Day 49 Picturesque Northumberland Towns

Sunday 24 May 2015

Amble to Craster
16.5 miles
Proctor Steads campsite

Grey skies but no rain as I set off along the main road from Amble to Warkworth. A good looking town that wouldn’t be out of place in the Cotswolds, Warkworth has a ruined castle on a hill and a 14th Century fortified bridge spanning the River Coquet.   

Approaching Warkworth up the River Croquet
 Having rounded the Warkworth Harbour I could head for the beach; another long stretch of golden sands all the way to Alnmouth (sort of). The River Aln flows into Alnmouth Bay and requires a 2 mile detour around the roads. Alnmouth needs a ferry!  

Within touching distance of Alnmouth, across the River Aln
 
It’s a long way around to get there!
  Another picturesque town and the tourists were out in force. I stopped at the Red Lion Inn, as it had been recommended, and treated myself to a Sunday roast dinner and a pint.  

Sunday roast at the Red Lion, Alnmouth
 After Alnmouth I walked along the undulating headland as the beaches were covered in amazing rock formations. It must be a geologist’s paradise. 

I passed RAF Boulmer and then crossed a small bridge at Low Stead Links, where a stream flows into the beach and it’s a designated SSSI.  

Low Stead Links near Howick
 At Cullernose Point the gulls were nesting on the black cliff and covering it in white streaks of bird poo.  

Nesting gulls at Cullernose Point
 All the way along the cliffs I had been getting glimpses of Dunstanburgh Castle looming in the distance. It towers over Craster, the final picturesque town of my day, which has a famous smokehouse. Unfortunately it is closed on a Sunday so no kippers for me.  

Looking across Craster harbour to Dunstanburgh Castle
 Back to camping tonight; it’s been a while.  

Craster harbour

Day 48 Ambling along the Beach to Amble

Saturday 23 May 2015

Newbiggin-by-the-Sea to Amble
14.5 miles
The Wellwood pub

I woke to the sound of the sea lapping against the shore and this was the view from my (very small) bedroom window. I couldn’t complain.  

My Captain’s Lodge bedroom view of the Couple
 Despite being a Bank Holiday weekend the weather forecast was sun all day, perfect for walking along a beach. In order to get to the beach I had to walk across the Newbiggin golf course and then take the roads around the power station and the Lynemouth Minewater Treatment Plant. After that I was in the dunes heading to Cresswell at the Southern tip of Druridge Bay. The common land between Newbiggin and Cresswell was strewn with tethered carthorses mowing the grass. I felt sorry for them stuck walking in small circles.  

One of the grass mowers on the common land
 Cathy, the owner of The Captain’s Lodge, had recommended the ice cream shop at Cresswell so who was I to argue? I duly stopped for a delicious, homemade ice cream and a chat with some cyclists. 

The sun was getting stronger as I reached the beach, and boy, what a beach. About 7 miles of uninterrupted light golden sand (with the occasional bit of sea coal thrown in).  

Druridge Bay from Cresswell
 The tide was out and so I had an easy walk along the beach in the sunshine. What could be more perfect?  

What could be more perfect?
Just as I was getting hungry I reached the nature reserve at Ladyburn Lake and so I popped over the dunes to the visitor centre for a quick refreshment. I didn’t see anyone in the sea all day but there were plenty of triathletes swimming around the lake. 

Towards the North end of the beach I came across the rocks, and some great tidal rock pools.  

Awesome rock pools and Coquet Island in the distance
As I approached the end of Druridge Bay I walked off the beach and into the dunes so I could round the (fairly flat) headland into Amble.   

If I can get all the 2p coins out of this telegraph pole I’ll be rich
Coquet Island is just off the coast here and looks beautiful on a sunny day. It’s got a long monastic history and a medieval tower with a Victorian lighthouse perched on the top. It’s now a National Trust reserve and home to 90% of the UK Roseate Tern population. 

Coquet Island off the coast near Amble
 The market was just packing up when I arrived in Amble, which gives the impression of a busy little town. Time to do my washing and planning tonight. 

