Is this the most romantic spot in Sunderland this Valentine’s Day?
The portal to the refurbished tunnel at Roker Pier has been turned into a tunnel of love to celebrate the most romantic day of the year.
Dedicated volunteers have lovingly decorated the glass portal with giant heart balloons and Love Heart sweets bunting, which has been capturing the imaginations of passers-by.
Stephen Breeze, maintenance coordinator at the pier, said: “As a group we decided to decorate the portal for Halloween last year after suggestions from the public, and the response was great.
“We followed this up for Armistice Day, Christmas and more recently Holocaust Memorial Day, so Valentine’s was the next step.”
He added: “The response to decorating the portal for seasonal events has been unbelievable, especially with Valentine’s Day. We saw this as an opportunity to be a bit light-hearted and we went a wild with the decorations. Even as we were installing the decorations the response was amazing, so many people were asking what was going on and asking about the Pier and Lighthouse. It ended up taking four of us about three hours to finish it with all the questions. We don’t mind, however, as it’s great interacting with the public and we love having a chat.”
The volunteers are also running a competition on their Facebook page to win a free tour for two in the tunnel this spring by taking a picture in front of the decorated portal.
Under a £2.5million Heritage Lottery Fund-backed scheme, the Grade II-listed lighthouse has undergone a complete restoration since works began in 2012. Meanwhile, the pier tunnel, which once provided the only means for the keeper to reach the lighthouse in stormy weather, has also been restored with a new portal entrance.
Tunnel tours will be starting this year in mid-March with plans in place for tours four days a week, twice a day. The times will be governed by the tides, but all tour details will be available in the coming fortnight at www.rokerpier.co.uk.
Local business owners say it’s great to see the transformation of the coastal landmark, which dates back to 1903, take shape.
Louise Riddell, owner of Fausto Coffee, in Marine Walk, Roker, said: “It felt like a life-time of work to get the pier restored and then it was hit by the storm damage. Every day throughout it all we had people coming in asking when the tours will start. So it’s great to have it finished and used creatively to attract people to the area.
“We like to call this stretch the Roker Riviera and the difference year to year has been incredible, even the change from 2017 to 2018 has been immense. Our trade used to be weather dependent, but now we have a steady stream of custom every day because there’s more places for people to visit.”