Northumberland Coast Path Day 1 (Part 2) – Druridge to Amble

Published 7 November 2021

England Coast Path/Northumberland Coast Path signpost at Druridge

Heading along the county’s stunning coastline, the 62 mile/100km long Northumberland Coast Path offers some of the best coastal walking in the UK. Running from Creswell to the south of the county, all the way up to Berwick-upon-Tweed near the Scottish border, the path offers beautiful sandy beaches, a vast array of wildlife, rare birds, a glimpse of holy islands, and a good dose of history. Setting off on our first day, we’d spent the morning admiring beautiful beaches, a ruined hospital, and a rather tasty ice cream. And the afternoon also had a lot to say for it to.

There’s always a route of the Northumberland Coast Path that is well away from the sea. One that will be walkable even at high tide. But in low tides, the official guidebook suggests sections that can also be walked on the sand instead. Not all the trail can be done that way. But a lot can. And by mutual agreement, that’s where we ended up for most of our first day. We walked along, enjoying the soft ground beneath our feet and the gentle, cooling sea breeze in the air.

On the times we headed inland, the absence of the wind was telling. One such foray came few miles north of Low Chibburn. We went the short distance into Duridge Bay County Country Park. The map showed there was a visitor centre. In my mind that meant toilets and café. Oh and a small but informative exhibition space, manned by a friendly ranger. There would be displays and leaflets and everything.

Druridge Country Park with its big lake and water activities.

We found the café, and the toilets. We also spotted the water sports place where people were hiring paddleboards for use on the park’s large lake. But that seemed to be it. Even the café was less than appealing. We’d had vague ideas of a nice sit down and a piece of cake. But we were walking a year and a bit into the Covid-19 pandemic. And whilst legally they could now offer indoor seating, the park’s café was still doing takeaway. Also they seemed very short on nice cake. We left purchasing nothing. As for leaflets? And a friendly ranger? They were nowhere to be seen.

So back along the beach we went, along the golden sands of Northumberland. And then the sand gave way to rocks. And what a display of rocks and stone there was, beautifully eroded by centuries of waves that had created the most spectacular of patterns. Swooshes, and ridges worn into the rock by nature more elegantly than many can create by hand.

Tal enjoys walking on the beach on the Northumberland Coast Path

To start with, the rocks had been dry. But the further we got on, more and more were covered with seaweed and algae. Slippery rocks meant our speed began to slow.

And then, at one point, there was the sound of a spectacular crash. I looked up, and saw Tal lying on his back, half soaked in a rock pool, and looking rather stunned.

By the time I’ve made it safely to him, Tal was back on his feet. Wet, but no bones broken. Landing in that way on the rocks could have led to disaster, but his rucksack had cushioned his fall. Wet yes, but thankfully unharmed.

Slippery rocks ahoy.

Tal’s sodden socks squeezed out and we were on our way once more, only for a repeat of the exercise a mere half an hour later. Different piece of rock, same outcome; Tal’s socks and boots now even wetter.

I walked, Tal stumbled, on to our destination for the day. Amble. Once a farming settlement, it later had a roaring trade as a port for exporting coal. Although these days it relies on tourism and fishing.

It was the harbour we were heading to. The path took us to the end of the South Jetty, then a boardwalk took us to the harbour itself. Here Amble’s twin business activities jostled against each other. Lobster pots and fishing crates stood near the restaurants and craft shops dotted round the harbour.

From there we walked through the town’s High Street where bistros mixed with hardware stores. Half tourist related, half local, all things considered, perhaps a sensible mix. We walked through, checking everything out, as we headed to our accommodation.

Rocks piled up on the beach near Amble on the Northumberland Coast Path

For me it’s not what happens when a business has a problem, but what they do to respond when there is one. A case in point came when the pub’s manager took the pair of us up to our room. After explaining the highly complicated lock situation (two keys, multiple locks, and turning the key the other way to normal) he proudly presented us with our room. Cosy. Compact. And with a double bed.

Great. Except we’d booked a twin. This caused a conundrum. Every room in the place had zip-lock beds that can be converted from a king size bed to two singles as necessary. Every room except ours. All the other rooms were full, and there was no chance of swapping the rooms around as everyone else was booked in on a multi night stay. Options were floated. Other local pubs and B&Bs were called to see if they could accommodate us. So were those in the next town, Warkworth. I didn’t hold out much hope. It had been tricky to get a room when I had booked the one we had, some weeks earlier. And sure enough my pessimism was correct. Everywhere was full.

