Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Walk 146 -- Beal to Berwick-upon-Tweed

Ages: Colin was 64 years and 156 days. Rosemary was 61 years and 298 days.
Weather: Very misty all day. Occasional light drizzle. Breezy, but mild.
Location: Beal — causeway end to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Distance: 10½ miles.
Total distance: 1212½ miles.
Terrain: A little beach, some road, but chiefly tracks and grassy paths. Mostly flat.
Tide: Out.
Rivers: No.67, the Tweed at Berwick.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: Nos.117 & 118 Goswick Links. Nos.119 & 120 at the further end of the golf course.
Pubs: None.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: No.44 where a footbridge over a ditch had been obliterated and a new one built further upstream. No.45 on a brand new footpath alongside the railway (this was a short cut).
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday flat in Longhoughton. We drove to Berwick-upon Tweed where we parked for free near a caravan site and a locked public toilets (we used a nearby bush!) We walked to the railway station and caught the Holy Island bus which only runs twice a week. (Fortunately this was the right day, otherwise it would have been another expensive taxi.) We alighted just before the bus drove on to the causeway.
At the end we were tired and fed up. It was drizzling and the visibility was very poor. We stopped at the ‘Kipper Gate’, and then took the quickest route we could back to where we had parked the car. We had a cup of tea and some biscuits, then we felt a little better. It was quite a long way to drive back to our flat in Longhoughton.

Today’s Walk was very hazardous — if we were to believe all the warning notices we read before we started. A noticeboard on the edge of the car park told us that:
(a) We were about to walk over a former military target area where metallic objects may explode and kill us:
(b) There was localised quicksand, so we could sink without trace:
(c) Wildfowling takes place between September 1st and February 20th, so we could be shot at since it was the middle of October:
(d) And about a mile further on a bridge over a drain told us we were at risk of drowning!All of this was on a public footpath. What a choice! We couldn’t make up our minds whether it was preferable to die by being blown to smithereens, suffocating in sandy mud, suffering a bullet in the heart or drowning in a ditch — but then we mused that we were too young to die, and besides we wanted to stay alive long enough to finish the Round-Britain-Walk! So we tentatively and carefully carried on. Weren’t we brave?Nobody mentioned getting lost in the fog, which was by far the greatest danger today. We could see coachloads of tourists crossing the causeway to Holy Island and disappearing in the mist before they got there. It must have lent atmosphere to their trip, but we were glad we went yesterday when there was weak sunshine and we could always see the mainland.
There was a good path northwards for nearly half a mile, then we were led up on to a bank. This turned westwards, but the path was so overgrown we couldn’t walk it easily. So we came down to the edge of the beach where the path was not so bad. After another half-mile we came to a tarmacked cycle path, but it was only a few yards seemingly in the middle of nowhere — very odd.
We crossed a bridge through a gate festooned with warning notices, and then became disorientated in the mist. We didn’t seem to be going the right way at all, according to the map, so in the end I got out my compass. The path led us a bit back on ourselves, the wrong way according to the compass and map. Eventually we concluded it was a diversion, and we hadn’t crossed the drain on the bridge we thought we had, but another one further up. A good path led us ever northwards behind the dunes, and after that we were all right. We met a man on a quad bike who stopped for a chat. Later we met some cyclists who were following ‘Cycle Route 1’ (so they said) and asked us if they were going the right way to get to Holy Island. We told them of the type of path we had been walking on, and of all the hazard warnings that were associated with it. They didn’t seem at all fazed, and continued their journey with a cheery wave.
We passed a caravan site, and came to a farm at Goswick where our track turned into a narrow tarmacked lane. There was a cold breeze, though not enough to shift the mist at all, so we sheltered behind an old milk churn platform (don’t use those any more!) to eat our pasties. That was OK, except that we had to endure the noise of a two-stroke coming from behind a barn all the while we were there.
Next was a golf course. We couldn’t believe the number of people out playing golf in all that mist and murk on a grey Wednesday in October — they couldn’t even see the length of the fairways from where they teed off! We got to a corner where the clubhouse was situated, and found that the coast path was clearly signposted at ninety degrees away from the sea. We were not happy with that and planned to trespass across the golf course to get to the coast. But there were too many people! Crowds of them everywhere, queuing up even, and there was no way we could nip across without being in real danger of being hit by a golf ball.
So we resigned ourselves to going the long way round, and it was a long way according to the map — at least a couple of miles extra. But we were in for a pleasant surprise — a couple of hundred yards inland a brand new path, not marked on the map, had been put in next to the railway! So we only had to walk an extra half mile after all. This led us to a public footpath which led to the beach. But we didn’t want to go to the beach because further on we would probably get stuck at the bottom of cliffs and have to backtrack.
We were trying to follow the brand-new waymarked ‘Northumbrian Coast Path’, so brand new it wasn’t marked on our brand-new map. So navigation was a little difficult as all the way-marking didn’t seem to be in place, or we just couldn’t find it. Whatever — we lost it several times, bumbled our way through and kept finding it again. We were still on the golf course, it was of interminable length. But few golfers seemed to be on this northern part — perhaps it was too far away from the ‘nineteenth hole’! One time, when we were ‘lost’, we walked through a “Ladies’ Tee” and there was absolutely no one there. Perhaps the ‘ladies’ have more sense than to be out on the greens in this cold and clammy weather where they can’t see more than a fifty yards or so into the distance. Come to think of it, what were we doing walking out in this cold and clammy weather where we couldn’t see more than a fifty yards or so into the distance?
We investigated a bank to our left and discovered the coast path was up there, but we couldn’t puzzle out where it had come from. However, it was quite clear where it was going to, and we didn’t lose it again. We sheltered behind a wall overlooking a fishing pond to eat our sarnies. Soon the track turned into a rough tarmacked road and we had lovely views over the beach, despite the mist which persisted all day.At a car park we went down to Cocklawburn beach to cut off a corner. It was good to walk on the sand again! We had to climb up at the other end of this short beach, and there we found a lot of evidence of slippage. The original road disappeared over the edge of the cliff in several places, and a new road had been laid down a bit further inland. But not much further — don’t think it’ll last long!The road turned inland under the railway, but a track led straight on squeezed between the railway and the clifftop. We were treated to good views, despite the mist which had become colder and clammier as the day wore on, and we looked down on interesting rocks.We came down into the seaside resort of Spittal, where there was one lonely family walking along the beach in their winter coats, the children attempting to dig the sand as they went. Not much else. We thought, “What a horrible name! We’d hate to have Spittal as part of our address!” An information board told us the name is thought to have originated in the 12th century when there was a leper hospital here. I expect there was a lot of spittle about then — yuk! Spittal really developed as a fishing village — salmon in medieval times, but herring took preference by the 19th century. This lasted well into the 20th century when heavier industries began to take over. It also developed as a spa town when ‘taking the waters’ became fashionable towards the end of the 18th century. Spittal water was rich in ‘iron, fixed air and sulphurous acid’ — I suppose that’s an improvement on spittle! The spa developed into a holiday town when sea-bathing became popular. Most of the visitors came from the Scottish border towns of Hawick, Jedburgh, Selkirk, Galashiels and Kelso. Like most seaside towns, Spittal began to decline in the 1960s, and when the railway linking it to the aforesaid border towns was closed in 1968, it died. Now it is more of a dormitory town for Berwick.
We walked along the prom which was nice — it looked new. In fact we found Spittal to be quite a pleasant place despite the weather which was deteriorating all the time. The wind had got up and it was cold, but the mist persisted spoiling our views of Berwick across the River Tweed. Colin obstinately battled with his cheap umbrella which kept blowing inside out, and I tried to ignore him as much as possible — usual scenario. We sat in a beach shelter to eat our chocolate.
We discovered we were following the ‘Lowry Trail’ with the occasional board displaying one or other of his paintings. Apparently he used to live in Berwick, and only died in 1976 — I hadn’t realised he lived so recently.

