Mon 16th February 2015
Sunday 15th February 2015
The first test was to find the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s car park at Low Hauxley, well done everyone! The second was to survive my commentary throughout the day while pretending to be interested. Thank you for allowing me to continue under that delusion. Did Ian and I mention that when we were doing our recce the previous Tuesday the weather was gorgeous, a really bright and warm spring day with a big wide beach and virtually nobody else around? The day of our walk was a bit different, grey and overcast, with a cool breeze off the sea and limited visibility – but at least we didn’t get rained on.
Apart from the intrinsic interest of the Hauxley Nature Reserve itself the North Hide provided a convenient place to brief everyone about the day’s walk, it wasn’t very warm but at least we were out of the chilly breeze. We certainly felt its effects when we left the relative protection of the Reserve and emerged onto the beach to revel in the joys of peat beds, climate change and the site of the 2013 rescue dig – well I thought it was interesting anyway. Do have a look under “Rescued from the Sea” on the internet and you will see video of the animal and human footprints, including those of children which are thought to be circa 7,000 old. I know the regulars smile because I usually say this but do also have a look on Google Earth at the area of our walk, it will mean so much more having walked it.
The plan was to walk the length of the beach before high tide at noon stopping-off en-route at Druridge Bay Country Park for access to the facilities and hopefully the cafe would also be open too. Fortunately both facilities and cafe were open so that helped a lot and it was surprisingly warm there out of the wind. The spring migration of caravans was in full swing with the main car park being taken over by enthusiasts having spent the previous night there. Back onto the beach and heading south into the wind, surprisingly we didn’t see any naturists at all fog-bathing near Chibburn Mouth which is a designated naturist beach. Here we went inland behind the dune line to follow the Northumberland Coast Path as far as Druridge Pools Nature Reserve. On this section it was easy to appreciate the characteristics of the now restored former opencast coalmining landscape, low-lying, gently undulating farmland with mining flashes used as nature reserves, there are six spread along the seven miles of Druridge Bay. Lunch was taken in a large bird hide overlooking the landscaped lake at Druridge Pools. Nothing exotic was seen just overflying curlews and some shelduck on the water. Compared to the large skeins of calling geese we saw on Tuesday last ...... no forget it.
The first stop after lunch was the remains of the Knights Hospitallers Low Chiburn Preceptory dating from 1313. It has had a chequered history following the Dissolution and being passed-on to the local Widderington family who added a dower house in about 1550 before it was attacked and burnt by the French in 1691 along with Widderington village. At least with the European Union we are not constantly at war with the French anymore – I think I’ve got that correct. As recently as the Second World War part of the original chapel structure was converted into a rudimentary “pillbox” as part of the defences of northern England. Following that opencasting in the area dug up everything in the area except the building site itself, even destroying the surrounding moat. The only remaining clue to this is the curve of the fence surrounding part of the site.
On the return route we had the advantage of the wind behind us and the impetus of a brisk walk back to the comfort of Druridge Bay Country Park for the facilities prior to tanking – up on more coffee. As it was now afternoon there were a lot more people on the beach and the tide was falling allowing us to walk the south end of the beach which was denied to us on the outgoing leg. Kite surfing was in full swing as was kite-boarding but hey obviously don’t rise early for these activities. On reaching the cafe the spring migration of caravans had taken place, the car park was now empty of big white boxes on wheels. The final leg back to Low Hauxley was uneventful save for the overflight of RAF Boulmer’s Seaking heading north back to base at less than a hundred feet. We could hear it before we could see it in the coastal mist even with its navigation and winching lights on, it very soon disappeared back into the murk. In April this year they are to be taken out of service as the RAF and RN Search and Rescue flights hand responsibility for the service over to HM Coastguard. Back at Low Hauxley the visitor centre was open with a copy of the recently published book on the aforementioned archaeology rescue dig on display.
Thanks to everyone who attended, we hope you enjoyed the day and hope to see you all again soon. Our next walk, on 22nd March, is in the Cheviots starting from Alnham and visiting the Shepherd’s Cairns on the moor near Ewertly Shank Farm and topping-out on Hogdon Law one of the best, easiest and underrated value-for-effort viewpoints in Northumberland. Come and find out about the mysteriously named Grey Yade of Coppath which sounds like it should be in a Harry Potter book.
Richard and Ian