Thursday, 2 July 2015

We visit the Northumberland coast - Newton and Bamburgh

Our plan for today had been another good walk, this time a thirteen miler.
Me paddling! 
However, upon waking to the same glorious sunshine as yesterday, we quickly changed our minds and decided to go to the seaside instead. A glance at the atlas showed us that our nearest potential villages were the pairing of High Newton and Low Newton, about a half hour drive away. We were glad of the air conditioning in the car! Both villages are small and cute with a narrow road heading towards the old Low Newton village centre which is now pedestrianised. An official car park close by is Pay and Display, but at just £1 for two hours. There was plenty of spaces at 11.30 and it was crammed when we left shortly after 1pm so the lesson is Get There Early.

From the village, St Oswald's Way leads left and right. We went right
Dunstanburgh castle ruins in the distance 
towards the ruins of the fourteenth century Dunstanburgh castle which we could just make out in the distance through haze. I was quite excited to be walking along a bit of St Oswald's Way as I had heard Clare Balding talk about her journey there in my audiobook version of Walking Home (my review here). I think I remember that she did the whole 97 miles. We just did about three quarters of an hour today! The path is, unsurprisingly, well worn and signposted and is also very pretty here. It is maintained by the National Trust. We couldn't always see the sea, but did pass by a dozen or so little wooden chalets up on the cliffs which we presumed were holiday homes. I loved this adorned bench:
Bench on St Oswald's Way 
After passing a golf course, we turned onto the beach proper which is a
huge expanse of golden sand. Being used to grey Sussex shingle, it was an incredible sight! We immediately took off our shoes and socks in order to paddle in little shallow rivulets and also in the sea. The rivulets and pools left by the tide were deliciously warm. The sea was so cold it was painful on my ankles after just a couple of minutes. There were a few people swimming though and several enthusiastic dogs bounding through the waves. I was particularly taken with the colours of the seaweed against the sand, especially in the shallow pools. An ice cream van had set up shop in the car park by the time we returned, but we decided to wait until the afternoon which was a mistake because the glorious blue skies had clouded over by then so we didn't fancy ice cream anymore.

Lunch was in Beadnell where we took advantage of a handy bench to
Drinking fountain in Bamburgh 
spread out our picnic. We didn't stay long though because it didn't have the picturesque appeal we were after. There is another large sandy beach there and it was busy for a weekday with walkers and families. Our final visit of the day was Bamburgh with its imposing and remarkably complete castle. We gazed up at it and took a turn around the town where I also saw the elegant drinking fountain pictured. We could have toured the castle, for a price (£10.50 each), but decided against as, although it was now overcast and spitting with rain, we preferred to be out in the fresh sea air. Posters around town were advertising croquet on the castle lawn. Apparently the local club is now into its third successful year! Bamburgh village is much smaller than its castle would suggest and is mostly geared up to tourists I think. There is a nice greengrocer where we bought strawberries for our dessert tonight. I managed to be dissuaded from piling into either of the olde worlde tea shoppes!

A fortuitous wrong road on the way home took us past Weetwood Bridge
Weetwood Bridge 
which we had to pull over a take a closer look at. A sign informed us that its existence was part of the Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum about which we knew absolutely nothing so I have been looking around their website this evening. Commemorating the famous battle between the Scots and the English in 1513, in which James IV and many soldiers were killed, the Ecomuseum is a collection of sites of interest connected with the battle. All are outdoors and without walls. It's a great project.

"Weetwood Bridge has been much altered over its existence but is thought to have first been constructed as a crossing point over the Till during the early 16th Century. The bridge lies on the direct route from Wooler Haugh where Surrey’s army camped on the 7th September 1513. It would have offered the army the best crossing point over the Till for its heavy ordnance and other equipment as it marched to join the Devil’s Causeway north of the river and onwards to Barmoor Castle on the 8th September."

Now I just need to find a good historical novel about this period and these people!

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