Guided walk date - 24/08/08
At last, a walk on a sunny, warm, summers day - and very nice it was too. Having been out walking for the last five weekends this is the first one to have been dry. Some of the regular walkers who were away on holiday missed a very pleasant day. The minibus journey north from the car park at Warkworth to Alnmouth was ‘different’ with what seemed like hundreds of cyclists on a charity bike ride trying to commit suicide by travelling on our side of the road whilst going south, they seemed oblivious to the traffic!
This final leg of the St Oswald’s Way along the coast coincides with the Northumberland Coast Path before leaving it and turning inland towards Rothbury and ultimately south west from there to end at Heavenfield just north of the Roman Wall and 4 miles / 6½ kilometres from Hexham.
This section of the route links together two classic planned medieval settlements with lots of history dating from 1150 to the present with plenty of evidence of military activity throughout that 858 year period – Alnmouth was sacked by the Scots (Border Rievers) in 1336 and this was followed only 12 years later by the Black Death when it is estimated that a third of the population died. More recently we found plenty of evidence of Second World War coastal defences on the beach in the form of anti-tank traps (huge concrete cubes) and pillbox remains echoing the first section of the walk when we reached the mainland from Holy Island. Bringing us completely up to date were the masts and radomes of RAF Boulmer monitoring the UK Air Defence Region. Warkworth Castle as the end of this leg has its own history having begun as a timber Norman motte and bailey castle before passing into the hands of the Percy’s and forming the setting of part of Shakespeare’s Henry IVth.
Our battle was with the wasps that seemed drawn to us every time we stopped to look at the landscape. The technique we adopted was to stop mainly in the breeziest locations where the ‘enemy’ found it hardest to fly and move-on when their radar located us. It worked well overall with only one of our number being stung – sorry!
Our route took us first north, then south around the estuary and the associated salt marsh where we spotted two little egrets feeding on the edge of the River Aln, our most exotic wildlife to date; they are more often seen in tropical wildlife films! Two low-level fly pasts by the search and rescue Sea King helicopter from RAF Boulmer as we were walking around the estuary put most of the waders out on the marsh (it was low tide) to flight so we didn’t get to use our binoculars to the relief of one of our number whose binoculars were in for repair.
It took until lunchtime to circumnavigate the estuary and see the original size of Alnmouth harbour prior to the catastrophic storm of Christmas Eve 1806 which change the course of the River Aln, and the fortunes of Alnmouth for ever. There were good views of the estuary, Church Hill and the linear dune system from the Millennium Path adjacent to the A1068 and it was easy to imagine the former route of the River Aln and appreciate the size of the former harbour. The affluence of Alnmouth in its heyday prior to 1806 was linked to its export of cereals form the Tyne Valley via the ‘Corn Road’ to the port and the import of guano from Peru to help fertilize the land – we past the ruinous guano shed, really a big barn, just before lunch – it was located as far from the settlement as possible at the southernmost extremity of the former harbour to minimise odours.
You can view more pictures from this walk by clicking here.
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- To find out more about the guided walks in Northumberland that are coming up please click here.