We walked round the point where there was a tall chimney, left over from some industry or other. From there we should have enjoyed amazing views of Berwick-upon-Tweed, but it was so shrouded in mist we could hardly see it.

We now had to walk up the River Tweed to the first bridging point. We trudged past a lifeboat station, through a mainly redundant industrial site and past a dock to get to the old bridge.This 15-span sandstone arch bridge, measuring 1164 feet in length, was built between 1610 and 1624 at a cost of £15000. It was ordered by James VI of Scotland, and formed part of the main route from London to Edinburgh until fairly modern times. Nowadays there is a modern road bridge about a hundred yards upstream, and a bypass which completely misses the town. Traffic is still allowed to use the old bridge, but in one direction only — from north to south.Pedestrians are asked to keep to the right, so the vehicles can pass freely.
And so we crossed the River Tweed into the town of Berwick — a town which has been fought over by the Scots and the English since time immemorial. In the present day it is in England, but only just!We turned right and continued down the other bank of the river, walking towards the sea. We could have walked along the bottom next to the river, but the way was blocked by buildings, private car parks etc all along. So we decided to stay on top of the walls because it was less ‘bitty’. We were on the ramparts, and seemed to pass a cannon looking out to sea every few minutes. This town oozes history! We passed a guardhouse, one of many, and came to the ‘Kipper Gate’ in the ancient town walls. The rain had started in earnest and we were very tired by then, so we decided to call it a day and take the quickest route across town to where we had parked the car.
That ended Walk no.146, we shall pick up Walk no.148 next time at the ‘Kipper Gate’ in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Meanwhile Walk no.147 will be an historical tour of this town which is so rich in history. We returned to the car by the quickest route possible where we had a cup of tea and some biscuits. We felt considerably warmer and more comfortable then. The drive back to our flat in Longhoughton from where we finish our Walks gets longer and longer.

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