Location: Bamburgh to Beal — causeway end.
Distance: 12 miles.
Total distance: 1191½ miles.
Terrain: Over a golf course on the dunes. A lot of road walking, including half a mile of the A1! (not nice) Overgrown farm paths, and a very wet marsh.
Tide: Out, coming in.
Rivers: No.66, Waren Burn.
Kissing gates: No.114 on Bamburgh Golf course.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: No.42 where a farmer had obliterated the path by planting his crops — so we walked round the edge (weren’t we good?) No. 43 where there was an official and well marked diversion on the marsh.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday flat in Longhoughton. We drove to a free car park that overlooks the causeway that leads on to Holy Island. I had already rung a Berwick taxi firm before we left the flat so that we didn’t have to wait for our transport. The taxi driver explained that he had to start the meter as soon as he left Berwick, and it was already reading £13 by the time we got in! I was very concerned that it was going up too fast as he drove us to Bamburgh, so he switched it off and accepted £25 although it would have been far higher. A lot of money, but what else could we do? There were no buses. We walked to the car park where we finished the Walk yesterday.
At the end we finished the Walk at the car. The tide was in by then, covering the causeway, and I was fascinated by some bubbles gurgling up in the middle of the road. After a cup of tea we drove back to our flat in Longhoughton, it seemed a long way.
From the car park where we finished our Walk yesterday, we hiked up the lane towards the lighthouse.Someone had painted picture of a white stag on the beach rocks just short of the lighthouse — we wondered why, was it just Art or did it have some significance?We could see Lindisfarne (Holy Island) on the horizon, our next destination.Looking back we could see the imposing silhouette of Bamburgh Castle against a blindingly bright sky.The Northumberland coast is truly spectacular, and it gave us the feeling that all’s right with the world!
At the end of the lane we passed the lighthouse and walked on to yet another golf course. We were following a public footpath which was marked by little blue posts to keep us away from the golfers. Even so, we had to stop several times and wait for them to tee off. We had beautiful views across Budle Bay which was teeming with birdlife, but we could see it would be impossible to walk down there because of the braided river, mud and wet sand. That was the best view in all of today’s Walk.
We followed the footpath down through a caravan site, then up across a horse field which also had bullocks in it. So we marched through purposefully, and the bullocks backed away after their initial curiosity. We came out on to a road, the beginning of several miles of road we were due to walk today. We marched down to the bridge across Budle Water. This whole area is a nature reserve due to the plethora of birds on the estuary. There is room to park several cars next to a low wall, and lazy birdwatchers need not even get out of their vehicles though they get a better view if they do. A fat woman got out of her car and was expounding loudly, showing off her ornithological knowledge to her companions. Trouble was, she misidentified a curlew — we grinned to each other and walked on without saying anything.
There was a building by the bridge. A notice carved in stone on its wall told us:
WAREN MILL 1925
WAS CONNECTED WITH THE ROYAL SAXON CITY OF BAMBURGH IN PRENORMAN TIMES
1187 HISTORICALLY MENTIONED
1605 MILL RACE WAS DERELICT
1783 ADMIRALTY ERECTED MILL FOR WATSON IN RESPONSE TO FARMERS’ REQUEST FOR AN OUTLET FOR THEIR WHEAT
1835 HEIGHTENED AND ENLARGED FOR NAIRN
1881 BURNT ON DECEMBER 21ST
1883 RESTORED BY BROWNE (OWNER) FOR SHORT
1913 MACHINERY INSTALLED BY SHORT (OWNER)
1924 MALTING COMPLETED BY SHORTWe diverted off the road and walked down a short grassy track to sit and eat our pasties by the water’s edge. The view across the estuary was lovely, and we knew it would be the last good view we would get until the end of the Walk. We watched a young couple, who followed us down the track, continue along the water’s edge towards the sea. We were tempted to follow them as we were not looking forward to all the road-walking we had to do, but another look at the map showed us it was very marshy with lots of ditches and dykes — we would never have got through. So we retraced our steps to the road and continued westwards.
The road, although unclassified, was quite busy. As there were no pavements we had to keep throwing ourselves into the undergrowth every time a vehicle came whizzing past. But skeins of geese kept flying overhead which noisily added interest to our hike.
We came to a modern stone notice which proudly told us we were on the Northumberland Coast (we knew that!) in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (we knew that too!) But the particular point at which it was located wasn’t particularly beautiful (perhaps that’s why we needed a notice to remind us) because we could only see the sea by standing on tiptoe to look over a hedge and corn fields to spy a flat landscape in the distance. Sometimes we could just make out Holy island, but more often we couldn’t even see the sea. We could have been anywhere.
