This is the second section of a blog written by the AONB partnership as six guided walks up the Northumberland Coast Path take place this summer.
Stage two of the Northumberland Coast Path begins where we left off last week – in Warkworth.
We met at the Market Cross at 9.30am to coincide with buses arriving from Alnwick and Newcastle. As it was Catch the Bus Week, some of the assembled walkers had managed to get an all-day ticket for only £1. What a bonus!
There were 16 of us again. The majority of the walkers are doing all of the six walks with us. Work commitments for some however mean they are having to find time to complete the missing stages themselves. Tom Cadwallender and myself acted as back markers. Sources tell me that we’re being scored on how well we do each week.
Guest of honour this week was Jasper, a long-haired chihuahua. We had concerns that his little legs might not make the 13.5-mile walk to Craster, but fear not, he came prepared with his own personal carry case and carrier. Worries allayed, we set off in good spirits, praying that the incessant rain from the day before wouldn’t come back.
We crossed the River Coquet and climbed out of Warkworth towards the golf course. We headed towards the beach, but decided to take the actual route of the Coast Path, on the path behind the dunes. We were all intrigued by mysterious orange deposits on the burnet rose bushes. Nobody seemed to know what they were – we would have to wait for Google or our ecologists to answer our question when we returned home (burnet rose rust fungus).
The path took us to the end of Warkworth beach, where the Birling Carrs defines the boundary between it and Buston Links. There was a little stroll along the Links before we headed back onto the track again, and on towards Alnmouth. We stopped for a breather at the now derelict Guano Shed, which dates from the 18th century and was used for the storage of bird excrement – or guano – from South America. Iain explained that, although Alnmouth looks tantalisingly close, it is dangerous to cross the River Aln and we would need to do a detour that takes us back towards the A1068 and onto the cycle path.
Once on the cycle path, we were given some fantastic views of Alnmouth – in my opinion, one of the best views on the Northumberland coast. Many of the walkers remarked on how pleased they were to see cyclists using the cycle path and not risking life and limb on the notoriously twisty stretch of road. We also met some other walkers doing the same stage of the Coast Path.
Reaching the end of the cycle path at Hipsburn, it’s only a short walk into Alnmouth. We stopped for a quick look at the birds on the estuary before taking the Lovers Walk footpath, just over the bridge, into Alnmouth. We veered from the path slightly here and headed for the shops – for cans of pop, ice-cream and a chance to get our passports stamped.
After a brief stop to use the facilities, we all gathered again eager to move on and reach our lunch stop at Boulmer. We headed up the hill alongside Alnmouth Village Golf Club, which gave us some fabulous views of the coast back towards Coquet Island. Once at the top, the path then winds around Foxton Golf Club and took us back onto the beach. The tide was rising, but we weren’t on the beach for long before heading back onto the dune path around Seaton Point.
Boulmer was now in sight and there were some hungry walkers! It’s a long stretch of path to complete before stopping for something to eat, but such a lovely, peaceful place to rest, it seems worth it. Jasper even had his own little blanket to sit on.
The toilets were open at Boulmer for us to use before setting off again – there were swallows nesting in the gentlemen’s toilets which caused some amusement! We took the track heading out of Boulmer passed Sugar Sands towards Howick Burn Mouth. There was plenty of opportunity to take in the magnificent scenery and wildlife and to talk with new friends. As we came towards Howick Burn, we saw swans swimming on the sea – not something you see very often. While Iain and Tom had their binoculars firmly trained on some Mediterranean gulls that were on the shoreline just past the burn mouth, our farmer’s eye was taken towards the Massey Ferguson tractor that was topping grass in the next field!
This section of the path has recently been improved, making a twisty walk much easier. Some of the walkers who had joined us before were happy to go on ahead, waiting for us at regular intervals. We re-grouped at the iconic Bathing House at Howick before continuing. The views towards Dunstanburgh Castle along this whole stretch are spectacular, dipping from view every so often as we made our way along. The sun was shining and all was well with the world!
There were plenty of other walkers coming the other way to meet and chat to. We stopped again just before Cullernose Point to learn about its geology and formation from Tom and to see all the kittiwakes nesting on the rocks. Then there was only a mile or so left to Craster and plenty of time before the bus was due. This section of the path terminates in the beer garden of The Jolly Fisherman – how fortuitous is that?
Thirsts quenched – Jasper included – and passports stamped, we only had a short wait before we boarded the bus at 4.30pm to take us back to Alnwick and Warkworth.