May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Northumberland coast

The overnight rain stopped and we woke to a wonderful sunlit view down Newbiggin beach to Blyth where a huge industrial chimney in the distance and a sharp, square factory close to the shore looked positively artistic in the morning sun.
We had a token drive through Ashington to pay homage to the birthplace of the Charlton brothers (Jack and Bobby). This town was in the heart of the the north-east's coalmining industry and suffered terribly in the 1980s as so many villages did. We weren't there for long but it appears today to be a busy, purposeful place. I like the sound of the Go As You Please Funeral Parlour!
Cheryl's (Dorset Art Weeks) sister, Viv, lived up here for several years and said Cresswell was her favourite beach, so that's where we headed. The tide was out and the sun was warm and it certainly is a wonderful beach – all rockpools and golden sand. It also has an ice-cream parlour where the lady makes all (we only had one each) of the excellent ices herself.
Druridge Bay
We drove a little further past farmhouses and grazing cattle and parked by the road to walk through the dunes to Druridge Bay, a 12-mile stretch of beautiful beach and calm, blue sea for as far as you can see. We had the beach to ourselves, apart from a few dog-walkers.
 It is said that the Northumberland coast is Britain's best kept secret and I feel torn between keeping it that way and shouting at everyone to come and see it!
Along the coast there are lovely villages: the houses (and castles!) are mainly built of warm, soft sandstone – it can't be that soft, but it looks it. We stopped at the excellent farm shop at Widdrington (another Viv recommendation) on our way to Alnwick.
Alnwick Castle
Here's a tip – if you decide to visit Alnwick Castle and Gardens, make a day of it. There's so much do and see. We had an excellent guide (Amy) who took a party of us round the outside of the castle telling us of the history of the Percy family. The castle dates back to Norman times and the Percys have been there for 700 years. It has fantastic states rooms filled with treasures, largely due to Lady Elizabeth Percy who was an avid 18th century collector.
We just had time to get to Craster in time to buy kippers for tomorrow's breakfast – they are said to be the best in the world, and though not a great kipper expert, I would agree. That night we camped at a lovely site far away from busy roads on a farm at West Kyloe close to Holy Island. We had a somewhat hilarious episode with hose pipes - confusion over which which was the fresh water hose -  which I was going to recount here but then think perhaps it wasn't quite so hilarious - I was very tired! Suffice to say nobody got cholera. We cooked supper to the lowing sound of cows, and birdsong, and it was still light at 10.30pm.

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