We knew we had to take a right fork in about a mile, and happily set off down a lane labelled, “DEAD END NO BEACH DOWN HERE” The road didn’t seem to be bending in the right direction, so I took another look at the map. I realised we had just marched two hundred yards down what we call a ‘white’ road on the map and it only led to a farm. So we had to retrace our steps — our fork was another three hundred yards further on. The priority at the fork was not what we expected, and we were relieved to find the majority of the traffic bore left under the railway and out to the main A1. Our lane became a trifle narrower and was almost traffic-free. That made walking a lot more pleasant.
Very soon we came to a bridge over a little stream. A low wall made a nice seat to relax and eat our sarnies. There followed several miles of boring road-walking past the occasional farm, cottage and an imposing mill which looked as if it had been very recently modernised and turned into flats. We don’t get much pleasure out of walking over agricultural land, it is man-made ‘countryside’. But once again the frequent skeins of geese provided an interest. Eventually our little lane took us over the railway and spilled us out on to the A1, a major trunk road.
This was the part of the Walk we had NOT been looking forward to. Traffic was very heavy, but fortunately there was a wide grass verge and we only had to walk half a mile before our turn-off. We were looking for a public footpath sign to take us away from the road across fields, and we were getting a little concerned because there didn’t seem to be any gap in the hedge on our right. We were right next to it before we saw it, even though there was a stile and a fingerpost, for it was overgrown with nettles, brambles and weeds.With some difficulty we climbed over the stile, then we had to use our compass and map to walk the footpath for there was no sign of it across the fields. We surmised that it is not often walked, and it reminded us of the invisible footpaths back on the Isle of Sheppey. We came out on a lane near Fenwick Stead where, further down, we were supposed to turn off the other side behind some buildings. There was no signpost, so we opened the gate where we thought it should be and set off across more fields where the footpath only seemed to exist on the map (not forgetting to carefully close the gate behind us). Then we came to a brand new stile at a field boundary, so we knew we were on the right route.I was sitting on the stile concentrating on the map — for there was no sign of any footpath carrying on — when I suddenly realised I was surrounded by bullocks!Colin was in fits of laughter because he had noticed them following us across the previous field, had hopped over the stile quickly, and was waiting to see my reaction when I felt their hot breath down my neck!They were only being curious, but I was quite relieved that we could leave them behind at the stile.
We had to follow a fence, according to the map (what would we have done without the ‘Explorer’ maps with their minute detail even down to field boundaries?) and we did so until we came to the railway. There again we knew we were in the right place because there were gates allowing us to cross and warning signs about trains travelling at 100mph. Modern trains are so quiet we find such crossings to be nerve-wracking, but on this Sunday we hadn’t noticed a single train though we had been following the East Coast main line for miles.
The next field was supposed to have a public footpath going diagonally across it, but in front of us was a crop of turnips and there was no sign of the path. So we stuck to the edges of the field, which meant we had to walk further, rather than disturb the crop — weren’t we good? We emerged at a hamlet called Fenham where we passed some garden gates with a duck motif — I really liked them!
Our troubles were not over, though we only had about a mile to go. Again we had to guess where we turned off the lane because of the lack of footpath signs, and the fields we had to cross from thereon were very marshy — in fact some of them were completely under water. It started off OK, but quickly deteriorated. But skeins of geese were still accompanying us in the skies and we had glorious views of Lindisfarne. Then we saw a hare! It sped off from practically under my feet, I hadn’t known it was there. We watched it bound across several fields to join its mate.
The going got more and more muddy. We came to a field where there were parallel dips full of water, and we had to walk along each one until we found a place narrow enough to jump over. It took ages, and we began to think that dusk would overtake us before we got out of that field. We eventually found our way out in the far corner, and joined a way-marked path — St Cuthbert’s Way. Even this was diverted to preserve the farmer’s crops, and I got quite disorientated. But we got to the coast, which was also a muddy path, and walked along behind war-time concrete blocks to the beginning of the causeway to Holy Island.The tide was in so the causeway was covered. I was fascinated by bubbles that were rising from the road surface just below the water and making rings of waves. I could have given a physics lesson on wave technology!
That ended Walk no.144, we shall pick up Walk no.145 next time at the beginning of the causeway to Holy Island — we’ll have to be mindful of the tides! Whilst drinking my a cup of tea I became mesmerised by the bubbles gurgling up in the road. But I tore myself away because I was hungry, and we drove back to our flat in Longhoughton. It seemed a long way.