Saturday, October 07, 2006

Walk 143 -- Embleton, via Seahouses, to Bamburgh

Ages: Colin was 64 years and 152 days. Rosemary was 61 years and 294 days.
Weather: Sunny, becoming cloudy. There was a cold wind but it remained dry.
Location: Embleton to Bamburgh, via Seahouses.
Distance: 13 miles.
Total distance: 1179½ miles.
Terrain: Mostly beach with both firm and softish sand. Some grassy cliff paths, some dunes, some tarmac and a horrible stoney pavement. Mostly flat, undulating in the dunes.
Tide: Out – coming in – then going out (we took so long).
Rivers: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.111 going out of Low Newton-by-the-Sea, no.112 about a mile further on, and no.113 as we approached Seahouses.
Pubs: ‘The Ship’ at Low Newton-by-the-Sea which we visited for a pub-lunch the day before as well as on our Walk. We enjoyed Wylam’s ‘Houblon Nouveau’, High Farmhouse’s ‘Matfen Magic’ and Dry Brewing’s ‘Flotsam’.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday flat in Longhoughton. We drove to Bamburgh where we avoided the ‘official’ car park because it was £4.20 for the day even at this time of year. We found a free car park on the dunes a little to the north of the castle. We walked into Bamburgh and caught a bus which took us to Embleton. We walked down the lane to the golf course, where we had finished our last Walk.
At the end we climbed up the dunes from the beach to our car. After a cup of tea we drove back to our flat in Longhoughton.

