A UNIQUE opportunity is open for Wearsiders to climb to the top of one of Sunderland’s most famous landmarks for the first time in 85 years.
The hidden spiral staircase to the top of Penshaw Monument has been closed since 1926, when a teenage boy fell to his death from the 66ft-high walkway.
Now the National Trust is reopening the staircase, inside one of the monument’s columns, for one special day to allow visitors the chance to scale the landmark for a unique view of the region.
Mark Bradley, the trust’s coast and countryside manager, said: “This is one of Sunderland’s most famous landmarks and I think people will want to come up here to say they’ve been to the top, rather than just look at the view.
“I’m from Yorkshire and even we grew up learning about the story of the Lambton Worm. But I think a lot of people don’t know you can get up to the top.”
The 360º view stretches to the Cheviot Hills in the north and Pennines in the west, as well as out to sea and towards the Yorkshire coast.
National Trust staff will take visitors on guided ascents to the top of the monument, which marks the highest point in Sunderland, on August 29.
Kate Horne, communications and engagement manager for the Trust, said: “What we want to do is organise events that give people the chance to see a different side to some of our properties, and what goes on behind the scenes.”
She said her team decided to open up the monument after it took over the Trust’s “Durham Properties” in an amalgamation of departments.
“We took over two years ago and when the former property manager brought us up here, we were really impressed and thought it would be great to let visitors experience it,” she said.
“We’re opening it up for the day, and we’ll see how it goes then look at possibly opening it again for other events and maybe do some private group bookings.”
Mark said: “It’s a question of having the manpower to do it, which they didn’t have before.
“We need three people just to be here on the day – one at the top, one at the bottom and one as back-up.”
New health and safety features have been added to the monument, and extensive risk assessments were required to allow visitor access.
Visitors wishing to climb the monument must be more than a metre tall.
The opening will also be subject to weather conditions.
The Trust is not taking bookings, so visitors will need to queue on the day.
Ascents will take place from 10am to 3pm, and cost £5 each.
National Trust staff will also be holding a number of events on the day, including crafts, activities and games.
Money raised will go towards management of the property.