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Northumberland II

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On the beach…

Where were we?

Ah yes, heading into Alnwick for some fodder for an evening meal.

I’ve made quite a few visits to the town over the years. Some for work, but most have been for pleasure. My best friend from University lived a few miles away and even had her wedding reception at Alnwick Castle, but there were quite a few nights out on pub crawls or single bar nights, usually at Oscars.

Which appeared to have closed down when I drove past it a couple of times. Parking in the town centre was a problem, but a bit of local knowledge came in handy as I headed out of town in the direction of Barter Books and turned right into Lidl’s car park.

With shopping for a couple of meals and breakfasts done, it was time to head back to Calico Barn for coffee, food and a snooze before catching up with email and then switching the iPad to Kindle mode for the rest of the night.

Wednesday wasn’t quite a repeat of Tuesday’s meanderings. Yes, I did some more work and then tried to get into Amble again afterwards, but that mission failed thanks to parking issues once more, so I just ended up mooching towards Alnmouth again and then headed to Newbiggin-by-the Sea.

After getting back to Cresswell, I drove past the hostel and turned onto a side track that led to the car park at Druridge Bay. It was busy and there had been a load of builder’s waste dumped near the footpath to the beach.

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Druridge Bay

Although I’ve visited Northumberland many times, this was the first time I’d been to Druridge Bay. It may have been half term, but the beach itself was pretty empty.

The above photo doesn’t do it justice, because it is a great beach and I’d only wished that the lighting conditions had been better from a photographer’s point of view.

One thing was blindingly obvious. I’m pleased that environmentalists stood up to the powers that be over thirty years ago and fought a successful campaign against plans to build a nuclear power station at Druridge Bay.

Little did I know that there was a public enquiry taking place down the road which was discussing plans for opencast coal mining near Cresswell. BBC’s Look North covered it in their 6.30pm news bulletin that night and whilst the public enquiry is over, the verdict isn’t due to be released just yet…

After a while on the beach, it was back to Calico Barn to freshen up, have a meal and relax for a while. I was due to be the only one staying in the hostel for a couple of nights, so I could spread out, take the best seat in front of the TV and have a beer or two.

There was a knock on the door though as two Dutch cyclists who were heading onto the adjacent campsite were wanting somewhere to buy food or get a meal. Caroline and Luke rode past and whilst I shouted to them in the hope of catching their attention, the wind took my words elsewhere and they didn’t hear me hollering!

I suggested that they try Cresswell village to see what was available in the pub or indeed at the caravan site shop, so off they went. When Caroline and I spoke later on, it transpired that she had heard something, but had dismissed it as she rode back after another long bike ride.

Thursday saw a bit more work going on until about lunchtime so lunch was taken at The Drift cafe just along the road from Calico Barn.

Which was rather busy. A bacon and haggis roll was ordered along with a Coke Zero and both went down well, especially that bacon and haggis combo… The two Dutch cyclists were also in there and the steady stream of customers suggested that The Drift is a rather popular feeding station.

After a drive around, I ended up in a couple of places I remembered the names of from news bulletins during my days of living in both mining communities and towns or cities in the North East of England.

Ellington and Lynemouth had been proud mining communities, but those days were over. When I asked locally what had happened to those people who had worked at the collieries, I didn’t get that much information apart from the mention of a mental health facility opening up in the area.

On returning to Calico Barn, it was time for an early meal and a plan for another relaxing evening. Then a couple of large cars pulled up containing two families who had booking in at the last minute. Peace and quiet did go out of the window, so I retreated to my room and promptly fell asleep.

When I woke up, all was quieter than New Year’s Day. After a snack, a beer and a phone conversation with Caroline, I turned in for the night, only to be woken up by those two families returning at 11.30pm. I was not amused…

Friday was departure day, so my stuff was packed up and left until I headed up to the caravan park to pick up Caroline, her bike and her couple of bags. Once done, it was time to get my bags and then let Caroline look around Calico Barn for a potential weekend base for her cycling club.

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Calico Barn Independent Hostel, near Cresswell, Northumberland

After that, it was time to go home. On relatively quiet roads and motorways for once!

Next week – North Norfolk in June…

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Northumberland

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Alnmouth

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Tractor on a very sunny day

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Druridge Bay

Northumberland is a place that Caroline and I keep returning to.

We’ve spent weeks up there before and made fleeting unsuccessful visits to try and see those pesky Northern Lights too.

