Warkworth to Alnmouth Return
Mon 30th November 2015
Sunday 29th November 2015
Considering the Met Office’s severe weather warnings for wind and rain in force I was pleasantly surprised that only three participants cancelled their bookings on the day. As it turned-out we had a genuinely enjoyable day along the southern edge of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Granted, the omens weren’t good when Ian and I arrived at the car park. The toilets were closed until Easter 2016 and it began to rain heavily. Nevertheless twenty suitably attired individuals (full waterproofs, gloves, hoods up etc) moved-off towards the beach shortly after 09.30 no doubt wondering whose bright idea this was anyway.
Low tide was at 11.33 so we were able to walk north on a firm wide sandy beach which became even wider as we progressed. In the clear slots we could see Coquet Island behind us and a mile off the coast. The first lighthouse keeper after it was built in 1841 was Grace Darling’s older brother, William – she of the wreck of the Forfarshire fame on 7th September 1838. This year being the 200th anniversary of her birth (1815 – 1842). The Trinity House lighthouse was electrified in 1976 and automated in 1990. The island is now an RSPB Reserve well known for its puffin colony which generates boat trips from nearby Amble especially in spring and summer although landings aren’t permitted.
We clambered over the rocky foreshore at Birling Carrs below the caravan site and discussed the formation of sand dunes and saw how last Wednesday’s Spring tide had reached the back of the beach and undercut the base of the dunes. All of the dunes fronting the beach along our route were being actively eroded with steep avalanched faces devoid of the stabilising protection of marram grass. In places rock outcrops at beach level effectively armoured a stretch of coastline, in others the dunes developed on top of weak ice age boulder clays, themselves are very prone to wave erosion. There was also plenty of evidence of tree stumps, roots and other flotsam being deposited well up the beach, testament to the power of the waves. Most of the time we were walking north we saw an almost permanent rainbow above Alnmouth. At one point it included a fainter secondary bow also showing Alexander’s dark band between the two. Lovely to see and providing evidence of simultaneous sunshine and precipitation.
As we rounded the spit forming the southern outlet of the River Aln into Alnmouth Bay the wind started to pick-up and the gusts increase in force. From the cross on the ridge on the south side of the river we got an unusual view of Alnmouth in the sunshine (most unexpected). Lots of photographs later we descended the ridge to the edge of the salt marsh and site of the mouth of the Aln prior to the 1806 storm which also led to the loss of the parish church and the rapid decline of the formerly prosperous harbour. We took a quick break in the roofless shelter of the former Church of Ease before the extended tramp around the salt marsh and along the St Oswald’s Way into Alnmouth for lunch. By now it was now the gusts were increasingly powerful but with hoods up we didn’t really notice the rain! Lunch was taken in various sheltered locations in the village following a mass visit to the conveniences. I don’t know if anyone managed “a swift half.”
The first section of the return retraced our route along the long distance path as far as the salt marsh and the ruins of the former 19th century guano shed. From there we followed the Northumberland Coast Path over and between the dune belt, the caravan site and around part of Warkworth Golf Club links to return to the beach for the last few hundred metres back to the car park. The strong, blustery wind that gave rise to an impressive sea of whitecaps earlier had now abated and there were even periods of blue sky and good visibility in the lee of the cold front that passed overhead on our return journey. Towards the end of the walk I began to feel distinctly overdressed until the sky became overcast once more and the rain began again - plus there was now a distinctly cooler edge on the wind which had moved round and was now thankfully blowing onto our backs.
In conclusion we all enjoyed an exceptional day out both in terms of the conditions, the scenery and in the company of a like-minded individuals. The people who unfortunately had to cancel missed a really good day out. Ian, Malcolm and myself really enjoyed your company, we hope you all enjoyed the day too, thank you.