Day 47 Inauspicious Northumberland

Friday 22 May 2015

Whitley Bay to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea
7.5 miles
The Captain’s Lodge Guest House

Walking along Whitley Bay’s promenade I passed the Panama Swimming Club hut; a feature since the 1950s. It didn’t look like anyone used it much. At the end of Whitley Sands is St Mary’s Island and lighthouse, which is joined to the mainland at Curry’s Point by a short tidal causeway. I could have crossed and gone up the lighthouse, but the skies were grey and visibility not good enough to be worth it for the views. Curry’s Point is rather joyfully named after the last man to have been hanged in the town and his body strung up in a gibbet on that cliff.  

St Mary’s Island and lighthouse, N end of Whitley Bay
 Looking back at Whitley Bay the town’s version of the Taj Mahal (a dirty old white building with a dome) stood out. I walked past what looked like the most boring links golf course in the world; essentially a small, flat field where the longest hole was 98 yards.  

Most boring golf course ever? Whitley Bay
 Next up was Seaton Sluice, which was definitely the most picturesque sluice I’ve seen so far and from here there were great views along South Beach to the ugly town of Blyth.  

Seaton Sluice
 Here one has the option of walking along the main road, through the small dunes or along the beach to Blyth. It’s a nondescript town with a power station and a few wind turbines. The only option to get past it is to walk inland and across The Blyth on the main road, then continue on the roads to Newbiggin. I decided to get the bus. This required a trip into Ashington and then another bus out to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea; another uninspiring place. 

Trust me to take an afternoon off in a place I wouldn’t bother visiting with accommodation that I can’t access until later. It took me 10 minutes to walk round Newbiggin. The only thing I found interesting was the ‘Couple’ artwork by Sean Henry built on the sea defence breakwater.  

The Couple, Britains only permanent off-shore artwork
 
A land miniature of The Couple
  I sat in a cafe waiting for my expensive guest house to open and had a truly awful cream tea. I am hoping for better things from the rest of Northumberland!

Day 46 Tyne and Wear

Thursday 21 May 2015

Sunderland to Whitley Bay
16 miles
Esplanade Lodge Guest House

Today I crossed 2 rivers, the Tyne and the Wear. First up was the Wearmouth Bridge, linking the 2 halves of Sunderland. 

road and rail bridges across the Wear
 A pleasant walk follows the cycle way to the end of the coast-to-coast cycle route (which I did in 2010) and there are plenty of information boards to read. Once past the Wear mouth it’s North to South Shields along a lovely bit of coastline. The beaches are long and sandy and the magnesian limestone cliffs have eroded and left a few interesting stacks and caves.  

How many cormorants can fit on one rock?
 The Wherry is a quaint little bay with a rock stack in the middle that used to divide the boy’s side from the girls’ when it was popular in the early 1900s.  

The Wherry and Souter lighthouse
 Souter lighthouse is the landmark at Lizard Point and overlooks Marsden Bay, the site of Marsden Rock.  

Marsden Rock in the middle of Marsden Bay
 The Rock used to be bigger and was a distinct landmark for passing boats to navigate by and for people to congregate on (saw a great photo of a Mass taking place on the rock in 1910). The coastline around here was a smuggler’s paradise as well as being good for quarrying. Marsden had a quarry, limestone kilns and a purpose built village on the cliff that was demolished when the industry closed and now there’s no trace of it.  

Marsden limestone kilns closed in the 1960s
The walk around the South Shields headland was more dull, although there were plenty of quirky sculptures and things to see.  

Little Haven little people. A bit weird.
 The council were busy building up the beach.  
maybe there’s not enough sand? Tynemouth Castle in the background
I caught the foot ferry across the Tyne to North Shields and then walked along the old Tynemouth quayside, now devoid of industry but with a few cafes and fish shops. Tynemouth headland, and the town on the cliff, looks very nice. Fantastic position for the 14th Century castle and Benedictine priory, where 3 kings were buried.  
Tynemouth Castle and Priory overlook King Edward’s Beach
 A walk along Long Sands beach brought me to Whitley Bay, a slightly run down resort in the process of being ‘improved’.  

derelict swimming pool, Long Sands and Whitley Bay
  The South side of the town overlooks the pretty Cullercoats Bay with its history of fishing, lifeboats and as a destination for artists. 

