192. Whitley Bay to Hebburn

As today was going to be walking along tarmac paths and roads through built-up areas of industry and suburbia,  I would ditch my walking boots in favour of my trainers. I also had to drive through the Tyne Tunnel and park at the Metro station at Hebburn. I decided on a very early start and slipped out of my B&B at 5:45. There was a tremendous amount of rebuilding and construction going on around the Tyne Tunnel approach, which confused my sat nav; so it was a case of following the road signs.

Some of the Metro stations offer free parking and I made good use of this at Hebburn. I always thought the Newcastle Metro was a brilliant service, but a broken down train left me and countless others waiting almost 40 minutes for a replacement train to come. Getting back to Whitley Bay should have been easy, but some confusing signage at Monument saw me get off the train (which would have ultimately taken me back to Whitley Bay) and wait for another train which was announced as “For the Coast”, yet have South Shields marked on the front of the Train, even though the train was heading for North Shields. You tell me? Anyway I defied logic and jumped on one of these trains.

Some 2 hours since leaving my B&B in Whitley Bay I arrived back in Whitley Bay and continued my walk. It was dry but very windy, I set off at a good pace, more to keep warm. I had to don my walking jacket as the icy blast from the wind was very cold. I passed the dramatic ruins of Tynemouth Castle and Priory which are only open at the weekends this time of year. Although I would not have paid to gone in, £5.60, is quite expensive for a set of ruins. Although I understand why they must charge, its more than I am prepared to pay. I suppose I could pay the £45 annual membership, like I do with the National Trust and get in free?

Looking towards Tynemouth from Whitley Bay
The ruins of Tynemouth Castle and Priory
Looking south towards South Shields with the Collingwood monument centre-right

Soon after passing by Vice Admiral’ Cuthbert Collingwood’s large monument (a famous mariner who fought alongside Nelson) I turned west and headed along the banks of the River Tyne. I immediately began battling a very strong headwind, that was  giving the Tyne a very choppy appearance. I was soon overtaken by the cruise ferry Princess Seaways arriving after its overnight crossing from Amsterdam (or more precisely Ijmuiden). I entered the town of North Shields, although it would be very difficult to distinguish any boundaries amid the built up conurbation.  I pass through the Fish Quay, where the distinct smell of fish landing, selling, processing, serving and eating gave the area a unique character. Large building and construction barred my way further along the shore side, forcing me inland slightly along the busy A187.

I headed west along the A187 and passed close to the entrance of the Tyne Tunnel. Close by was the entrance to the Pedestrian and Cycling Tunnel, which I would have loved to have used, but was closed until April 2018 for repairs. That would have saved me a few miles walking! I join the Hadrian’s Cycle Way which follows the route of the  old Riverside Branch line of the Newcastle and North Shields railway.  I arrive at Segedunum the Fort which marks the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall at Wallsend. I am afraid I was very underwhelmed by Segedunum. Most of the site is just reconstructed cobbles defining the precise location of the various parts of the fort. After centuries of building, construction and taking of the stones very little remains of the Roman Wall at Newcastle. I continue west towards Newcastle along the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail which continues all the way to Bowness-on-Solway.

Heading west along the River Tyne
The Princess Seaways arriving from Amsterdam
The Fishermans Memorial for fisherman lost at sea at North Shields
One of the many pubs (sadly closed) clad in glazed tiles – North Shields
Offshore construction shipyard, these are small offshore platforms – Wallsend
Looking across Segedunum at Wallsend

I follow a loop in the river loops and the centre of Newcastle comes into view. I catch sight of the very impressive Millenium footbridge spanning the Tyne in a double bow. From the bridge I look further west at the other road and rail bridges which have spanned the narrow Tyne over many years. With the wind at my back now I make good time, taking a circuitous route alongside the river and pass around industrial sites  wherever they occur. By midday the sun has begun to come out and excellent views back across the Tyne where I had previously walked a couple of hours ago. I decided on stopping at Hebburn for a couple of reasons, namely; I did not know how far I could get with the sunshine available, I wanted somewhere free to park and my next section which may be to Sunderland which is also on the Metro and  would make it easy to get back to my finishing point.

