This is the third section of a blog written by the AONB partnership as six guided walks up the Northumberland Coast Path take place this summer.
Craster Tourist Information Centre was the starting point for stage three of the Northumberland Coast Path Guided Walk last Wednesday.
While some of our group made their way by bus, others decided to car-share as parking in the small village can be difficult. We were grateful to find that Theresa had come in early to open up the tourist information centre so that we could get our passports stamped before setting off.
A quick head count and roll call revealed that one of the group was missing – our friend Janet from South Shields who is joining us for all the walks. Mindful of the 10-mile walk ahead and the need to catch the bus back, we couldn’t wait long for her. We left a message with Theresa and crossed our fingers that she would catch up.
There was only one minor incident to report before setting off – our leader, Iain Robson, an avid birdwatcher, had inadvertently left his binoculars in the car in Alnwick. I don’t think he’ll have ever made a trip to the coast without them: A schoolboy error. Distraught was an understatement.
With promises of being able to borrow some if needed, we headed off in the direction of Dunstanburgh Castle. We are spoilt for castles on the Northumberland coast, but this one has to be my favourite. It was built by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, in 1313. Now largely ruinous, it was once one of the largest and grandest castles in the north of England. As a friend once quipped: “It’ll be fantastic when it’s finished!”
The coast path skirts around the west side of the castle and it was here that we bumped into Andy Craig, a local photographer and historian. He was happy to tell us about the history of the castle and decided to join us as far as Low Newton. Just as we were about to move on from the castle, we saw Janet coming our way. We were all so pleased to see her – our group was complete.
This was our largest group yet – 23 or was it 25? Twenty-six if you add Jasper the dog. Tom and I – acting as back-markers – struggled to remember, but our farmer, used to counting sheep, was on hand to help us out.
After leaving the castle, the path follows the edge of the golf course at Embleton before taking us down onto the beach towards Low Newton. As we crossed the Embleton Burn which trickles into the sea, Iain gave us the option to walk along the dune path to the Newton Pool Nature Reserve or stay on the beach. We chose to stay next to the sea, reminding ourselves every so often to look back at the magnificent view of the castle.
At Low Newton, some of the concrete blocks from the Second World War have been incorporated into the sand dune in front of the beach huts and Andy amazed us with his knowledge of how the war impacted our coastline.
It was busy as we came into Low Newton. A large school group were enjoying a day out, running in and out of the sea. We stopped by the picturesque square of cottages for a quick respite.
After several head counts – we’d forgotten that we’d said goodbye to Andy – we were ready to set off again. The coast path takes us out toward Newton Point, where we could see the former long-range navigation station from the Cold War era, and through the dunes behind Beadnell Bay. There was plenty of opportunity to look for wildflowers and wildlife along this stretch – six-spot burnet moth, meadow brown, common blue and large skipper butterflies.
Our lunch stop this week was just beyond the Long Nanny Burn, with a view onto the little tern colony. This is a nationally important site for the little terns, with approximately two per cent of the British breeding population using the site. Every season, National Trust rangers live on site, camping in the dunes and providing a 24-hour watch for the nesting birds. Iain was missing his binoculars! As it is such a sensitive site, we were disappointed to see that a few people on the beach did not have their dogs on leads, despite the numerous signs asking them to do so.
There was a cool northerly breeze as we started off again after lunch. We tend to walk in different groups every time we set off, so manage to catch up with everyone and swap stories – one of our group this week had come from Richmond in North Yorkshire for the day to walk with us. It didn’t take long to reach Beadnell and we regrouped again in the car park to use the facilities. It was good to see that the toilet block was being refurbished, but it did mean there was a long queue for the ladies using the one disabled toilet!
Still following the coastline but off the beach, we walked along Harbour Road, which brought us out of the village at the start of the cycle path that links Beadnell to Seahouses. This path was built 12 years ago using funds from our Sustainable Development Fund. Pat Scott, who was councillor for the area at the time, also used her members’ small scheme fund to help create the path. It provides a lifeline for pedestrians and cyclists between the two villages on a dangerous stretch of road.
Once safely in Seahouses, we turned eastwards onto the footpath which crosses the golf course. This gave us a view of two more castles that we will pass in later stages of the walk – Bamburgh and Lindisfarne. We all sent up a little prayer that the other stages would be bathed in sunshine too.
We came into Seahouses next to the harbour and with a fantastic view of the Farne Islands. It was very busy. Thankfully, we had plenty of time for a pint or an ice-cream before the 3pm bus back to Craster.