Cullercoats Bay

Day 45 Durham Coast 

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Hartlepool to Sunderland
18 miles
Acorn Guest House

This is what you get with cheap guest houses aimed at contractors: shared bathrooms (no problem), ropey beds, DIY breakfasts and a packed lunch with sandwiches that look like I’ll live longer if I don’t eat them. 

Trying to find my way along the front in Hartlepool was harder than it should have been. The marina has too many dead ends and not enough ways out!  

Looking at The Heugh from the Marina
 Eventually I got out onto a main road and caught the bus to the headland, which is the old part (Harts Island or Heugh). It was rather quaint and I stopped at a cafe that was a converted church for a coffee and breakfast top up. Leaving Hartlepool I walked along the North Sands beach, which was variously golden sands and black sands (well sand covered with sea coal that was once collected to top up that which was mined from under the sea).  

Sea coal on the beach
At Crimdon Park there was a little tern nesting site that was being watched over by volunteer wardens in their hut. Bill offered me a cuppa so naturally I accepted and offered biscuits in exchange. I spent a happy hour listening to Trev’s wisdom on little terns and other animals (he was a poacher turned gamekeeper before he retired).  

Bill and Trev, Crimdon Park Little Tern wardens
 Once I got on the headland the views were amazing and I started on the Durham coast path. Another beautiful part of the country. There are 8 denes that cut into the Durham coast, each one must be crossed or walked around, and that makes it a little hard going but adds to the beauty.  

Blackhall Colliery Dene
 This is coal mining country and the landscape is still recovering even though the last mine closed 24 years ago. The waste used to be dumped over the cliffs but nature is doing a great job of repairing itself. The mining history is clearly still mourned by many and there is lots of art work on the cliffs.  

One of many tributes to the mining heritage
 The coastal views were stunning, especially as it was a glorious afternoon. My favourite views out to sea: bright yellow gorse, lush green grass, deep blue sea and pale blue sky.  

The view along the coast at Dene Mouth
The railway line runs close to the coast here and train travellers must get some good views.  

Castle Eden Dene railway viaduct
 Approaching Seaham I rounded Nose’s Point for a good view of the beach below, which was once the site of a coal mine and before that an iron mine. Now it’s a beautiful beach with only a few scars.  

Beach after mining
 I walked through Seaham to see Tommy, one of many large war memorials I’ve seen in the North East.  

Seaham’s ‘Tommy’
 From Seaham I caught the bus into Sunderland town centre where I was staying for the night. I felt a bit funny walking into town in my Cat One evening dress, but nobody bothered in Wetherspoons. Sat by a group of people and realised I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Can’t wait for someone to call me ‘pet’.  

The big little tern on the cliff top at Horden (Trev says it shouldn’t have a crest really). Stunning colours of the sea and sky

Day 44 Teeside

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Skinningrove to Hartlepool
17.5 miles
Brafferton Guest House

To make the most of my expensive guest house I ate, ate and ate some more at breakfast, so much so that I was late leaving. As soon as I set off the first rain squall hit and that set the pattern for the morning. I headed up the hill and back onto the Cleveland Way. Walking across Hunt Cliff I was afforded great views back to Skinningrove Pier and the lovely-looking Cattersty Sands.  

Cattersty Sands and Skinningrove Pier
 The cliff path was next to a railway line for a while and I enjoyed the strange art works on display as well as the remains of the Guibal Ironstone Mine works.  

An oversized charm bracelet withcthe Guibal Ironstone Mine Fanhouse in the background
 In between the showers the sun shone on the wonderfully clear sea and the views were great. The most captivating one was as I came off Warsett Hill and there was Middlesbrough spread wide in front of me and looking like a Lowry painting without the matchstick men. The threatening sky added to the drama of the picture of this industrial landscape and, in its own way, I thought it looked quite stunning. Unfortunately I couldn’t take a photo that would do it justice.  

Industrial landscape of Middlesbrough under a brooding sky
 Saltburn-by-the-Sea is a Victorian seaside town and where I finally left the Cleveland Way, as it curved inland, and took to the beach along 3 miles of sand to Redcar.  

