Saturday, 11 February 2012

On the Beach                         (February 10th)
is a novel by Nevil Shute, set in a post apocalyptic world. It was made into a film starring Gregory Peck who played the captain of an American submarine. He also starred in Moby Dick as Captain Ahab and went down  with the whale that attacked his ship.* I don't think I would go to sea with Gregory Peck, he seems doomed as a sailor although he was excellent as lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Pub quiz question: Who played Boo Radley in that film?**
 Because of the poor weather the planned walk to the Schill in the Cheviots was postponed and instead we opted for a beach walk with the promise of not only beer but fish and chips at the end.
 We started the walk in Craster. For those of you who like place names it comes from
crowe- caestre and means "the old fort inhabited by crows". There is some evidence of Roman occupation in the area, even though it is north of the wall. Today Craster is famous for Kippers.***
 To get to Craster from Newcastle, head north on the A1 and turn off just north of Alnwick, follow several minor roads signposted Howick, Craster, Dunstan and hopefully you will find your way. There is a car park next to the Tourist Information Centre, a mere £2 for the day.
There is no real need for a map for this walk but should you need one Craster car park is at GR256198 on LR 75 Berwick upon Tweed and surrounding area.
Turn left out of the car park and follow the village street past the harbour. Ahead of you across a couple of fields is the ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle.

Dustanburgh Castle from the south, and on a grey day.

This magnificent castle was started in 1313 by Earl Thomas of Lancaster. Sadly he was executed in 1322 and never saw the finished building which was later completed by John of Gaunt the kingmaker who left his horse shoe at the junction of Penny Street and Market Street  in Lancaster. It is still there.
Dunstanburgh means the "fortress on a rocky hill". The site is the largest of the northern castles and came complete with moat, fishponds and a small harbour. As a castle it was not a great success, more a symbol of power and it fell into decay. By 1538 it was descibed as " a very reunynus howsse of small strength".   Today it is a Grade 1 listed building, property of the National Trust and best visited in summer.
Walking on the path on the west side of the castle you can see the remains of the fishponds; they are not very interesting.
Just north of the castle is Embleton Golf Club so watch out for men resting their balls on a tee before they drive off and wish you too had a Rolls Royce.
 Also in this area is a geological phenomenon of considerable interest, enough to make you reach for the Geography teacher's leather patched jacket. It is a fine example of an anticline, part of the Whin Sill that stretches across northern England.

An anticline, also on a grey day.

For the next part of the walk, take the beach and stroll across Embleton Bay. Northumberland has some of the most beautiful beaches in Britain. If we lived in sunnier climes the bays would be lined with hotels and the beaches would have neat rows of sun-loungers. There are some advantages to our northern climate.
At the north end of Embleton Bay is the coastal village of Low Newton by the Sea. There is a good pub, the Ship but we opted to walk to the National Trust bird hide on Low Newton pond for a Herbiespot.
Brian explained that he had been to Holywell Pond recently where the small island was being extended to encourage more Terns to colonise it.  After all, one good tern desreves another. Terns are very seasonal I answered, in fact to every season Tern, Tern, Tern.
There were few birds on the pond, a heron flew over and a small flock of greylag geese circled but, in spite of the reeds, not a bittern in sight.
Lunch over we resumed the walk. A footpath on the rightn hand side of the village road leads across fields and eventually back to the beach on Beadnell Bay, even larger than Embleton. About half way across the bay the wonderfully named Long Nanny Burn runs into the sea. Take care, sometimes the water is shallow enough to walk across but today it was quite deep and we had to walk a short distance inland to the footbridge. A man was windsurfing in the bay, it looked amazing as he leaped waves, twisted and turned in the air and generally had a good time. Braver than me, and probably much younger. The other thing of interest was the large number of Sanderlings on the waterline, their little clockwork legs working overtime as they searched for food on a cold day.
 Approaching Beadnell the outstanding feature of the small harbour is the disused lime kilns, not as good as the ones on Holy Island but at least I remembered to take a picture this time.

Beadnell Lime Kilns, a useful Herbiespot on other occasions.

Follow the road through Beadnell, keeping the sea on your right and shortly after the Post Office and General Store return to the beach. The vogelmeister was pleased to point out to us the ringed plovers, bar tailed godwits and more sanderlings. There were also a few eider ducks.

Seahouses is a small town very popular as a day out for north east families. It has several pubs, fish and chip shops, gift shops and is the centre for trips out to the Farne Islands a nature reserve teeming with seabirds and home to seals too. Most of the boats are run by Billy Shiels whom I always thought was the man "who is going to sing a song" on the opening track of Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band  until I read the lyrics.
We chose the  Olde Ship Hotel for a drink. A lovely, friendly  old fashioned pub with several rooms instead of the one large drinking area favoured by modern breweries. And the pub had a good selection of real ale.I opted for Farne Island Bitter, a great pint.

The street in Seahouses that leads down to the harbour and Billy Sheills boats. The Ship pub is on the right.

After drinks we visited one of the fish and chip restaurants and enjoyed a traditional English meal; cod, chips, bread and butter and tea.
And to round off the day we caught a bus back to Craster. A true gadgie walk using bus passes.

Higear gave a distance of 10.58 miles, two ped Dave averaged at 9.55 miles, the Benbragometer gave a distance of 11.2 miles and OutdoorGPS behaved well today, claiming 10.94 miles and it drew a map. No flying visits to foreign parts on this walk.
Not a long way on a flat walk but walking on sand can be hard going.

* An additional service I have introduced; Book of the Blog.
Today's book is In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. It is the true story of the American whaling ship attacked by a giant whale which inspired Herman Melville to
write Moby Dick.
** Robert Duval

*** Kippers, for my foreign readers unfamiliar with peculuiar English ways are smoked herring, often eaten for breakfast. Lots of bones and very tasty.