Souter Lighthouse in South Shields celebrates 25 years of being open to public

Souter Lighthouse, in South Shields, opened its doors to the public for the first time in 1990

National Trust Images/John Millar Dusk at Souter Lighthouse
Dusk at Souter Lighthouse

As the Neptune Coastline campaign marks its 50th year, a Tyneside shoreline landmark celebrates its 25th anniversary of opening to the public.

Last season Souter lighthouse at South Shields welcomed more than 28,000 visitors for the first time and over half a million since the National Trust opened the doors in 1990.

They come to climb the 76ft high lighthouse for the view, visit the shop, cafe, engine room and the display of what life was like in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.

There is also the 2.5 miles of strolling along The Leas, where National Trust rangers and the volunteer Coastal Conservation Group are conducting a year-long biodiversity survey.

Nick Dolan, general manager for Souter Lighthouse and The Leas, said: “We’re all delighted that so many people have visited. It’s an inspirational place and the staff and volunteers work very hard to make it as attractive and family-friendly as possible, and tell the stories of the lighthouse and this coast.”

July 19 marks the day Souter Lighthouse was opened as a National Trust property for the first time in 1990 and it is celebrating all year with a series of events and activities.

The adjacent Whitburn Coastal Park is one of the locations used by local conservation charity Prickly Pals North East, which cares for sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs.

The park is reclaimed colliery land and includes tree planting, a bird observatory, viewing screens and wetland habitats. It is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and a lottery funded project in 2011 saw the installation of new ponds by the Coastal Conservation Group.

Twelve recovered animals have been released since May 2014 and a further eight are due to be released this spring.

One of the hedgehogs released was even named Souter.

Sharon Brown from Prickly Pals said: “There’s a healthy population of hedgehogs in the coastal park and we’re grateful to the Coastal Conservation Group who have been making mammal habitats in the park, including building log piles which are superb areas for hogs.”

Simon Colvine, visitor experience manager at Souter Lighthouse said: “We’re really pleased to play a part in caring for hedgehogs and Prickly Pals are holding a Hedgehog Adventure Day in our wildlife garden on Sunday May 3. “

Prickly Pals was set up four years ago by retired civil servant Paula Charlton, from Cleadon, and friend Lorraine Montgomery.

With hedgehogs in decline nationally, the charity looks after animals which are sick, or have been victims of traffic, dogs, or strimmers.

They are helped by vet Wendy Rowntree, whose practice is in Kings Road in Southwick in Sunderland.

“They have been absolutely brilliant,” said Paula.

The charity helps between 100 and 150 hedgehogs a year.

“When people find distressed hedgehogs they don’t know here to take them, so there was an obvious need,” said Paula.

“We give them a chance they would otherwise have had.

“Hedgehog numbers are falling, and people often say they used to see them but now no longer do.”

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