This time was a little different though as we were staying about a mile away from each other – Caroline in a caravan with her son, daughter, son-in-law and her two grandsons while I was occupying a bunk in Calico Barn, an independent hostel a smidgen nearer the Northumberland coast.

The original plan was for Caroline to head up there on her own to spend time with her family whilst I stayed home to sort out some bits and pieces. That plan was soon ditched when Caroline tried to book herself and her bike onto the trains needed to get her there and back again.

Booking the tickets for herself was easy, but for the bike? Er, no…

A phone call was made to the railway company to find out what the actual procedure was. Despite Caroline specifying a very Yorkshire point of departure, the chap on the other end of the line insisted that she had to get the train from there and then change at Vauxhall Bridge station.

When she pointed out that she was departing from Yorkshire and that Vauxhall Bridge is in London, the guy didn’t budge, so she thanked him politely, put the phone down, saw my face and we both burst into fits of laughter at the same time.

Which is why I was in Northumberland. Plan B was for me to take Caroline up to Cresswell, head back home and then go back for her.

We then went for Plan C – I would take her up there, find somewhere to stay, do the stuff I needed to do and then pick her up and head home…

Our paths did cross a couple of times during the week. I spent most mornings doing what I had to do in the way of paperwork and research using books and iPad and then headed off with my camera to explore and take some shots along the way.

The first foray out saw me trying to get into and park up in Amble – no chance as it was half term with fine weather and the car parks were full.

So I headed up to Alnmouth instead. Now I’ve been heading going up to Alnmouth for over forty years and know my way around the place well. Or so I thought, because someone, somewhere has decided to implement a one way system around the village.

With no parking there either, I headed off in the direction of Seahouses and Bamburgh. As I was about to head towards North Sunderland, I spotted familiar figures on bikes heading in a different direction.

Caroline and Luke were also heading to Seahouses to meet up with the other family members who were using Mazda power rather than bikes. After a quick chat, Caroline and Luke headed off one way and me in another.

Seahouses was packed, so I wasn’t even going to try and find a parking space. Bamburgh beckoned and as I headed up to where I thought I could get parked, Caroline and Luke came down the road I was heading up…

Parking turned out to be dead easy as it was on the road near the hotel Caroline and I had used on our last visit to the village. And it was free too, handy as it was lunchtime and I was getting hungry.

Pub and hotel food in Bamburgh is rather good, but that wasn’t the food I was looking for. A couple of Scotch pies hit the spot, as did an unexpected find – pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) – and good ones too!

With most of the village taken up by fellow day trippers, there was a place to go in one of the quieter parts of Bambugh. The Grace Darling Museum, which has a very good RNLI shop on the ground floor level.

The RNLI’s 2018 diary wasn’t available as it was still May, but five bags of the RNLI fudge did leap off the display and were duly purchased. It’s good stuff, but it gets rationed now to having a few pieces at a time rather than downing a whole bag in one go (been there, done that!).

Once back in the car, there was more food shopping to be done, but of the supermarket kind as I needed to get some milk, bread, butter and something to go with rice for an evening meal.

Alnwick beckoned…

Since we’ve been gone…

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Yes, we’re back – more words and more pics to come. And then some!

Coming soon…

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More from Spain

Five days in Northumberland

Five days in North Norfolk

More thoughts on packing

Trip inspirations

Bits of news

Some silly stuff

Books, films and television programmes

Music

Classic kit

And links such as the one below…

We’ve used and mentioned Osprey Farpoint packs a few times on wisepacking, so we’re pleased to see that there’s a new variation on the theme – the Osprey Fairview range.

They’re ladies packs and more info can be found here…

http://www.ospreyeurope.com

TTFN!

Back – again

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Now, where were we?

Right, back again after the combined effects of the lurgy, coughing fits as a result of the lurgy, hotter than normal temperatures here in the UK, internet outages and a break from it all…

Yes, a break – and during the half term holiday too!

Booked a bed in an independent hostel in Northumberland, a couple of miles away from where Caroline was sharing a caravan with daughter, son-in-law, eldest son and Caroline’s grandchildren.

Had the whole hostel to myself on one night out of the four I was there and was one of just a few people walking on the beach between Cresswell and Druridge Bay on Thursday morning.

Got back home yesterday and there’s stuff to put away, wash and photos to download too.

And an election to vote in next Thursday!

One year – the shorter trips…

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Seahouses, Northumberland

October 2015 saw us make the first of four visits to Northern England.

