It’s lovely to find a new place to visit – somewhere local, beautiful and free! We found that place a matter of months ago.

It may seem odd, but as children we were always taken to the usual seaside towns on the North East coast – Whitley Bay, Tynemouth and South Sheilds. Other beaches were spoiled by the coalmines near them, where the coal slag would be dumped. These beaches were black with coal dust and therefore, we had never visited them. However, with lottery funding they have now been cleaned up and we were amazed when we took a trip to Seaham, County Durham for the afternoon – dog friendly with free parking. Perfect!

The poodles adored the rock pools and paddled to their hearts content. We noticed people looking down on the ground and picking things up, so we asked them what they were doing. We soon discovered that nearly 100 years ago, Europe’s largest glass making plant was based in the area. The spoils at the end of each day were thrown into the sea, where they now wash up as beautiful rounded glass pebbles!

People treasure hunt on the beach after every tide, collecting the glass to make jewellery or just to fill a jar for the windowsill. Well, my day ended with aching calf muscles and an empty water bottle filled with pieces of glass! There’s also lots of lovely broken ceramic pieces to be found as well as marbles, which were apparently used as ballasts in 16th century ships that had wrecked off the coast and washed up on shore.

It’s so addictive looking for the glass – clear frosted pebbles are in abundance, colours being trickier to find. I love doing things like this, it clears your mind of everything and you focus on just one task, in this case, searching for the glass. Excellent therapy for the mind! I get the same feeling when blackberry picking in the wild.

I met Chris, who lives locally, rummaging with her trowel. She turns her finds into jewellery or sells superb rainbow specimens via Facebook (oceangb seaglass). She knew lots about the glass and she’s an expert on finding it; we both laughed the day we met because we could hardly see a thing out of our specs due to the sea spray! Obviously she came after the tide had gone out for the best finds. She also told me that rough weather turns up more treasures. “End of the day” glass is the most sought after, where different colours were squashed together, just like “end of day” Bakelite!

So, what was I going to do with my finds? I decided to make some resin bangles, with moulds bought online. I carefully placed some of the resin in the moulds and then with tweezers, dropped in small bits of seaglass, all the way round, and topped them off with more resin (kits available from hobby shops). They turned out well, but sadly were too small for me to get on. I gave them to my friend Marty who helped me tackle this project; coasters are on the cards for me next!

Seaham also has lots of great sculptures. Some, like the Vane Tempest one, has a very mid-century feel to it; it’s there to commemorate the pit that stood there bearing the same name. More famous is Tommy, the First World War soldier who sits on the seafront. After a temporary placing the townsfolk fell in love with him and raised funds to keep him. Tommy evokes numerous emotions; he’s stunning from all angles. He sits near to where the Londonderry glass bottle works once stood, which were stared by Mr John Candlish in 1853, and bottles were sent all over the world. In fact, John loved to tell the story of how he was served beer in a remote part of India from one of his own bottles! At its peak, it produced 20 million bottles a year. The introduction of machine made bottles heralded the end for the handmade ones from Seaham in 1921, during the coal strike.

The coloured ceramic pieces I found on the beach inspired my choice of outfit – bright secondary colours, teal, lime, mint with pink and – of course – poodles! This is an original poodle printed fabric from the 1950s… I just managed to get a dress out of the piece I had luckily. My Ida shoes were from Rocket Originals, this lovely reproduction Lucite bag comes from – they produce several wonderful colours, I’d love them all! My hair flower is from Shazam Hairflowers.

Lisa Harrison
Written by Lisa Harrison
Lisa is the Deputy Editor of Vintage Life Magazine and Publisher at Dragoon Publishing. She is avid bookworm, collector of vintage homeware, loves travel, lazy weekends away and eats way too much cake!