Saltburn-by-the-Sea maintains its Victorian charm
 The squalls kept coming, as did the thunder and then the hail. For the hailstorm I was forced to stand in a hotel entrance to take shelter as the stones were rather large and painful, and covered the ground white. At one point on the beach I could see rain to the right of me over the sea, rain to the left of me and a huge black cloud in front of me. I had to stop in a cafe at Redcar to try and avoid the heaviest rain. I ate the greasiest cheese toastie I’ve ever seen swilled down with a mug of tea and took advice from the locals on walking through Middlesbrough. The Teesdale Way was fine but don’t go into Port Clarence if I want to live. 

Bearing that in mind I set off, in the now constant rain, along the Redcar seafront heading for the Teesdale Way. 

Fancy signpost for an unmaintained path. (The white on the ground is the remains ofthe hailstorm from 2 hours earlier)
  The reality of this path is that it goes alongside the railway line and the industrial works by the Tees. Although signposted, it was badly overgrown, fenced in to point of being claustrophobic, dirty with waste and grime, and at one point had a contractor fence across the path that I had to climb over. It was not a pleasant walk and I was glad when I reached the road once more.  

There is sludge running down the wall!
 
such an inviting path!
 I finally reached The Riverside football stadium and could see my destination clearly, the transporter bridge across the Tees to Port Clarence and the road to Hartlepool. Built in 1910 it is essentially a section of road that is suspended across the river and moves from one bank to the other. Is never seen one (apparently there are 7 left in the world) so paid my 60p for a ride across.  

A random sculpture in front of the view of the transporter bridge
 
Here comes the road!
 I finished the day with a bus ride along the main road, past more industrial works, to Seaton Carew and then Hartlepool. It had been a long, wet and industrial day. 

Day 43 North Yorkshire Mining Towns

Monday 18 May 2015

Whitby to Skinningrove
16 miles
Moonfleet Guest House

A bus ride to start the week, this one to get from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby, where I finished walking on Friday. It’s never ideal to start walking in the rain but at least it wasn’t a heavy downpour and the visibility was still quite good.  

The heavy sky darkening the view North from Whitby
 Today was more up and down over the North Yorkshire cliffs and the first town I came to was Runswick Bay, which was rather like a newer version of Robin Hood’s Bay; pouring off the cliff, narrow streets, at the North end of a wide bay. 

Is it Robin Hood’s Bay? No, it’s Runswick Bay
 An equally pretty little fishing town.  

Higgledy piggledy Runswick Bay
 Just around the headland is Port Mulgrave, which was the site of the first of the 2 ironstone mines that I walked past today. I realised when I saw Easington on the map that I was in mining country, but I didn’t know N Yorkshire used to be the hub of iron and alum mining.  
Looking back at Staithes with the Boulby Alum Mine in the foreground
 Staithes is the final fishing village within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and it is extremely pretty nestled in the hillside next to The confluence of the 4 becks in the area. 

 I stopped at Dotty’s Tea Room for a cream tea and a chat with a few of the locals about my trip. 

Tea in N Yorkshire comes in proper tea pots
 As I walked over the headland towards Skinningrove the sun came out and I got my first glimpses of Middlesbrough in the distance. The views along the coast and inland towards Borrowby Dale and Easingron Beck were stunning, even though punctuated by Boulby mine and the steel works at Loftus. Skinningrove is a funny little place tucked out of the way. It used to be a mining community and looks like it’s still struggling to reinvent itself. It was badly flooded twice in 2000 and flood prevention is key to this town, which is apparently well known for its pigeon fanciers and even has a statue dedicated to the Skinningrove Homing Society.  
The Pigeon Fanciers’ Statue
 Skinningrove only got stranger for me as the only pub in the village seems more like a house (but a meal cost £4 so I wasn’t complaining) and my guest house locked me out on the street for 40 mins. Most odd that I couldn’t get in. I went round to the neighbour’s house to see if they could help me and met an old man with one leg (apparently he lost the other one through drinking too much) and then had to try and convince an old lady with dementia that she needed to go home. An eventful evening. The guest house owner eventually answered the door and let me in.