Sunday, 22 June 2014

Northumberland coast path

Up at the ridiculous time of three thirty a.m on the Monday morning. An early train to Newcastle. This was followed by a quick dash to catch connecting buses to Cresswell. A surly bus driver who wore lead boots and had delusions of being on a grand prix track did not help. A monosyllabic grunt to indicate that I was at the required stop. Unfortunately it was not the required stop. No harm done though, it was only a five minute walk down the hill to meet up with Mike.

A welcome cup of tea and a bite to eat at the local cafe. By early afternoon we set off to head up the beach of Druridge Bay. The bay is immense, superlatives, such as vast, big skies and mile upon mile of of golden sands, hardly do it justice. The few folk out on the sands where just tiny specks upon the landscape.



A brisk, northerly breeze kept the temperature down a fair bit. However the walking was excellent. We even paddled a few times.  Mike had already walked down from the visitor centre and it was here we parted. Many thanks Mike for your company.

My way on now was to Amble. Fish and chips bought in the village. Not the best. Finding a spot to camp was forefront on my mind. Water also was a concern. There is little to be had on this coastal route. Two litres picked up at the marina was added to my pack. 

Pushing on, the route led over to Warkworth. There is a cycle path that separates walkers and cyclists from the busy main road. Not pleasant though, especially when tired. The pubs certainly looked busy with many people sitting out enjoying the evening sunshine.

Finally, once over the bridge spanning the river Coquet, the way on turned away from the main  road.The path skirted the golf course. Unfortunately the dunes where a mix of dense bracken and gorse. It was just beyond Birling Carrs when I finally stopped. Note, the static caravans on the headland have a couple of water taps. A long day and a late finish.



Tuesday morning broke to overcast skies and a spot of mist. It was an early start, always best when stealth camping.  The way on lead over to Alnmouth. Once more the route followed a purpose built cycle track. Hard going on the feet.




It was still early when I arrived in the village, however, I fancied a cuppa and a slice of cake and lingered until the coffee shop opened.




For easier going I took to the beach up to Seaton House. From there on to Boulmer. Some fine coastal walking lead over to Craster. The village was busy and, after picking up a couple of litres of water at the lifeboat station, I moved on.





The good weather certainly had brought out the crowds. Many heading over to the castle. A woman having mild hysterics because she had inadvertently stepped in a cow pat. Screaming kids being pacified with promises of ice cream. An elderly gent sweltering in his tweed jacket, twill trousers and cap.

  








By now I was thinking of finding a spot to camp.not an easy proposition. It was close to Low Newton By The Sea, before I tucked the tent in among the dunes. Anyone needing water, there are a few beach bungalows in the dunes and a couple of outside taps.





On the Wednesday it was once again, an early start. The aches and pains I had been experiencing where now easing. Also, I was finally starting to settle down a bit and get in to something of a steady rhythm.



Beadnell to Seahouses involved a stretch of main road walking.  Metronome walking, the brain switches over to auto pilot , the body functioning automatically, legs maintaining a steady pace, the mind taking flights of fancy/



.
Coastal path hazards.

Seahouses was becoming busy and I stayed only long enough for a cup of tea and a bite to eat.



The day was a hot one and for a time I walked in just shorts and a halter top, only slipping on a tee shirt before entering Bamburgh.




Bamburgh was busy, Coach loads of folks, queues at the tea rooms and ice cream shop. Crowds I am uncomfortable with and thus I hurried on.

Up the hill by the golf links, I spotted a hose by the golf course club house. Hot and needing water I decided to go for it. Unfortunately I was promptly spotted. A very irate chappy came barrelling across, "I say, you are trespassing, this is private property, club members only. You must stay with the allocated path at all times!" He quivered with righteous indignation. Waterless, I was escorted back on to the path and admonished once more to strictly follow the blue painted posts which indicated the right of way. Ok, so I am of the hoi polloi and common with it, tough! but to deny someone the decency of a drink of water is pretty mean.



A pity that, if I had picked up water, there where spots further on in the dunes where it would been possible to camp. As it was I pushed on with the coast path to the commercial campsite at Waren  Mill, A huge area of static caravans, allocated areas for touring caravans, another for camper vans and fortunately a separate area for tents. At least the tent field was not busy, only a dozen or so tents. At ten pounds for the night not exactly cheap.




It was a fairly early start Thursday morning.The coastal path at this point swings inland, a  total change of scenery. It looked as if I could be in for a long day though. Although the trail was well marked the path at times could prove to be a tad obscure. A close eye on the map was always helpful. Approaching Belford The way ahead leads over a pedestrian crossing on the main east coast rail line. Large notices warn of trains frequently travelling this stretch of line at one hundred miles per hour. Phoning the signal box and requesting permission to cross was a legal requirement, and quite rightly so. The next hazard was crossing the busy A1! Now that was scary, I scurried across in double quick time in the first available gap! 