An enjoyable days walk, given the biting wind, but an area packed with history that would take me a too  long a time to stop, explore and describe.

The Millienium Bridge and other bridges in the centre of Newcastle
On the Millenium Bridge
Looking east down the Tyne near Hebburn
Looking across the Tyne near Hebburn. The small tower is the observation tower for the Roman fort at Segedunum

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 3,393 miles

 

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191. Newbiggin-by-the Sea to Whitley Bay

It had been a frustrating 4 weeks since I last did any coastal walking due to a host of circumstances namely; lack of 2 day weather windows (particularly in Scotland), a death in the family (my wife’s sisters husband), a poorly dog (now thankfully ok), football and a Christmas Fayre where myself and my wife had a craft stall, selling things we had made – Woodturning and crochet items. Unfortunately, Scotland was about to take the full force of Storm Caroline, So I opted for my back-up walking location – The North East coast.

My wake-up alarm did not go off as I had set the clock time out by 12 hours! So I set off in a bit of a mad rush to catch my planned transport links. Only one major diversion on the A38 – M1 which was something like 10 miles or so. I was very lucky with the next diversion as they were just pulling the cones in. I set off up the A19 which is dualled all the way to the Tyne Tunnel. I located a free car park in Whitley Bay and walked into the town centre to catch the #57 bus to Ashington, where I picked up the #X21 to Newbiggin. The combined fare was £8.30 which was rather expensive, but not too bad as the journeys took almost 2 hours. From the bus stop in Newbiggin,  I walked the short distance to the promenade.

The weather was a mixture of a stiff breeze with sunny spells amongst dull overcast grey skies. I followed the promenade out of Newbiggin getting a good view of “The Couple” statue sitting some 300m offshore on a metal frame. The statue by Sean Henry was erected in 2007 and was quite controversial at the time with the locals having mixed feelings about its siting. As I continued to walk south the sun made an appearance and it became difficult walking into a low strong sun. I reached a caravan site and headed inland slightly along the River Wansbeck. The path passed under the busy A189 and up to a weir with a footbridge on the top. There was a sign on a low locked gate which prohibited public access, I could see the sign lettering had been partly had been scrubbed out, also a number of footprints headed across the bridge and I decided to follow them. I headed back down the river and arrived back at the coast. I emerged on a minor road  which passed through the old mining community of Cambois.

Looking out towards The Couple at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea
Heading towards the weir and footbridge across the River Wansbeck

After 1.5 miles I headed inland again, this time to cross over the Sleekburn, then the A189. I briefly enter the outskirts of Bedlington, before emerging onto the A189 as I cross over the River Blyth. I descend onto a cycle track which followed the River Blyth into Blyth itself. Even though I had checked my route I encountered a couple of dead-ends which required me to retrace my steps. I met a chap out walking who was having his camper van worked on and needed to kill a few hours, he kept me company as we walked into Blyth. Blyth passed by in a bit of a blur as we were engaged in conversation. My new-found walking companion soon disappeared into a local cafe, while I continued  south.

Inland lighthouse in Blyth

As I left Blyth I joined a path that headed towards the dunes and continuesd onto Seaton Sluice. Further on I pass through the small village of Hartley. I continued along the cliff-top path as I pass St Marys Island with its lighthouse and buildings linked to the mainland by a tidal causeway. It is only 14:00 as I approach Whitley Bay but the sun had disappeared and it was getting quite dark already. However, I could still make out the brilliant white building of the Spanish City Dome. I headed for the car park to change and then onto my nearby B&B. I noticed I had passed out of Northumberland and into North Tyneside.

Heading south towards Seaton Sluice
Looking back at Blyth
The harbour at Seaton Sluice
St. Marys Island and lighthouse
Approaching Whitley Bay
The Spanish City Dome – Whitley Bay

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 3,373 miles

 

 

Progress to Date

I thought it would be a good idea to have a visual representation of my progress to date in walking the coast of Great Britain. This is basically just a Google map of Great Britain with a red line indicating my progress, its rather crude, but does the job.

