Bus missed, but plenty of stamps for passport

The group at the start of the first section of the Northumberland Coast Path in Cresswell.
The group at the start of the first section of the Northumberland Coast Path in Cresswell.

The Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership is once more offering the chance to walk the Northumberland Coast Path this summer.

Six guided walks are taking place across the summer, each in the company of a coastal expert.

The AONB partnership is writing a diary of the walks and the first section – Cresswell to Warkworth – is here:

Last Wednesday marked the first walk of our guided walks series along the Northumberland Coast Path.

We – Iain Robson and I – were joined by 13 enthusiastic walkers at Cresswell to begin our 10-mile journey to Warkworth. Our back marker for the day was Tom Cadwallender, a retired colleague who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the coast.

These walks are timed to coincide with the arrival of the bus from either Alnwick or Newcastle, so the walk began at the rather odd time of 9.20am. The clouds looked ominous, but the farmer walking with us assured us that it wouldn’t rain – and who better to trust when we’re talking about the weather!

The toilets weren’t open at Cresswell, but thankfully Brenda from Cresswell Ices had a key and opened them for us. She also put the first stamps into the walkers’ Northumberland Coast Path Passports. The first three miles of the path are on the beach. We were very lucky with the tide – had we begun a couple of hours earlier, the sea would’ve been up to the base of the dunes and we’d have had to walk along the road. It was a fresh and breezy start, but we soon found our pace as we headed north.

Most years, we continue along the beach towards Hauxley, but this year the group found walking on the sand quite hard work, so voted to use the inland path instead, so we left the beach at Druridge Links.

Druridge Bay has a string of nature reserves behind the dunes. We continued our walk alongside Druridge Pools before heading north towards East Chevington, a reedbed nature reserve. Iain pointed out singing grasshoppers, sedge and reed warblers as we walked through the reserve. Alongside the path, there were orchids, dyer’s greenweed and lots of other colourful plants.

By the time we reached Druridge Bay Country Park, we were all beginning to get to know each other, swapping stories and catching up with old friends from previous years’ guided walks. There was plenty more opportunities for bird-watching, wild-flower identification and – in the case of our farmer – checking the livestock en-route.

After making use of the facilities at the Country Park Visitor Centre, we continued on through the park woodlands to the coast road making our way north towards Hauxley.

One of our party had opted to use this stage of the walk as an opportunity raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance. She’d never walked a 10-mile distance before and relished the challenge, buoyed by the encouragement and support she received from the other walkers.

Although the rain had held off, it was a cold day, so we decided to head towards Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s brand-new Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre which had only opened the previous week. Our walkers enjoyed a hot drink with their sandwiches and took time to admire the new centre and the view across the whole bay from the Lookout café.

Conscious of the time and the need to catch the bus in Warkworth, we set off again refreshed and invigorated. Once through Low Hauxley, the Coast Path heads through the dunes of Amble Links Local Nature Reserve. The dunes give fabulous views of Coquet Island.

Tom was able to impart some of his knowledge about the birds on the island and there was also a chance to talk about the plants we could see in the dunes, which included bloody cranesbill, restharrow and viper’s bugloss. We also spotted the black and yellow striped caterpillars of the cinnabar moth on ragwort flowers.

Once we were onto the pier at Amble, the end was in sight – it was only a short walk along the side of the river into Warkworth, But first, a quick stop at Spurreli’s for ice-cream and a chance to get passports stamped.

As we began the walk along the banks of the River Coquet, we spotted our bus coming the other way! No one was fazed though – there would be another one within the hour, so we continued at a leisurely pace into Warkworth, keen to get our passports stamped at the Post Office and very much looking forward to stage two next week.