seaside resort of Roker. So much heritage is squeezed into the shortest and most urbanised of the Weardale Way’s sections that it can leave the visitor quite bewildered at times. Sadly there’s no waymarking for the Weardale Way so it’s necessary to rely on other waymarked trails for guidance. Although short, this part of the trail involves a fair bit of climbing, usually via flights of steps.
Download the ROUTE FILE by clicking the PLAY button on the map and going to MENU > DOWNLOAD. If the menu disappears, click the crossed arrows to EXPAND the map which should work even if it’s minimised again.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 5.6 km/3.6 miles | Elevation Gain 74 m/242 ft | Maximum Elevation 30 m/99 ft (Wearmouth Bridge) | Going Firm on roads and footpaths through urban and coastal | Exposure Fairly sheltered | Supplies & Hospitality Deptford (PH); Sunderland (All) [0.5 km]; Monkwearmouth (All) [0.5 km]; National Glass Centre (Ca); Roker (All) | Start Queen Alexandra Bridge, Deptford NZ 382577 | Finish Bede Memorial Cross, Roker NZ 406593 | Grade Moderate
From the S end of Queen Alexandra Bridge the route heads east on the newly established link road from the Northern Spire Bridge, past the entrance to the historic Webster’s Ropery and onto Deptford Terrace, downhill, past the original iron gates to what was Laing’s Shipyard and The Saltgrass pub. The route then takes to the riverside opposite Sunderland FC’s Stadium of Light which, until 1993, was occupied by Wearmouth Colliery, the last operational pit in the Durham coalfield. This section of the river once bristled with infrastructure for loading coal onto river-borne colliers, the most obvious remnants of which are the staithes and brickwork below the stadium. Heading down to the bridges across the gorge, the route passes under Galley’s Gill – now known as Riverside Park – where, until 1967, trains emptied their loads of coal over the Hetton & Lambton Drops within the shadow of Sunderland Power Station.
The route passes beneath both of Sunderland’s iconic bridges: the Wearmouth Railway Bridge, which is of the ‘hogs back’ design, and the Wearmouth Road Bridge which is seen today in its third incarnation. It ascends to the bridge deck at Pann’s Bank via a ramp above an impressive mural picturing S.P. Austin’s specialised ‘pontoon’ repair facility the location of which can be seen cut out of the quayside. Across the river, the route descends steps directly off the bridge to the riverside where it joins the C2C cycle route. Approaching the University of Sunderland’s Sir Tom Cowie campus amid a series of sculptures collectively known as Shadows in another Light, the route makes a diversion to visit the famous monastery site of St Peter’s Church, once home to Bede – England’s first historian – who now rests in Durham Catheral’s Galilee Chapel.
Back on the riverside the route passes the National Glass Centre built to commemorate Sunderland’s long association with glass-making. After passing The Red Room you’ll reach North Dock Marina where, protected within the Activity Centre, is an amazing petrified tree growing out of the harbour wall. Around the headland, by Sunderland Yacht Club’s HQ, you’ll find Roker’s quiet beach which was once reserved for genteel Edwardian ladies. Further on, towards Roker Pier, is Andrew Small’s enigmatic sculpture in black granite titled ‘C’ inspired by Bede’s work calculating Easter within the religious calendar. It also marks the eastern end of the C2C (unless you continue down the beach to wet your wheel in the sea).
The Weardale Way however continues on, to the end of Marine Walk and Roker Ravine, the entrance to Roker Park. You can either use the steps to the promenade or continue into the park and wind your way back to the road. The Bede Memorial Cross stands elegantly by itself, a short distance further along the road approaching Seaburn where, by making your way down to the beach, you should be able to find the Cat and Dog Steps and the Cannonball Rocks.