Just a few pieces of information:-

  1. Besides my main line of progress, which is currently in Ardnumurchan on the West coast of Scotland, there are two outliers,the first is my “second front” on the east coast and second, the Norfolk Coastal Path which I walked some years ago.
  2. For scaling reasons I cannot show the “Use of Ferries” sections in Devon/Cornwall/Dorset which I am currently walking when weather further north is not so good.
  3. I’ll up date the map every once in a while

 

190. Amble to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea

The view from my bedroom at the B&B faced onto the sea front and came with a wide panoramic view out across the North Sea and the lights of Blyth some 8 miles away, the view also enabled me to be treated to a beautiful sunrise. The B&B had let me leave my car parked there while I walked back from Amble. I needed to get two buses again today. The first was the X21 to Ashington, the second was the X20 which called at virtually every village before arriving at Amble 45 minutes later.

The weather was again beautiful and on arriving Amble I quickly headed for the spot I finished yesterdays walk. Within 20 minutes I had dropped down to the beach, where I spent the next 2 hours walking. At Low Hauxley I found a brilliant section of an  exposed ancient forest sandwiched between the lower glacial boulder clay and the upper dune system. The ancient forest was about a metre thick and composed of rich black peat, interspersed with large tree trunks. The forest was discovered in 2016 after rising sea levels cut back the dunes and has been dated at 7000 years old.

As I rounded a small point I entered Druridge Bay; this is a long sweeping sandy bay stretching for about 5 miles towards the village of Cresswell. I could also make out the power station at Lynemouth in the far distance. The underfoot conditions along the beach was  on firm sand and  a joy to walk. Unfortunaetly, the low sun made for poor photographs of any anything towards the south. I made excellent progress, passing small groups of people out with their dogs enjoying the late autumnal sunshine.

Coquet Island
Ancient forest sandwiched between Lower Boulder Clay and Upper Dune system
The view south down Druridge Bay
Looking back north along Druridge Bay

I eventually re-joined a minor road at Cresswell, running adjacent to the shore. The road headed straight towards the Power station but then swung around into the village of Lynemouth. The village of Lynemouth and the surrounding area has a rich heritage of coal mining where coal was extracted at a number of collieries up until the early 2000’s. The road passes the Power Station which looks at first glance to be dormant. However, ongoing work to convert the station to a biomass electricity generating station have been underway for some time. I turned left towards the main gate of the Power station  and then took a public footpath which shepherded walkers through a gate in the high perimeter fence onto the open golf links. I headed around the outside of the golf course heading first to Beacon Point and then along the links all the way into Newbiggin.

Memorial to Lynemouth Colliery
Miners Institute Lynemouth
Lynemouth power station
Walkers path close to power station main entrance
Heading to Beacon Point
Arriving at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea

Distance today = 15 miles
Total distance = 3,337 miles

 

 

 

189. Craster to Amble

No chance of a clear two days in Scotland, so I opted to continue my walk down the east coast of England  following the Northumberland Coastal Path. I set off early from Shropshire, this time continuing on up the M6 and then cutting east across country from Carlisle. I made good time and parked in the small coastal town of Amble. Here, I caught the X18 bus to Alnwick, where I got off and waited 20 minutes to catch the #418 to continue my journey to Craster.

It was a beautiful, clear, still, dry and sunny morning as I set off south along the Northumberland Coastal Path. Most of this path runs very close to the shoreline, it is well-marked and wide. From the footfall, I could see  it receives a lot of visitors and you can understand why, with the numerous castles and expansive sandy beaches. Although sunny, the slight breeze has a sharp ‘bite’. The first village I arrive at is Boulmer, a collection of houses and a pub right on the shoreline, giving its name to an old RAF airfield close by. I continue south and begin walking along the beach.

I entered the small village of Alnmouth, situated at the mouth of the River Aln where it enters the North Sea. The riverside path linking the town with the bridge across the Aln is closed for repairs. I walk through the town, cross the River Aln and continue a short distance along the A1086 before heading back towards the coastal dunes. The dunes are quite high and I get fantastic views south towards Amble and the offshore island of Coquet.

