Postcard From Northumberland & The Farne Islands

Colin Cross, Going Postal

One of the great things about deciding to do 40 things when you’ve been married 40 years but don’t set a time limit is that it becomes a moveable feast without any set order. As we won’t be doing 41 things when we’ve been married for 41 years it doesn’t matter if you don’t get them all done in the one year, so long as you do them. Most of you will know that I have some pretensions to being a photographer. You will all know that I am a man that wears my Puffin with pride and, if you’ve read my articles before you’ll know I’m developing a great liking for the North East Coast of our fair country. This last weekend, which, by happy coincidence coincided with Mrs C’s birthday saw us taking the short drive via Vindolanda to Northumberland to complete thing 18 .

Vindolanda is a Roman Fort situated south of Hadrian’s Wall just off the B 6138. It was almost continually occupied from around 85 ad to 370 ad by various Roman regiments along with local people, slaves, merchants and others. Describing it wouldn’t really do it justice. The site has been under careful excavation for many years and along with the decently sized and well laid out museum deserves a visit. While we were there there was a newish excavation underway and there were lots of volunteers painstakingly sifting barrows full of soil and rocks, searching for artefacts. We were lucky enough to witness the unearthing of a shoe, which had been almost perfectly preserved in the mud. What makes Vindolanda so archaeologically interesting is that before the final stone fort was erected all the previous forts had, effectively, been built on top of each other. Layer after layer of history, waiting to be discovered.

Colin Cross, Going Postal

We left Vindolanda, promising to return and made our way across country to the A1 and then north to Belford, where we’d booked into The Old Post Office Bed and Breakfast for our second visit. Claire and Simon are wonderful hosts and make everyone feel welcome, very highly recommended if you’re ever out that way. They’d warned me about the quality of the food at the Blue Bell Hotel. I should have taken their advice. My steak was no more than passable and Mrs C was far from impressed with a dish laughingly called Fillet of Beef Goulash. We will return to Belford, I have no doubt, we won’t be going back to the Blue Bell. My advice, avoid at all costs. I will concede that the draught Pale Ale was exceptionally good but on the wife’s birthday it takes more than a decent pint to make a night of it. We had an early night and got up to a full English of  excellent quality and size. We were nicely set up for the day. Having already booked the boat for the trip out to the Farnes we decided that a decent walk would be in order. We drove through Bamburgh to Seahouses, got parked ( at between £2 & £4 per day parking in Northumberland is cheap) and set off to walk from Seahouses harbour to Beadnell Harbour, along the beach for the most part. The return trip is about 6 miles but well worth it. Northumberland’s beaches must be some of the finest in the country.

Colin Cross, Going Postal

We’d booked with Billy Shiels  tours for the 3pm sailing, our boat was called The Serenity 2 and although it was a little late leaving the harbour the weather was fine, the sea was fairly calm and I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Mrs C isn’t a great sailor but she put a brave face on it, she knew how much I’d been looking forward to this trip. The ride out was great, the closer we got to the islands the more sea birds we saw, they were mostly Guillemot, but now and again a Puffin flew past on its way to the island with fish, or back out to sea to do some fishing. I wasn’t really prepared for what I saw during the first part of the tour which took in all the islands. The boat was manoeuvred into tight coves allowing fantastic close up views of many types of seabird, crammed together on pinnacles of rock and almost sheer cliffs.

Colin Cross, Going Postal

The Farne Islands, as well as being home to many thousands of sea birds is also home to one of the largest Atlantic Grey Seal breeding colonies. I think we sometimes forget about the abundance of nature that we have on our Islands, we all need to get out more I think. Inner Farne, the largest of the Islands is home to 2 of the more famous of our sea bird visitors. Atlantic Terns and Puffins (obvs). After visiting the seal colony we sailed into a wide cove and disembarked for a closer look. The terns are fiercely protective of their chicks and will dive at anyone who stops to view them or take photos. Intrepid photographer that I am, I braved the onslaught and managed to take a couple of what I thought were quite decent pictures.

Colin Cross, Going Postal

Puffins were, by now, flying above us with increasing frequency as well as being visible on the ground. Once through the tern colony we were greeted with the sight of a large number of Puffins who had obviously been told that I was on my way and were posing for me before I even arrived. Here I was, surrounded by thousands of my spiritual brothers and sisters, I couldn’t have taken the smile off my face if I’d tried.

Colin Cross, Going Postal

We spent an hour on the island before returning to shore where we ate fish, chips and mushy peas (sorry NM) in Lewis’s fish bar. I’ve rarely if ever eaten better. The batter was light, the fish perfectly fresh and white and the chips were very good. Another highly recommended. We bought a bottle of wine, returned to the B&B and sat in the lovely garden, chatting about what we’d seen and done. A great end to a wonderful day.

Colin Cross, Going Postal

We had a lie in on Sunday morning before getting up and breakfasting. I decided on a change and had locally smoked Craster salmon and scrambled eggs on brown toast. As with everything at The Old Post Office it was very good indeed. We packed, checked out and drove down the A1 to Craster, another little English coastal gem with a harbour and took a short walk along the low cliffs through farmland to Dunstaburgh Castle, which must have been a formidable sight when it was built in the 14th century. The weather had been glorious throughout the weekend, the area is a place of truly outstanding natural beauty, the walking is great and the wild life is abundant and unusual. Another great weekend. Only 22 more things left to do, if they’re all as good and satisfying ans this weekend in Northumberland they’ll be well worth looking forward to.
 

© Coloniescross 2018
 

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