This one was a hit and run exercise – there had been sightings of the Northern Lights on the Northumberland coast, so that’s where we headed.

A quick delve into the realms of booking.com and we came up with a guest house in Seahouses for Saturday night and a cut-price deal at the Hampton by Hilton in the centre of Newcastle-upon-Tyne for Sunday.

After a fish supper, we headed to the beach path between Seahouses and the guest house and spent an hour or so on a bench staring out to sea in a northerly direction.

Guess what? No Northern Lights for us!

The following day saw us having a hearty breakfast and walking back into Seahouses for a spot of photography and a general mooch around. The National Trust shop came up with some goodies, as did the RNLI shop.

Lunch came and went and it was time to head for Newcastle.

After working in Newcastle for years, I thought that I knew the way to the hotel, especially as it was around 300 metres away from where I worked.

What I didn’t realise was the the road layouts had changed in a big way, so all of the shortcuts I used to use were closed off or open to buses only.

Still, we found the hotel, parked the car in a nearby car park (£12 a day…), went for a walk, had a coffee and then changed for a night on the town.

Not into the type of garb favoured by those wandering around the Quayside or Bigg Market you understand. No, we chose more sensible clothing to combat the colder weather being encountered…

Monday was a shopping day around Northumberland Street, Eldon Square and in the Baltic Art Centre shop. Lunch came from M&S and by then it was time to head home…

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Life’s a beach…

But not for long as we were back in the North East three weeks later.

We’d got a good deal at Redworth Hall Hotel for a couple of nights, had a pretty decent Sunday lunch at a pub on the outskirts of Darlington and then headed into that town for a mooch around my old stamping ground.

Once at Redworth Hall, the bar and log fire beckoned, as did the following morning’s visit to the National Railway Museum‘s outpost Locomotion in nearby Shildon.

That was followed by a weather beating visit to the local multiplex to catch up with The Lady In The Van before a pre-pack salad plus accompaniments was bought as an BYOB evening meal back at the hotel.

Alnmouth beckoned next – one of our joint favourites in Northumberland because of the village and the beach. The B&B wasn’t wonderful, but the pub meal a few doors away was.

After a drive up the coast to Seahouses, lunch was declared and taken, but a couple of the places we’d been into before were closed for redecorating or just closed due to lack of volunteers. So it was time to hit Bamburgh.

The car park was almost empty, as was the beach which proved tempting enough to inspire a wander and provided a bit of inspiration to use a couple of my camera’s not often used functions such as the black and white mode…

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Bamburgh Castle – hand held in black & white

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Same castle, same day, different side, but as the sun goes down…

A nearby pub provided a good excuse to go inside to warm up as it had coffee on tap and an open fire too. Our digs for the night were thankfully chintz free, but unstaffed after check-in, so we were left to our own devices until the following morning.

Which ensured that there was just one thing to do – head to the pub!

Steak and ale pice plus cider for Caroline, Lamb Cutlets and Guinness for me plus coffees were a great way to almost end the day. The warmth in the pub and the walk back to the room along with a full day of fresh sea air ensured that our respective night’s sleep were long and undisturbed until the alarm went off the following morning.

When the Grace Darling Museum and RNLI shop were visited, along with the local butchers who did a very fine line in pies, pasties and sausage roll. So lunch was bought, drinks purchased at a mini-market/petrol station on the A1 and then it was time to head home via Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

John Lewis sold us an iPad Mini 2 and case, Lush got some more travel size shower gel and shampoo bar sales and M&S sold us a couple of ready meals to have at home.

Was that it for the year?

Nope, because rock and roll got in the way and ensured that there were a couple of good nights out.

The first was to see prog rocker Fish on his Farewell to Childhood tour at Sheffield City Hall. Tickets were booked, as was rail travel and a night in the Holiday Inn Express.

Although this was originally billed and booked as a standing gig, ticket sales had been so good that the concert had been moved into the main hall – a seated venue.

After checking into the hotel and getting a cab into town, fodder had to be tracked down. Posh nosh in a pub? Fine stuff in a restaurant?

Nope. we hit Yates instead… and it pretty good too!

As we were now fed and watered, we decided to join the queue to get into City Hall, and ended up in prime seats about four rows back from the stage.

French band Lazuli impressed with their support slot, but would Fish?

It wasn’t the best show I’ve seen him do, but that was down to a cold apparently as his between song banter revealed.

The older solo stuff was mixed with more recent songs, but the main course was the playing in full of his old band’s Misplaced Childhood album.