It was a brilliant day — at least it was in the morning when we started this Walk — so we crossed the golf course and got ourselves down on to the lovely sandy beach of Embleton Bay as soon as we could. Looking back, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle looked fantastic as a silhouette against the sunlit sky. It was glorious walking along that beautiful beach — all seemed right with the world!We came to Low Newton-by-the-Sea where there is a ‘real ale’ pub which we had already visited the day before, one of our ‘rest’ days, for a pub lunch. Of course, we needed to ‘test’ the beer again as it was so nice yesterday! It was such a lovely day we could sit outside in the sunshine, unlike yesterday when we’d had to shelter indoors from the constant rain.There were a lot of young people there so early in the day, some of whom were German and a few were girls. We asked the young German man at our table what it was all about, as they weren’t exactly in uniform but they had a military ‘feel’ about them. He told us they were taking part in a competition run by the RAF to walk from Boulmer Barracks to Bamburgh (not exactly far for military personnel) calling at about half a dozen pubs on the way! Seemed like an elaborate pub-crawl to us, we wondered who was paying for it. The taxpayers?
We had to leave the beach at that point because it disappeared under rocks, but the grassy path was only just a couple of feet higher. The official footpath took two short cuts, missing out Newton Point and Snook Point. But we walked along the very edge because it was short grass and easy. We sat among the rocks to eat our pasties and Colin ate his crisps. Junk food! Ever since I read in a walking magazine some years ago that it takes more energy to digest crisps than you ever gain by eating them, I won’t touch them. I need all the energy I can get to do these Walks!
We were soon able to get back down on to a sandy beach again. This part of Northumberland is wild and beautiful, and the coast path is stunning! Trouble is, Beadnell Bay has a river running across the middle of it which is too deep to paddle through. So, after about a mile, we veered a little to the left, rounded the sand dunes, and crossed the river by a stout wooden footbridge. Great that we didn’t have to divert all the way to the road!
We wanted to get back down to the beach again, and on our way round the sand dunes on the northern side we found a seat in a nice cosy nook to sit on and eat our sarnies. From there we had a good view of the bridge, and about ten minutes later the RAF — who had left the pub at Low Newton before us — came marching across. It was a bit like the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ because they had to stop at a lot more pubs than us, but in between they marched along the road whilst we strolled along the beaches. We didn’t see them again, probably because we dallied too much at Beadnell and Seahouses. We didn’t think much of their exercise at their age, considering what we have achieved at our age.
Continuing on, we stayed on the beach all the way to Beadnell even though the tide was coming right in by then leaving us with only a narrow strip of sand. We just made it up the steps to the harbour before the water closed over. A few small boats were tied up in the harbour, and another one came in on the tide while we were there, but they didn’t look like fishing boats. A plaque told us the harbour was built in 1798, breached in 1997 and restored in 2000/2001.
So it is still used, unlike the lime kilns which are also on the harbour wall. They are now redundant, but they are the reason that Beadnell had a harbour built in the first place. An information board told us:
In November 1798 it was agreed that Richard Pringle should build a limekiln measuring 24ft in height, on the pier at Beadnell, which should have a pot 16ft in diameter at the top and 9ft in diameter at the bottom. John Wood, from whose estate the coal and limestone were extracted, would complete the harbour there and maintain it in good repair.
The kiln was expected to produce at least a thousand cartloads of lime each year, to be exported by sea to other ports in England and Scotland. The lime sold well so that John Wood built a second and third kiln on the site.
We could not find out when they fell into disuse. From the end of the harbour wall we could still see Dunstanburgh Castle way in the distance. We have walked a good many miles since then, and that was only on the last Walk.We walked along the road through part of the village until we came to a ‘nook’, as they call any triangular piece of land that sticks out into the sea in this part of the world. Ebb’s Nook didn’t look anything much, but it is rather special. For it is believed that Christians have worshipped on this spot for over 700 years. The blurb on an information board told us:
Although the remains visible today (we couldn’t see any) date back to the 13th century, there may have been a church here much earlier. The name “Ebb’s Nook” may indicate associations with St Ebba, a 7th century Anglo-Saxon princess.
Each year on the nearest Sunday to August 25th (St Ebba’s Feast Day) the people of Beadnell still worship here. All are welcome.
We continued through the rest of the village until we could get back on to a sandy beach again, and so we had another lovely mile of walking on the sand, even though the tide was now right in leaving us with a narrow strip to walk on. Then we came to another river, and this time we did have to retreat to the road which was a bit of a bind. There was no possibility of walking on the beach after that, instead we had to put up with a horrible stoney path made of cinders so sharp it was extremely uncomfortable to walk on. Whoever thought of that? Certainly someone who has never tried to walk on such a surface in his or her life — I expect it was cheap. It was easier to walk on the road, despite the traffic!
As we approached the edge of Seahouses, we were able to turn off the road along a footpath across a golf course — there seems to be a golf course every couple of miles in this part of the world — which led us alongside a lake back to the shore. We were on top of a low cliff, and could see the Farne Islands out at sea. These remote islands are a bird sanctuary owned by the National Trust. We remembered taking a boat trip out there in May 1997, shortly before we retired. It was the nesting season, and the number of birds — and a colony of seals — we saw was phenomenal. We particularly remember being attacked by terns trying to protect their young. We didn’t know until then that it was safer to wear hard hats!
We continued round the perimeter of the golf course and descended into the pretty little fishing village of Seahouses. A ‘blurb’ board rather boringly told us the history of Seahouses as a holiday resort, how it started to attract visitors from the 1920s. The only interesting bit was that the number of Farne Islands varies between 15 and 28 according to the tide, and that St Cuthbert lived on them as a hermit from 676AD to 684AD. There was a picture of Grace Darling in the middle of the blurb, but I had to look on the internet to get a potted history of her brave deed:—
(Grace Darling was 22 years old when she risked her life in an open boat to help the survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire on 7 September 1838. With her father, she rowed for over a mile through raging seas to reach them. The courage that Grace and her family showed on that day is now legendary.)
I rather fancied a trip to the islands on one of our ‘rest’ days, but there was a distinct lack of information about them. We came to the conclusion that we were too far out of season to make it anyone’s worthwhile to run such trips. As it was not the nesting season there probably wouldn’t have been many birds, though along the mainland beaches we had seen eider ducks, guillemots, curlews, redshanks, gulls, pied wagtails and sparrows. We would like to have seen the seals though. We sat on a bench to eat our chocolate, feeling very tired. We conjectured that the RAF were already in Bamburgh, but then they had marched boringly along the road.
Slightly refreshed, we got up and carried on. There was a beautiful sandy beach for the next three miles to Bamburgh, but the sand was a little soft because we could only walk at the top due to the state of the tide. However, that was much better than using the parallel road which ran along the other side of the dunes, and the situation did improve as the tide slowly receded.
Three miles is an awful long way to walk when you are tired! We were watching out for Bamburgh Castle which had looked so imposing when we had left it on the bus this morning, it dominates the village. We were sure it should appear above the dunes, but on and on we went and it seemed that someone had spirited it away. At one time we saw the top of a ‘pill-box’ appear above the dune grass and got quite excited until we realised what it was! We caught up with another couple of about our age who were walking along even more slowly than we were. I asked them if they knew how much further the castle was, or had we already passed it and somehow missed it? They confessed that they, too, were looking for it. They had parked their car under its walls earlier, crossed the dunes and gone for a walk along the beach. Now they were looking for its ramparts to appear above the dunes as we were, and were getting a little anxious as it didn’t seem to be there. It was most strange. I said, “Well, I know it was there this morning because I took a photograph of it!” This made them laugh, and we all carried on.Another hundred yards or so, and the topmost turrets began to appear — relief! I called back to our friends and pointed. They cut across the dunes with a definite sigh of relief, but we had to go on well past the castle because we had chosen the free car park this morning. At least it made the next Walk a little shorter, so it wasn’t wasted distance. At last we could cut up through the dunes to our car. We had not taken into account the width of the dunes at this point, that is what made it so difficult to see the castle from the beach.
Bamburgh castle is privately owned, so we didn’t visit it. There has been a castle on the site since the 6th century, the Normans built a stone castle there, but the present castle is mostly a Victorian restoration — a bit like Arundel really. From our vantage point on the top of the dunes we could clearly see Lindisfarne (Holy Island). We’ll be there soon!

That ended Walk no.143, we shall pick up Walk no.144 next time on the beach a little north of Bamburgh Castle. We had our tea, then drove back to our cosy flat on top a double garage in Longhoughton.

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