Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Inn Way Northumberland - After

Easygoing - that's the word that sums up this walk.

Without any ascents (I didn't walk the section that did have ups and downs though) this Inn Way follows well-used, way-marked paths. All the right ingredients were there: scenery, weather, etc, and especially the friendly, cheerful locals - all of which when combined made it the relaxed, enjoyable walk that I'd hoped for.

Rather than risk the description "friendly, cheerful locals" sounding glib, let me emphasise that aspect because the general demeanour of almost everyone that I encountered was noticeably relaxed and friendly - friendliness with a smile, and a local accent that served to compliment it.

A great corner of England this.

It's surprising just how many castles, beautiful beaches and pubs that there are in such a small area. And any one place might have the lot. I will have to return because for me there was never enough time to spend at each castle I passed directly or that was nearby. The beach provides a better alternative route in some places, and you're spoilt for choice when it comes to pubs - I mean, a small place like Wooler for example, has six pubs, plus a holiday camp style pub/venue.

My preference was to spend each night at a B&B but with no accommodation booked except for the first and last nights, I carried camping gear as a back-up. I chose to camp in Wooler though; the lady at the campsite (a five minute walk from the town centre) said that I could choose where to set up, and that only three other pitches (out of 75) were taken that night.

I blogged using my mobile phone, a Nokia 5800, on Virgin Media, as usual. Coverage is not good in the area. Virgin Media utilises T-Mobile's network so I'm hoping that their recent link-up with Orange will be of benefit to Virgin Media users in the future. Orange and Vodaphone seem to rule. The phone has a 3.2 megapixel camera which I used to take all the photos and which were published un-edited.

A fair indicator of any good walk must surely be that it is one that you would walk again. There's no doubt in my mind that I will walk this route again, and at the same pace but with an extra day, or possibly two, to include the portion over the Cheviots that I missed out this time around.

Danny asked me which was the best pub and best beer. There was no one particular favourite among the many good pubs. The Northumberland Arms, West Thirston stood out because of the good crack (craic) - an 84 year old gent at the bar with a bottle of red wine, the perfect barmaid and a most affable landlord. The Sun Inn, Alnmouth on the day was a most pleasant change - good, home-cooked food from a non-standard pub menu - BBQ Kebab on rice with sweet chilli sauce and fresh salad. I liked The Anchor, Wooler - small but comfortable with an arrangement condusive to good chatting, a very genial host, and a lovely lamb hotpot (£8.45). The Black Sheep Bitter was my preferred drink and it was consistently good along the way. As was the walk.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Inn Way Northumberland - Day 6

16 May: Alwinton - Rothbury (14 miles)

Any regrets about not walking the Wooler to Alwinton section of The Inn Way were diminished somewhat when looking back in that direction shortly after setting off from Alwinton. That leg traverses the National Park. I had avoided the higher ground but more to the point, by the looks of it, I'd skirted some unpleasant weather too.

The final day's route echoes the first in that it shadows the River Coquet over fields, through the odd wood and along quiet country roads. Easy stuff this. It still leaves me puffing though. However, after five days walking I just recover more quickly.

Lady's Well (above), south east of Harbottle and a quarter of a mile short of Holystone, is a nice recovery spot. Countless others will have used it before me as it was once a watering place beside the Roman road from Breminium in Redesdale.

I head for home tomorrow, via Hadrian's Wall for a couple of hours lookabout/marchabout, and south Cumbria where I'll collect my dog. I'll round off my thoughts about this enjoyable, short trek in a few days time.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Inn Way Northumberland - Day 5

15 May: Bamburgh - Wooler (16 miles)

It was farewell to the coast today as I headed west, inland, swopping sand for firmer ground. And firm it was - no rain to speak of, so no mud.

I'm into the swing of it now with snacks on-the-go rather than making a meal of it in a pub. A sit down dinner this evening though; lamb hotpot with peas which came with bread and butter. That was in The Anchor, one of five pubs within 100 yards of each other in Wooler town centre.

A consequence of my intentional dawdling is that I'm a day behind the (flexible) schedule. Therefore, I have to miss out a section of the walk in order to return to the start point by tomorrow evening. I have a lift in the morning to Alwinton where I'll walk the final section back to Rothbury. The 20.5 mile trek from Wooler to Alwinton will have to wait until another day. I will return to Northumberland - of that I am sure.

Image: The Black Bull and The Angel Inn, Wooler

The Inn Way Northumberland - Day 4

14 May: Embleton - Bamburgh (11 miles)

It's always satisfying to get away without delay - breakfast at a reasonable time, and no faffing around. Happily, that's how it was this morning. Only 11 miles to my destination but with the BBC doom merchant forecasting heavy, thundery showers later, I didn't want to dawdle today.

The wind direction had changed. The last couple of days I had been partly wind assisted; today I was leaning into it. A local told me that it was the east and north winds that kept most tourists off the beaches.

Lunch was taken at Seahouses - a nice little place with some of the paraphrenalia of a seaside town; amusement arcades, fish & chip shops and the like. A healthy ham salad sandwich in a bakery cafe for me as I sat beside a young man seeing off a Belly Buster Stottie. A stottie is a jumbo size bun the size of a large dinner plate. The Belly Buster is half a stottie filled with sausage, bacon, egg, mushrooms, baked beans and tomatoes. I understand that elsewhere, hot roast beef and gravy stotties are popular. Sounds good but I thought "laters" and went for a half pint of Five Bridges Bitter as a chaser in a pub down the road.

The final three miles today were along a (sorry to go on about the beaches but they are lovely) white, sand beach which lead to the sand dunes below Bamburgh Castle.

