There are three principal reasons that I think the North of England rocks. These are, in no particular order:
a) The fish and chips
b) The countryside
c) It just does, so there.
In terms of the countryside, look at what we have – the Lake District. The North York Moors. The Yorkshire Dales. Northumberland National Park. The Peak District (ok, Midlandsish, but North enough). And right at the top of England, on its Easternmost extremity, is the Northumbrian coast. It’s designated as an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”, and rightly so, as I discovered this weekend. Sure, I’ve been to the odd bit of it now and again, but haven’t taken in the coastline to any great extent before.
It was the second attempt at a camping trip for us this Summer. I say attempt, as the last one was a bit of a failure, the campsite almost becoming the district’s newest lake after rain that would have had Noah cancelling the milk and papers for the next six weeks. This time, I wasn’t optimistic about it not happening again, as the BBC weather was predicting more rain. Thankfully, the BBC weather appeared to have been done by Mystic Meg. The reason for the trip was Kate’s birthday, and Kate being the swimming type, the reason for the location was for a bunch of people to get some sea swimming done.
Our base camp, if you like, was the Beadnell Bay Camping and Caravan Club site, right on the coast, just south of Seahouses. Nige and I turned up at about half past two, got the tents up and sat down for a good, afternoon/evening’s drink, punctuated with a game of Boules. Seriously. When everybody had arrived, we got off to the pub, to discover that they’d stopped serving food at 9pm. Hence, tea was crisps.
Next day, a bunch of the swimmers went off to Low Newton for a dip, as some of us landlubbers went on a beach walk up to seahouses. Glorious sunshine all the way. It was a good long walk that culminated in a car boot sale and a sausage sarnie, very much welcome after our limited tea. Then it was back to the campsite for lunch. Some chose to have a barbie, but I, keeping in mind item a) on the list above, headed for the chippy. Proper seaside fish and chips they were, thoroughly beautiful. Beadnell’s Fish and Chips, the place was, if you’re ever in the area.
After lunch, we headed off to Lindisfarne, or Holy Island – some to swim, others to watch others swim and take in the sites. Not for us the castle, priory or locally-made crab sandwiches, no – a good long walk over the island took us to a beautiful clear beach with rocky outcrops reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway, just without that hexagon look going on.
While I wandered around the rocks trying to find interesting things, the swimmers were having a great time, surrounded by shoals of fish and curious seals, popping their heads above the water to find out who these odd creatures in the funny rubber suits were. After an hour or so, we were back off to the campsite, to ready ourselves for another evening in the pub. We were in time for food this time, and somehow managed to wangle free pudding thanks to Pamela. I was mocked for putting custard on my cheesecake, but it tasted pretty good, so I stand by my decision whole-heartedly. Entertainment was provided by a friend of Kate who was in the pub by sheer coincidence – electro-acoustic versions of various songs from days when music was good. Christ, that makes me sound old.
Sunday morning brought a further beach trip for (watching) swimming. This time it was Sugar Sands, just a short drive from Longhoughton – or a long one, given the lack of signage and the cunning access point that look like you’re about to drive into someone’s farm (you drive though it, actually). Another sunny day, another nice blue beach. Not so much rockery to look around this time, but we did get a good look at a Sea King helicopter doing its thing, presumably just making sure that nobody was in trouble. Nice to know, really. After that, it was off to Alnwick for a coffee and a scone (Grannie’s or something, it was), before heading back home.
Having recently tried swimming again for the first time in about 20 years, albeit in an indoor pool, I was quite jealous of all the swimming that got done in all these fabulous beaches. Next year, perhaps…