This is the fourth section of a blog written by the AONB Partnership as six guided walks up the Northumberland Coast Path take place this summer.
The journey for some of us this week began in Belford as we’d decided to take cars to the end of the walk and catch the bus back to the start in Seahouses. Safely aboard the Travelsure bus, we pored over bus timetables and chatted about whether we might do the same again the following week.
It didn’t take long to reach Seahouses. We gathered at the car park – a quick head-count (well, several really) revealed that we had 23 joining us. And of course Jasper was there too. He’s become quite a celebrity in his local town, but he wasn’t letting fame go to his head and he was eager to set off on this week’s adventure, which began along the old railway line to North Sunderland.
Iain had explained to us that only a short stage of this walk is close to the coast, the reason being that when he first mapped the route of the path, he found that the views of the coastline were better a little further inland. So as we crossed fields of barley and wheat (yes, the farmer was checking to see how ripe they were), we had fabulous views out to the Farne Islands and Bamburgh Castle ahead of us in the distance.
The footpath bought us out at Shoreston, with its lovely collection of pan-tiled roofed houses. We followed the lane along to Fowberry – picking gooseberries along the way – where we continued through the fields towards Red Barns, just outside Bamburgh.
One of the reasons we host the walks each year is that it gives us a chance to check the route for any problems or issues that might have arisen. Iain was very busy with his camera on this stretch of the path, gathering photographic evidence of broken stiles and fences to take back to the rights of way officers in County Hall.
We reached Bamburgh just before midday. Our lunch-stop was a little bit further on from here, so we had time to stock up on pies from Carters butchers or have a sneaky ice-cream from the Wyndenwell. We also managed to get our passports stamped and pick up Lynn, who we’d arranged to meet in the village.
The path follows the Wynding out of Bamburgh towards the golf course. There were plenty of photo opportunities – the castle, Stag Rock and a field of comfrey, a beautiful blue flower that flummoxed some of us for a while.
We made our way along the footpath from the clubhouse to the dunes. We stood watching a group of four people teeing off, clapping and encouraging each shot – no pressure! Once past the flying golf balls, we made our way up the steep dunes at Budle Point to be rewarded with a magnificent view of Budle Bay, Lindisfarne Castle and our lunch.
If you’ve ever walked this section of the path with Iain, you will know that his lunch stop has one of the best views along the coast. Tom and Iain reminisced about taking TV and radio presenter Clare Balding to this point when they recorded an episode of Ramblings for Radio 4 several years ago.
On a clearer day, we would’ve been able to see further, to St Abb’s Head in Scotland and the Cheviot Hills, but still, it was breathtaking. Tom Cadwallender was able to tell us about the birds and wildlife in the area while we ate our sandwiches.
It isn’t safe to cross straight over the mud and sand of Budle Bay, so the path takes us inland. We headed south through the golf course again to come out onto Gallieheugh bank before turning off towards Dukesfield and following the footpath over the fields towards Waren Caravan Park. The scenery and landscape is certainly different to the previous three weeks, but it provides a welcome change and everyone was bright and cheery, even if the weather wasn’t.
The footpath skirts the edge of the caravan park, along what is marked as the Laidley Worms Trough on the Ordnance Survey maps. Ann, a local historian and friend who has walked with us for a few years, had brought along with her the story of the Laidley Worm and she read it out to an interested audience. She finished to a round of applause and we set off along the trough and through the woods towards Spindlestone Mill.
We passed the Spindlestone Ducket – or dovecote – which is now a holiday let and carefully followed the main road around the bend and onto the quieter lane towards Easington. The rain was threatening overhead, but we somehow managed to stay dry all day.
We took the footpath towards Belford, alongside fields of wheat and through a field of cows (Jasper, at this point, was in his handy carry case, with his trusty carrier). The footpath eventually brings us to the main East Coast railway line, where we all gathered together, as Iain rang the signalman to let him know we needed to cross. We waited a little while for a train to come past, then made our way over with Iain ringing again from the other side to let them know we’d made it.
Nearly at the end of our 10-mile walk, we only had the A1 to cross before coming into Belford alongside the golf course. We finished at the Market Cross, which is the beginning of the next stage.