A sense of deja vu kicked in as I’d last heard the whole of it played live back in the 1980’s and some of the solo stuff was heard in the 1990’s on a week following Fish around on his Highlands and Islands tour.

Mind you, a week later there was an even bigger sense of deja vu in Last Of The Summer Wine country – Holmfirth.

This was a good night out seeing a guy that’s been around so long that there’s calls being made for him to do the Legends slot at next year’s GlastonburyRoy Wood

He’s back at Picturedrome in Holmfirth in a couple of weeks and it’s very tempting to get tickets for the show, especially as they’re just £20 each.

All the hits and more from a pretty long career were delivered with aplomb and I surprised myself when I realised how many of the lyrics I actually knew. The band were as tight as they come and the show was only marred by the pillocks trying to video it on their mobile phones…

Given the amount of Christmas jumpers being worn in Picturedrome, there was one song that just had to be played – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. And it was.

So a good night out to round off the 2015 year of travelling.

The 2016 year of travelling wasn’t as hectic, but plans are already afoot for the 2017 travel year as the first trip is already booked and largely paid for!

No fog on the Tyne…

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And none of these grey clouds either!

“What time is it?”

“About six…”

“Sugar…”

As Sunday mornings go, this was an early start.

Two cups of coffee and a shower later, it was 6.50am and we were in the car and heading up to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to see Caroline’s daughter take part in The Great North Run.

The Mission were on the car’s CD player – ideal driving music as we headed up the road for two hours and took the quiet roads into Newcastle, found a car park and went for second breakfasts.

Greggs bacon butty and coffee deal for me plus a doughnut & coffee combo for Caroline and then we hit the Tyne Bridge for a longish wait.

Some guy called Mo Farah came along on a warm-up session, then the wheelchair racers, visually impaired runners, the women’s elite and then the men’s elites – including that man (and now three times winner) Mo

And then came the pack – around 57,000 runners, all heading for South Shields. I spotted The Red Arrows before the red, white and blue smoke was activated for their flypast as the masses ran past with at least one Paddington Bear as part of the proceedings!

Caroline’s daughter found us, took the suncream and headed off. We stayed on the bridge until the last runners came along and then tried to get the Metro to the finish line.

The emphasis here was on the word tried. The first train was full and whilst we did get on the train, it was packed and standing room only so not even Jeremy could have sat on the floor to read Private Eye! Allegedly…

Whilst we boarded this train after a few stops it was packed and I’d had enough of playing sardines. So we got off the train at Pelaw and headed back into Newcastle in search of lunch at a pub I hadn’t been into for over thirty years – The Northumberland Arms, just off Northumberland Street.

With two Sunday roasts, a pint of bitter shandy and a half of cider coming to just over £13, this was a result, especially as the beef was cooked properly, unlike some pubs we could mention where it’s served pink and bloody.

Pink and bloody awful is my view on that!

Now that we were fed and watered, the going got tough as the tough went – shopping! I’ve had a £5 John Lewis gift card in my wallet for six months and this came in useful for a couple of small purchases that came to £5.20…

We didn’t find anything we needed in Lush this time around, but I did get some useful info in the Apple Store as to what was happening about imminent operating system upgrades on my iPad Mini 2 – wait for a few days or a week, see what’s being said on the forums and then make the decision to upgrade, because once it’s done, you can’t restore the old one!

After rattling around the M&S Food Hall for a while, we settled on the stuff for our Sunday night evening meal.

This wasn’t any old reduced price food, this was Marks & Spencer’s reduced price food as we’d hit the time of day when the price changes were done on food coming up to its due date. Two packs of bakes and a two for £2.50 deal on packs of cheese scones and we were sorted…

Our coffee in the upstairs restaurant was also cost effective as my customer loyalty card had a freebie loaded onto it for a free cup of coffee after 2.30pm. Two medium Americanos for £2.30? That’ll do nicely!

Once we’d retrieved the car and negotiated our way back onto the A1M for the journey back to Yorkshire, we reflected on the cost of this grand day out.

Petrol used came to around £20, car parking was £3 for the full day, first breakfast for me was £2.25 at a motorway service area, second breakfasts for two was a total of £4, Sunday lunch was a total of £13.50, a pen and pair of scissors cost me 20p once the gift card was used, our M&S food hall bill was £5.65 and that last round of coffees was £2.30.

With the total bill for the day out coming in @ £50, we reckon that that was a result, so much so that we may do the same thing again shortly!