Looking back at Craster with Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance
Footbridge over the Howick Burn at Iron Scars
Looking back at Boulmer
Limestone “pavement” near Seaton Point
Looking back at Alnmouth
Looking towards Amble across Buston Links

I continue along the coast before cutting inland slightly to cross the River Coquet at Warkworth. The River Coquet forms a meandering loop around the town with the large and impressive ruins of Warkworth castle dominating the skyline. I continue along the A1068 which follows the River Coquet until it reaches the North Sea at Amble. Before I reach Amble I pass a weir on the Coquet, complete with fish ladder. The weir was probably constructed to keep a steady water level around Warkworth, as the river has a large tidal range. I spot a grey seal in the river, almost a mile inland! I head into Amble following the shoreline and out along the South Jetty, which is a large wooden structure running along the river and out into the sea. There is a lighthouse at the end of the jetty.

I locate my car and drive south to the small coastal town of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and book myself into my B&B for the night at The Old Ship Inn.

The gatehouse to the Old Bridge across the River Coquet at Warkworth
Looking down towards the Market Cross at Warkworth
Warkworth Castle
Warkworth Castle
Looking back along the River Coquet to Warkworth
Weir with fish ladder on the River Coquet
Heading into Amble along the River Coquet
Late afternoon on the South Jetty at Amble

 

Distance today = 15 miles
Total distance = 3,322 miles

 

186. Waren Mill to Craster

It rained incessantly all night, I thought the forecast may have got it wrong and I would be in for a wet day. However,  I need not have worried, as although the roads were flooded in parts, the rain had moved on. I parked  in the car park at Craster and caught the X18 bus back to Waren Mill.

I started walking from Waren Mill down the B1342 towards Bamburgh. About a mile down the road I headed down a green lane past Heather Cottages, through the dunes and onto the shore of Budle Bay. I headed along the beach and around Budle Point. The tide was still out as I passed the lighthouse at Blackrocks Point. The views became dominated by Bamburgh Castle, an iconic and amazing sight. I had previously walked around Bamburgh Castle when I was in the area some years ago. On this occasion headed for the grave of Grace Darling in St. Aidans churchyard. The impressive memorial to Grace had been replaced a number of times over the years, although contrary to popular belief she is not buried in the memorial tomb, but in a simple grave with the rest of her family nearby. I continue down the B1342 road. The Northumberland Coast Path (NCP) diverts inland, I suspect because there is no footpath, although it would be possible, at low tide, to walk along the beach. I soon arrive at Seahouses, still an active fishing port and walk around the harbour wall. I cut across a golf course and head down onto the beach which takes me all the way to the next village along the coast at Beadnell. As I enter the village I saw a large group of people around the village green. They appeared to be picking mushrooms, but on closer inspection they are actually planting bulbs, thousands of them.

The grave of Grace Darling
The memorial to Grace Darling
A rather murky Bamburgh Castle
Looking back at Bamburgh
Sculpture entitled “Rescue” at Seahouses
Heading along the beach to Beadnell

The sun has decided to show its self for a brief while as I again head down to the beach and begin the long sweeping walk around Beadnell Bay. One of the drawbacks of walking along the shore is sometimes you meet a small river or large stream that passes over the sand to the sea. These streams or rivers are generally not very deep, but crossing them could mean getting your feet wet. So the first large stream I came across I simply walked through. I did not mind the wet feet and it saved me walking an extra kilometre to the nearest bridge. After some two miles on the beach I followed the NCP along the shoreline heading for the small hamlet of Low Newton-by-the-Sea. It was quite busy and I could see a number of people strolling along the beach. In the far distance I could make out the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, where some people where making their way to and from. Although a ruin, Dunstanburgh Castle holds a similar prominent position on a volcanic outcrop as Bamburgh. The 13th century castle covers a huge area and had been unoccupied for hundreds of years. Today the castle is owned by the National Trust and administered by English Heritage. I later learned that as a member of the National Trust I could have gained entrance, but this was not explained on the charges board outside of the castle. As I leave Dunstanburgh I join a steady stream of people coming and going back to my destination, Craster. The walking was along grassy fields, cut back by grazing sheep. I enter Craster and head to the Robson smokery where I buy some lovely smoked haddock to take home.