It's not until you reach the landward side of the castle that you can appreciate just how big and beautiful the fortress is. It's breathtaking. For once, awesome might be the right word.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Inn Way Northumberland - Day 3

13 May: Alnmouth - Embleton (10 miles)

Sandy beaches, grassy paths, golf courses, a castle and Northumbrian Police 'No Camping' signs featured on today's amble.

On my right, the beaches were almost deserted; on my left the golf links were crowded; and on the path, the centre of my universe, I met other walkers. They were heading in the opposite direction (I don't do overtake) and most have time for a chat which immediately confirms that they are not fleeing from something terrible. Reassured, I reflect positively that a lone walker's walk is not a lonely one.

I like the local accent; softer than the Geordie accent further south, it's friendly, cheerful and engaging. Not always though. Mrs Grumpy Golfer cautioned me from afar today. Stetched out on the seaward side of the path, like a beached whale looking out to sea, my day dreams were angrily interupted by "You can stay there if you want but you could get hit by a golf ball mind!" I swung my rucksack on and lumbered off, thinking only of all the things I could have said.

In the pub this evening, harmony of mind and soul was restored with the passing of time and a little alcohol.

Image: Dunstanburgh Castle (north of Craster) [Using zoom on my phone camera produces out of focus image - or was it too much Black Sheep]

Friday, 13 May 2011

The Inn Way Northumberland - Day 2

12 May: Felton - Alnmouth (13 miles)

A diverse selection of scenery over such a short distance today.

Farmland on the first section, between Felton and Warkworth via Guyzance, changes from livestock to agricultural; sheep and cattle replaced by cereal crops. Between Warkworth and Alnmouth it's coastal with sand dunes, golf courses and a wide, sandy (and today, an almost deserted) beach.

Under foot there are changes too; some country roads, a metalled cycle track and sand - sea water as well if you fancy it.

At walkworth there is a most attactive castle (a chequred history but first built in 1150), an excellent cafe and five pubs - I had time to sample the Jenning's Cumberland Ale in The Black Bull.

There are five pubs in Alnmouth as well although you wouldn't know that there were any if consulting the 1;25,000 map because, strangely, there's no pub symbol shown. They are well and truly there though and I can recommend The Red Lion and The Sun.

Images: Warkworth Castle and Alnworth Bay.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Inn Way Northumberland - Day 1

Subject: The Inn Way Northumberland - Day 1
Date: 12/05/2011 05:43

11 May: Rothbury - Fenton (12 miles)

My day started with an owl and finished with black sheep. It felt like a long day because the owl was hooting at 04:00 and I was up and about soon after - as were the wood pigeons who woke the other birds for choir practice.

I had a half baked plan today - head for the coast. At 17.5 miles distant that was a rather ambitious target for me. I haven't got myself fit for this walk, this being the bump start for fitness training for next month's walk. And it's a holiday, I remind myself, so dawdle if you wish, which I did. And will.

The route east mostly follows that of the St Oswald's Way, through lush countryside where woods are carpeted in bluebells and wild garlic (stinking onions), fields are crowded with sheep still with their lambs, and swallows (or martins) and gulls swoop over the River Coquet (pronounced co-cut) which is never far away.

Lunch at The Anglers Arms, Wheldon Bridge (see image), where I couldn't help but attempt that old favourite "The Railway goes through the middle of the house, the middle of the house ...", a pot of tea at the cafe in Felton, followed by a swift half of Black Sheep Bitter across the river at The Northumberland Arms, West Thirston, led to another, slower one and the realisation (with the clarity conjured up by the magical properties of bitter) that I'd had enough for the day. Walking that is; plenty more Black Sheep where the first two came from.

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Inn Way Northumberland - Before

There are still a few days before the off but loud and clear in my head it's "Here we go, here we go, here we goooo .... "

"The Inn Way to Northumberland" is one of a series of walks devised by Mark Reid. His guide book (which is being revised, for publication in August this year) describes a 94 mile circular walk from Rothbury. The route follows the Coquet Valley to the sea, heads north along the coast, then west and south to and over the Cheviot Hills. There are lots of watering holes along the way. Lots.

Except for Bed & Breakfast on the first and last night in Rothbury, nothing is fixed or booked. So I will be as free (and possibly as relaxed) as a newt. I'll be carrying a tent and some rations but Northumbrian hospitality, accommodation, food and drinks may prevail.

There I'll go, there I'll go, there I'll goooo ....

Monday, 2 May 2011

Breaking Blogio Silence

"Great Scot!" (Doc Brown - Back to the Future.) Where did April go?

And what to write when not walking when you've dedicated a blog to only wittering about that subject (walking) - that's the thing!

A gear report can provide a worthy stopgap but with no new kit to speak of, I can't use that ploy. Notes on preparations and planning is permitted but I have been remiss (lazy) in that area. And the return reader will tire of pathetic variations on a theme of "limited to walks of less-than-a-mile because my dog can't manage further in her old age."

That's the situation though. Holly, my elderly Border Terrier, just can't walk far, and I can't bear the thought of leaving her in kennels to allow me off the leash. She is happy with my daughter and family or with my sister and family though, and more to the point, selfishly, I'm happy for her to be with them.

So, I'm very pleased to announce that arrangements have been made that enable me to head north next week. Our needs and my peace of mind will be satisfied when Holly takes it easy at my sister's house in Cumbria and I go walkabout (and drinkabout) in Northumberland.

In June, daughter and family will take care of Holly allowing me a week to cross Dartmoor and Exmoor. After that, in July, sister is on duty again giving me a week in the Lake District.

"If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." (Marty McFly - Back to the Future.)