Saturday, 24 September 2016

Northumberland Coast Path - day 7

Friday 23rd. September '16

Island View Inn A1 to Berwick-upon-Tweed

A quick walk through Cheswick took me back onto the NCP and from there it was mostly a surfaced cycle track and proper Tarmac road all the way to Berwick and the train home.

Here is the slideshow with captions - click on the first thumbnail, then click on "full screen" at the bottom. You can also use the plus and minus buttons next to the "full screen" button to enlarge or decrease to suit your screen.


Thursday, 22 September 2016

Northumberland Coast Path - day 6

Thursday 22nd September '16 - Belford to Island View Inn, A1

Everything has gone so well so far, but today provided "Snag of the Walk."

More cross-country on fields and muddy paths. I think it rained heavily during the night, but it has been fine all day. The farm terrain gave way to a long but pleasant stretch of consolidated track largely through pine forest, followed by more seriously muddy paths.

The only village I passed through was Fenwick which was unremarkable. The A1 was crossed and then Tarmac, tracks and paths, brought me to the start of the Holy Island crossing on the road. The next section of rough path followed the margins of the marsh and is probably covered at high tides, but I was ok up to the sluice marked on the map.

Anybody who tells you about their crossing to Holy Island always dramatises to have you believe they left it to the last possible minute coming back and racing the tide.

From the sluice I could have walked into Berwick finishing late afternoon, but that would have meant overnighting there, so I had found the Island View Inn on the A1 slightly off route so I could have a comfortable walk today and finish tomorrow (Friday) in Berwick about midday with a sensible train journey home.

Anybody interested can see the sluice on the OS map at NU 073 435 from where I walked to my inn at NU 053 420 on the A1. BUT, when I got there it was called the Lindisfarne Inn! I entered and threw myself on their goodwill. I was told the Island View was 6 kilometres further north up the A1. There was no way I was going to walk. I rang them and they agreed to send somebody to pick me up. That was a bit annoying, the worst part feeling like a an idiot. I find most accommodation websites fail to give their precise location because they are catering for motorists not walkers. I had seen this PH marked on the OS map when I booked weeks ago, failing to notice the correct one further up the road.

I can easily get back onto the NCP from here missing out about 4 kilometres of the path. However, if my big plan for next year comes to pass I will walk down that section from Berwick going south.

The Island View has given me a newly created double room and provided good pub grub albeit a repeat of last night's gammon.There are signs that they are trying to update what must have been a run down business - good luck to them.

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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Northumberland Coast Path - day 5

Wednesday 21st September '16 - Seahouses to Belford

A bit of a problem this morning. Breakfast 8:00am, ready to go at 8:30, checkout doesn't open until 9:00 - ah well!

After years of backpacking all my arrangements for clothing, rucksack and its bits and pieces, provision for camera at the ready, transporting incidentals and cash in waist pouch etc. have been pretty well ironed out, but there are always minor changes and fine tuning, but at the moment I reckon I have got it all better sorted than ever.

Today the path lead inland, all in short differing sections providing ever changing interest. Tracks, fields, woods, golf courses, distant sea views were all included.

On a track at the dizzy height of 20m above sea level I rounded a right angle corner and had the most stunning view of Bamburgh Castle sat on top of its hill glowing in the morning sunlight about three kilometres away. I really did gasp.

Distance today was only about ten miles ( I do mix and match my miles and kms.) I tend to use kms. when I'm measuring distance on the map because it is helpfully divided into kilometre squares.

At Bamburgh I found a pretentious tea/coffee house and lingered. On a sort of high class village green under the castle walls I thought I saw a cricket match underway, but when I looked closer they were playing croquet, all dressed up in pristine whites; not a rugby shirt or pair of jeans in sight - I had to chuckle and managed to share my amusement with a passing couple who had previous associations with West Yorkshire, and more recently the Devon coast and we had quite a chat - nice people.

The path meandered for a while through soft sand dunes then into a cul de sac Tarmac road leading to Bamburgh Golf a Club, but alongside, a large field was planted with a sea of cornflower blue flowers which I could not identify, but hopefully my slideshow will display and bring forth the answer, but I say again they were so unexpected and attractive.

The views from the golf course across Budle Bay provided the largest expanse of golden sand illuminated with sunlight that I have ever seen anywhere. This Northumberland coast is a serious challenger for best in England and Wales.

Things degenerated a bit after that, crossing farmer's fields, and a short section on a busy road, then I was off onto minor toads and found a static caravan site - tea and pain-au-raisin - not bad.

For days I had seen strips of red and white hazard tape, and now I met a young man on a mountain bike retrieving these offensive items. It seems there had been a 100 mile run following St. Cuthberts Way which coincides quite lot with the NCP.

