Lesbury figure of eight
Sun 9th February 2014
It was chilly on the sports ground car park between Hipsburn and Alnmouth at 09.30 but there were bits of blue sky, it wasn’t raining and nobody in Alnmouth was building an ark, all promising signs. The downside, apart from me, was that two of our clients had both driven separately from Bellingham and one had misplaced her coat – I’m trying not to use the word anorak. Fortunately the latter was soon solved. Unusually we had three dogs with us who proceeded to have a thoroughly good time over the course of the day getting lots of exercise plus getting really wet and dirty ready for the drive home.
The Alnmouth loop took-in the ducks (mainly wigeon) and three herons on the River Aln, the Duchess Bridge, the former harbour and its associated infrastructure including the ferryman’s hut and views of south along the former spit past the location of the former parish church towards the now roofless guano store and out to sea beyond Coquet Island.
We even managed to squeeze-in a comfort stop quickly followed by a coffee stop at the Holiday Fellowship Dandelion Cafe – training for the elevenses stop later. Uphill past Mount Pleasant Farm before the descent down to the broad meanders of the River Aln for the tramp to Lesbury. This particular stretch of the route had a particularly high “squelch factor” which in places must have reached the “Geet very clarty” classification on the Northumbrian Footpath Condition Scale. None of professional walkers present disgraced themselves by falling over – but I know they were willing me to show them how it was done.
Elevenses were taken at 11.26 alongside the river on benches on the fringe of Lesbury in sunshine and out of the wind – we really do try to look after our clients. A brisk walk along the main street past the church and over the 15th century Grade 1 listed Lesbury Mill Bridge took us to the beginning of the second and larger loop east towards Alnwick. The route along the south bank of the Aln following the meander loops and beneath the impressive 13 arched railway viaduct (East Coast Main Line) built by Robert Stephenson in 1848-9.
This section of the walk was quiet and pleasant and relatively protected from the cold wind so that we were able to eat lunch in a sunny spot before climbing back up towards Alnwick to begin the return leg of the larger loop. The section between Alndyke Farm and reaching the dismantled railway on Northumberland Estates land was a bit of trial, narrow, steep and very cut-up by horses hooves, it might even have exceeded the geet very clarty classification mentioned above, even the dogs slowed down. The bridge over the deeply incised Cawledge Burn was both high and impressive and gave rise to much comment about the manpower involved in the construction of the railway embankments, cuttings and bridges. Similarly with the even older and less mechanised canals that two of our number had recently been walking. From a vantage point along the old railway track bed it was possible to look north across the Aln Valley immediately east of Alnwick to take-in the planned Capability Brown landscape commissioned by the Duke of Northumberland in the 18th century. We were seeing it in its mature state as it was intended to look when planned all that time ago.
We left the track bed and turned south along a BOAT (by-way open to all traffic) towards Bilton and on past Alnmouth Station and down through Hipsburn to re-cross the Lesbury Mill Bridge to walk across the fields back to the cars. It was lovely to see the regulars again and know that they were still speaking to Ian and I, well, Ian anyway. Equally it was interesting to talk to new clients and welcome them to our happy band. It was rewarding to see the sense of achievement on the face of the person who achieved her aim of walking ten miles.
Conrad’s 9.73 miles must have been wrong; he was probably hallucinating at the thought of Marian walking the dogs, polishing his slippers, chilling white and warming the red wine and getting a three-course evening meal ready for his return. Sorry you had to leave us early Marian and hope that you recover from your sports injury soon. Ian and I hope everyone enjoyed the day.
Monday, 10 February 2014