Belford seems a quiet place now. At one time though it was very different. A tannery, wool mill and a few other industries where all part of the town. Agriculture was prominent too, with weekly markets. Also it was on the main  London, Edinburgh stage coach route.

Bought a pasty for a second breakfast, certainly not cornish, more a mongrel of uncertain parentage! Paths led over to Swinhoe Farm and then through woods and tracks to Fenwick.




From Fenwick it was another hazardous dash across the A1. Not pleasant at all. Over and down, across another pedestrian rail crossing. Ring the signalman. "Permission to cross please"He asks how many of there are and how long it will take to get across. I assure him two minutes at best. Once across it is back on to the coast. Traffic is heading across the causeway to Holy island. For me though, another time, another trip that is in the back of my mind. 


Through marshland and back on to the dunes, my goal is the small campsite at Goswick. Unfortunately it was closed. What to do? I wanted to, no, I needed to stop. There was no sign of anyone, just horses grazing in a paddock. Ignoring a 'private' sign, I went and knocked on doors, no response. A glance around the stable area, there was a tap. With water bladders filled I back tracked a mile or so.

 

A hazard of wild camping!

The sign says it all, metal tent pegs and things that go bang do not mix. Hence my trepidation and backtracking . The payoff was a delightful little grassy spot. There was a view far out over the sands and the muted roar of the surf breaking, blissful.






Friday was my last day and overall it was a straight forward walk on to Berwick on Tweed. The path around the edge of Goswick golf course proved tricky. It was waist high in thick grass, thistles and nettles.  Noticing a lady walking her dog by the edge of the driving range, I took the same course of action. Once beyond that it was a cycle path all the way to Berwick.

Making friends with a local lady's huge great mongrel dog, she advised me to head for the youth hostel in the old granary and provided instructions on how to find it. When I first approached the place I could not apprehend that I was actually looking at the hostel itself. On the ground floor was a bustling, laid back bistro area. Hesitantly I approached the serving counter and asked the lass where the hostel was. She gave a great grin and assured me it was all part of the hostel. Better still, they had a spare bed and I quickly booked in. The hostel is impressive, very much so. All very modern but with a friendly atmosphere, I would recommend it.

In the morning, it was a relaxed stroll up to the station and the official end of the Northumberland coast path. Something of an anti climax though. Little to indicate the start or finish of the path. Overall, I have somewhat struggled at times with my fitness levels. However, sixty four miles in four and a half days is not too bad.

























12 comments:

Beryl the Peril said...

Excellent write up Dawn, a favourite area of mine. And those beaches!

Margaret

Dawn said...

A fantastic area Margaret, I shall return.

Gayle said...

My goodness Dawn, you seem to have achieved a trip entirely in good weather! Looks to have been a fine one, too - except for the officious meanie at the golf course.

Dawn said...

Indeed most strange Gayle, I even got sunburned!

John J said...

A brill trip in a brill area - resulting in a brill write-up.
Just keep it quiet, we don't want others discovering the area!
JJ

Dawn said...

Thank you JJ, it certainly is fantastic area.

chrissiedixie said...

People can be very weird about stuff like water.... We wild camp with our van most of the time rather than using sites, so have become quite adept at finding water to fill up with. In Scotland though, it's much easier. Most places there - even villages - seem to have a cemetery, and cemeteries usually have a tap. As does the average churchyard. We did once get sent packing from an outside tap at the Tourist Information Place on Skye, mind! Can you believe it? Toilets are the same aren't they? We once got sent out of a McDonalds when Abi was only about 8 years old and desperate for the loo - wouldn't let her use them because we hadn't bought anything!

I've started to rant now, haven't I - I'll shut up.......

Lovely area though. We love Northumberland. I come from the North East anyway (Co. Durham), and Grace Darling is one of my ancestors. We go there often :)

Dawn said...

Hi Chrissy! Probably with the golf chap, he did not want scruffy looking oiks around the club house?He was all togged up and spoke with a plummy accent. Often it is a case of fill up whenever the opportunity occurs though.

AlanR said...

Very nice post and lovely photo’s. Huge skyscapes, great beaches. Well done.

Dawn said...

Thank you Alan.It is a fantastic area.

James Boulter said...

Good walk that Dawn. Did you ask the golf club chap if you could fill up with water? Bang out of order if he said no. I would write them a stern letter pointing out the danger on a hot day...........

Failing that pop back late at night and have a crap on the lawn :)

Dawn said...

James, I did look for someone to ask but found no one. This chap must have been watching me from inside the club house.
Come the revolution I am going to turn golf courses into allotments and grow veggies all over them!!!