I met a couple from Australia who were wandering mapless and this really was in the middle of nowhere. I directed them on the way I had come and wondered what happened to them - one of life's little mysteries, but at least they were seeing our country properly rather than just cruising up the motorways. The weather deteriorated and just before I arrived at Belford I had to don my waterproof and rucksack cover.

I am now at The Old Vicarage b and b where they had the original bath from this old house with brass taps and a patent plug device. I was able to lie full length - without doubt the best bath I have ever been in.

I have just eaten in the Blue Bell. A black pudding, bacon strips, and warm potato salad, then gammon egg and chips - all ok and a bit better than average.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Northumberland Coast Path - day 4

Tuesday 20th September '16 - Caster to Seahouses

The Cottage Inn last night was a strange single story, architecturally challenged building. Judging from the surroundings I reckon there had been a grand country house there before.

I had passed a large stone gateway like the entrance to a country park on my way there with part of one side demolished, and barriers round - the reason for the closed road. Returning this morning there was a stonemason and his van. He explained that an elderly lady had blacked out in her car, fortunately without serious injury. He was there to do specialist repairs on account of it being a listed building.

I was soon onto cropped turf and enjoying early morning sun with views of Dunstanburgh Castle, built in the 1300s and now a spectacular ruin with plenty left to see.

There was more fast beach walking and several golf courses all in continued glorious sunshine. There is no doubt I am walking much faster than I was on the SWCP a few weeks ago. I walked solidly for over three hours none stop just enjoying the day and eventfully found the Salt Water Café at Beadnell - two pots of tea and a large slice of coffee cake. Here I took stock and found I was only about three kilometres from my destination at Seahouses, so I dawdled and took advantage of their wifi. The next section was disappointingly alongside the busy B1340, but just before Seahouses a path lead across another golf course to enter into the town pleasantly by the harbour.

The Old Ship Inn has been family owned for years. It is attractively furnished and everything themed for the sea, but all in excellent taste - a real gem of a traditional English Inn. Upstairs there is a gallery laid out as a marine museum with high class models of ships in glass cases and many seagoing artefacts - fascinating. My room is set out like captain's cabin on board a luxury yacht. I must emphasise that all this is well done and in no way tack y. I have high hopes of my meal .

This walk has so far been thoroughly enjoyable.


Back from the meal now. The menu was traditional with no unique options, but the steak and ale "pie" (roof of puff pastry on top) was really very good of its genre, and a plum and almond sponge pudding with custard was like Mother's home baking. I was sat next to a couple from Sheffield celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary. Excellent conversation about how they met, his national service and his job as a copy writer on the Sheffield local paper in the good old days when they had different local editions snd several editions a day - the mind boggles, but that's how it was with the old Bradford Telegraph snd Argus.

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Monday, 19 September 2016

Northumbrian Coast Path - day 3

Monday, 19th September. Warkworth to Caster

I had a good meal at the Hermitage Inn at Warkworth last night: excellent steak and mushroom pie with chunky chips cooked with dedication. A bread and butter pudding was disappointingly layered flat but it was fine in the eating. When I make it my slices are diagonally vertical, points up, which brown off. By the way, my mother who was a cook par excellence on rare occasions would burn something, but that was shrugged off with, "it's only browned on."

I was sat next to a resident couple and we talked together. He was there for the salmon fishing, but the local rivers are at low ebb.

The landlord enquired about breakfast requirements, and when I suggested poached eggs he feigned trepidation, but this morning they were done to perfection.

There was more beach walking to start with - vast expanses of golden sand and good going with just the odd person about, mainly dog walkers. The weather now a bit cooler but amenable for walking just in a shirt. Everybody I met today seemed to be swathed in winter waterproof jackets. Surely they must be over-warm? And that coming from someone who has a fear of getting cold. They must think that if they go walking it is obligatory to wear all the kit all the time.

From the beach a rather tedious trek round dunes, tracks and main road was required to cross the Aln estuary and arrive in timely fashion at Alnmouth and a local bakery café for top notch black coffee and Belgian chocolate chip shortbread.

Onwards across a couple of golf courses, all good walking underfoot, some more beach then good paths through dunes to Boulmer. The only thing of note there were photos taken of two older tractors which will no doubt be analysed later by AR when I do the slideshow. From there it was quite a long walk to Craster on good paths and nowhere to sit for a rest, but great views of the sea and now some small cliffs.