Heads were huddled. Ideas thrown about by the staff. Like, what about the unused managers flat? It had single bed, but no bathroom facilities. Where the manager went when they needed the toilet was a question left unanswered. It was moot anyway as it was also being used as a storeroom. So that ruled that out.

If push came to shove, we could have shared. But who really wants to share a double bed with their mate, regardless of their gender? Especially when, like the pair of us, we were both on the large side. A king, perhaps we could have got away with. A double? Less o.

The entrance to Amble Harbour

I was beginning to get stressed, worried, and tired. I was sticky, wanting only to sit down, take my rucksack off, have a good long shower, and have a nice cup of tea. And here I was standing in the pubs, restaurants area, sweat dripping down my face, trickling under my Covid-19 friendly face mask. Tal later told me I looked pale and withdrawn, almost like goes back to collapse, and implored me to sit down. But the pub’s restaurant area was being to fill up. I didn’t dare sit lest someone turn up for the table I’d sat at, requiring it to require a deep some deep clean instead.

At long last, a plan was proposed. A single mattress would be placed on the floor later that evening whilst we’re having our evening meal. It would mean one of us have sensory sleeping under the clothes rail, but it was a bed, and we were both beyond caring. A discount was mentioned, we went back to the room, and we finally got chance to freshen ourselves up. And I finally began to feel human again.

Being mentally exhausted by this point, I suggested we stay at the pub for food. Although this meant finding a table. A challenge on a Saturday night as it was, but more so since England were playing someone or other, in a Euro 2020 football match.

Not having any interest in it at, I was rather happy to find the pub had one free, unreserved table table outside. A chance to sit and talk in peace, I thought. Although as it happened there was a large TV there. Ale was brought to our table, menus were given to us, and we planned what to eat.

Lobster pots in Amble Harbour

We were doing our walk at a time when the hospitality industry was being subjected to various Covid-19 related restrictions. One of which, at the time, was that pubs could only offer table service. Perhaps not a huge problem normally, but with the football packing the pub out, it became abundantly clear this was going to be a problem. We were both getting hungry, but it was almost impossible to get anyone’s attention. It didn’t seem to help that the manager was having to spend most of his time re-organising the table allocations. Some patrons were of the opinion that their view of the TV was not good enough. Could they not move to other tables with better views that were currently empty; their intended occupant not having arrived. An irony, then, that our table had a prime view of the screen yet housed two people who were more interested in eating than watching. We were both hungry, and little else mattered.

After about half an hour of waiting to order, our drinks both long finished, we decided to call it quits and pay for our drinks. But it is still impossible to get anyone’s attention, even to pay the bill. In utter desperation I had to interrupt a large party giving their orders, to ask that we could pay. That caused another problem. Our bill didn’t seem to exist. No drinks have been charged to where we were sat on table 35. Perhaps this was because we’ve been booked in on table 34, only to arrive in the beer garden and find it occupied. Being too honest not to pay for two pints of Black Sheep, we eventually managed to sort the whole mess out. But by now our moods were not the greatest. Lack of food does that to you.

Now free of the pub, we wandered down the street to find the first good food option available. This turned out to be an Italian restaurant. One still reasonably busy despite half the town watching the football, but enough space to fit us in.

What followed was glorious. Amazingly quick service. Friendly and attentive staff. Excellent food. After the stresses of the evening so far, my mood began to lift. All was good again.

Walking down the high street in Amble

Stomachs satisfied, we wondered about moving on for a drink. But would there be anywhere in Amble that was football free? This didn’t look that promising at first. A lovely looking micropub that had shut up early for the night, presumably for want of customers. But not far away was an excellent bar serving German and Belgian beers with lots of space. We wandered in, and happily whiled away the hours until England beat whoever it was they were playing, things had died down in town, and we thought we’d be able to get some rest without people chanting about football coming home or something.

Given everything that happened it was with some trepidation that we returned to the pub and opened the bedroom door. But joy of joys, on the floor was a mattress. With pillows and a duvet. After a swift tossing of a coin, Tal won and opted to sleep on the floor. And that was that. We both collapsed into a much-needed bout of sleep.

Next time: seventeen miles to walk and a deadline. Oh, and fog.

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