Heading south along Beadnell Bay
Looking back at Beadnell
Heading along Embleton Bay towards Dunstanburgh
Dunstanburgh Castle
Approaching Craster

Distance today = 17 miles
Total distance = 3,269 miles

 

 

 

185. Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Waren Mill

I had been waiting for almost 4 weeks for a 3 day weather-window in Scotland in order to continue my walk around the Ardgour peninsular. However, no such weather window was forthcoming, so instead, I decided to open a ‘Second Front’, beginning the long walk south down the east coast of England. These walks, beginning at Berwick-upon-Tweed, would be predominantly undertaken in Winter as an alternative to my primary focus on getting around the Scottish coast. I had decided to start my walk at Berwick because I wanted to try to keep my Scottish walks sequential and in one piece. I also decided to make this trip a two-day outing and would be staying at the Budle Bay campsite. This caravan and camping site is run by Jayne and Matt. Matt is a top bloke, very welcoming and helpful.

I set off very early from Shropshire, aiming to avoid the notorious rush-hour traffic around Gateshead and Newcastle. Unfortunately things did not turn out as planned, as on the drive up I was getting ominous warning signs that the M62 was closed for repairs. I managed to circle around Manchester, only to be foiled by further closures at the M60 junction. I had no option but to head off up the M66 towards Burnley and then on to Skipton and Harrogate. By this time I was already mingling with the early morning commuters. By the time I reached The Angel of The North, I was stuck in very slow-moving traffic on the A1. Almost an hour later and I had just cleared the traffic, but only just made the 9:07 bus from Waren Mill to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

As I got off the X18 bus in Berwick, I could see that it was to be an overcast, but dry, warm and still day. I immediately sought out a Greggs to buy coffee and a bacon/sausage bap. I crossed over the old bridge, one of four that cross the River Tweed close to the town. I continued along the south bank of the Tweed all the way till it spilt out into the North Sea. I was now walking along the Northumberland Coastal path and also the Lowry Trail, named after the painter L S Lowry,  a regular visitor to Berwick.

This was the first bit of ‘real’ coastal walking I had done for a while and I was really happy to have some excellent views from the cliff-top grass track. At Cocklawburn Beach I descended to the beach, and  continued walking on the sand which was firm and enabled good progress. I stayed on the beach for the next 4 miles, only coming back onto land when I reached the tidal road which ran out to Lindisfarne. Because Lindisfarne is a tidal island I had no plans to walk out to it, although I had been out to the island some 10 years before.  I now joined joined the St Oswald and St Cuthberts Way’s, which also ran along the Northumberland Coasta Path. I could see a steady stream of traffic coming and going out along the tidal road to the island.

Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Crossing the Tweed along The Old Bridge
Looking back at Berwick
One of a number of Lowry Trail signs
On the Northumberland Coast Path looking back at Berwick
Descending to the beach at Cocklawburn

The next two miles was spent walking across agricultural land on a footpath that had seen little foot-fall over the years. The footpath emerged onto the very busy A1, but which fortunately  offered a wide protective verge. After about a mile of walking along the main road I headed off down a minor road with worrying signs telling me that the road was closed ahead! I persevered on through the hamlets of Elwick and Easington. I finally came to the problem, which was a bridge that was being rebuilt after collapsing. I asked the guys on the bridge if it was ok to cross. The fact that I was already half-way across meant that I was crossing anyway! I continued along the minor road all the way into Budle Bay and the small hamlet of Waren Mill.

Matt, at the campsite, had recommended the fish and chip shop in the nearby village of Belford. He was not wrong, one of the best fish and chips I have had for some time and at £3.60 great value for money!

Approaching across the salt marsh, the tidal road out towards Lindisfarne
On the very busy A1

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 3,252 miles