I was booked in at the Cottage Inn, Dunstan which village is a mile off route from Craster. I plodded down the road and turned off on a closed to cars road and unexpectedly came to signs and a driveway to my destination, quite a long way before the village. It was couple of hundred yards to the Inn up a windy track as if to a grand house. There was nobody about snd only one car on the park. Inside was the same where I had to ring a bell for reception. I feared the worst thinking that I was at some place on the verge of closure. The room was fine even with the opportunity of a hot bath and it was only 3:30. There is no doubt I am covering ground much more quickly on this flat well footpathed terrain with little need for navigation stops. All a big contrast from the SW Coast Path a few weeks ago.

When I went down for my meal at 7:25 the place was almost full and my worst fears were annulled. Craster is famous for smoked kippers. A smoked kipper pâté starter had to be sampled. Unfortunately I had some of the stuff on my fingers and kept getting whiffs of it during the rest of my meal. It was served with the ubiquitous salad, chunks of cucumber, red onion and crunchy lettuce. My main course was one of those now popular beef burgers which was ok, but again served with exactly the same salad - what a lack of imagination, and it happens all the time.


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Sunday, 18 September 2016

Northumberland Coast Path - day 2

Ellingham to Warkworth

Sunday 18th September 2016

A mile and a half of Tarmac took me to Cresswell, the proper start of the NCP. Numerous Sunday morning dog walkers with pleasant greetings, and the most glorious cloudless blue sky with just a nip in the air made up for what might have been a boring link to the start.

I had a real spring in my step. When I emerged onto the vast expanse of golden beach I was even more elated. Beach walking goes between two extremes: dragging feet through soft sand making for the second most difficult kind of walking, and firm sand with a very slight give that provides the most perfect of walking surfaces; today was the latter all the way. The definitive most difficult terrain is old pine forest and felled forest.

After about four kilometres of that delight the route hopped up some dunes onto a roughly surfaced track leading to the Druridge Bay Country Park with a pleasant visitor centre and café set on the side of a lake. The weather was warmer now, the sky still total blue along with the lake and the sea. Excellent coffee and a cheese and onion pasty made for enjoyable elevenses. There were many folks about, nearly all with a dog and often with several.

Another section of cul-de-sac Tarmac alongside the sands and blue sea had attracted picnicking motorists. I stopped and had quite a long chat with a couple in a traditional, but only ten years old VW campavan - I felt quite envious, but he was a garage mechanic with the ability to tend to it properly.

Just through Low Hauxley, a pretty little village, I was back on superb beach walking again then reasonable dune paths into Amble. A strange wooden pier-like walkway led to the harbour and town centre. There was a funfair blaring away, and a very busy Sunday market - people eating and queuing for ice creams everywhere. I found the Harbour Tearoom, where thirst was quenched with tea.

After a bit of footpath the NCP follows the busy main road into Warkworth. There is a good walkway and the tedium of the busy road is relieved by the interesting river Coquet on the right with Warkworth Castle standing stoutly above.

I am at the Hermitage Inn centre of town. It took me ages to get across the road; the latter half of this walk has been surprisingly busy with people snd traffic but it has been thorough enjoyment all the way ( except for the funfair).

I think I will post this and do a follow up later after I have eaten. Being a Sunday they stop serving at 7:30 and it is now 6:00 so off I go.

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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Northumberland Coast Path, day 1

Saturday 17th September 2016

The intention is for a holiday walk after my strenuous days on the South West Coast Path a few weeks ago.

There will be six days, supposedly easy walking and I have pre-booked all six nights ( five pubs and one B and B), and intend unrestricted indulgence. Bowland Climber told me he had stayed at the Old Vicarage B and B and gave it the thumbs up.

The walk starts at Cresswell, not an easy place to get to. The nearest railway station is about six miles away. I am staying at the Plough Inn at Ellington, still a mile's walk to the start proper tomorrow.

Today's itinerary:

Arnside, Lancaster - train 11 minutes late. Standing room only.
Lancaster, Carlisle - 5 minutes late
Carlisle, Newcastle- fortunately on time because I only had 9 minutes for the change.
Newcastle, Widdrington - on time
Widdrington,Ellington - Phoenix Taxis - excellent service. I phoned from train. Text message confirming taxi on the way. Then another saying it had arrived, and look out for silver Mercedes.

All is going rather well.

The dining room is heaving with large groups, one of twelve and another of twenty (celebrating a 90th) noisy, but a good atmosphere and friendly service.

Black pudding, goat's cheese, caramelised onion starter - a welcome innovation - slight crispiness to outside of black pudding added to the texture.

Chicken and leek pie - good of its kind, lots of chicken and good sauce.

Sticky toffee pudding cheesecake.

Well that was indulgence. I can't wait to get walking tomorrow.

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