Northumbria and the Scottish Borders – Day Seven

Another overcast morning and it looks like we’ve had some overnight rain. Today, we have planned a walk up out into the countryside and so gather our things. Two years ago, we stopped off at Moffat overnight on our way back from another motorhome holiday in North Scotland. We had liked it so much that we had promised ourselves a return visit out check it out properly. We go back to the High Street and stop off at a cafe for bacon and egg rolls and a latte. Hits the spot. We waddle down a side street lined with shops and then steadily climbing into a residential road. The street morphs into a stony track and we find the footpath we need.  It’s a steady pull up the hill, following a wooded path between two sheep fields, with splendid views of Moffat behind. We pause at a junction of paths to admire the view and take photos, before taking another path leading up through the trees.  The trees give way to an open area, where logging has taken place and it’s regenerating. There is the odd picnic table dotted here and there in the vegetation, which is lovely as there’s now 360 degree views to be had. It’s rather pleasant though we can see rain showers everywhere we look.

The weather is very changeable. We walk down the other side of the hill and into a mown haymeadow. We cross this and pick up a gravelled track. A little further, we branch off and begin another pull up a hill.  It’s here that a rain shower clips us and we get a bit damp. When we summit this hill, there’s another, even higher hill beyond, which is quite tempting, but The Dog isn’t looking very lively today. Maybe she’s missing her beaches, but she definitely hasn’t been very enthusiastic on this walk so far. So we make our way down towards a farm track, through a field of skittish sheep and follow the “Moffat Way” signposts. As we pass a white bungalow, we spot a sign marked “Moffat Well” and go an investigate. It drops through a little grassy field and in the corner is a small building, open at one end. Propped up against it, is an information board. We enter the well and promptly come straight out again. It stinks – an awful foul stench. It’s actually not that special – a hole with railings around it. Next to the well, is a steep ravine with a surging river running through.  It’s a very pretty spot.  If the smell is sorted out, it would be a lovely place to picnic.

We retrace our steps back to the road and following the “Moffat Walk” signs, walk through fields and follow the river back to the edge of town. A delightful road of smart bungalows and beautiful large detached Victorian houses. One houses had a long line of painted pebbles outside in response to the current Covid situation. We slowed down to admire them. Towards the end of the road, the local town planners had allowed some pebble dashed carbuncles to be built, sticking out like a sore thumb and a limited attempt to blend them in. Oh for a stick of dynamite.

We found ourselves back on the little side road we had started from and peered into the shop windows.  We bought some lunch from a little deli and popped back onto the High Street. We spotted an icecream parlour, bought two icecreams and sat on the War Memorial benches, situated on the island in the middle of the road, studying the names on the Memorial. We then decide to walk to the river and cross the road which is a bit fraught.  Moffat has this central area down the middle of its High Street for parking and War Memorials with traffic on either side. We had assumed they had a one way system, but no, cars travel both ways on either side, so you think its safe to cross and look the other way, to find a van bearing down on you. At the end of this central area, cars can criss cross over and we watch as motorists negotiate this potential mayhem with orderly calm. It just looked complicated.

Satisfied, we took a side road lined with terraced cottages which are so typical of Scotland. They looked lovely and cosy, painted in different colours. They give way to larger bungalows set back in lawned gardens. At the bottom, the river gurgled. The Dog bounded into the water, looking pleased with herself, but after a couple of throws of the ball, she lost interest and wandered off. The riverbed was very pebbly with greeny grey stones which gave the river a beautiful colour – the water was absolutely clear. It was a very attractive stretch of water.

We saunter back to the campsite, picking up cakes and other goodies for tea. The entrance to the site has a long queue of motorhomes and caravans waiting to get in. We sit outside to eat lunch, despite the very cool weather, but as we finish it starts to rain. Then the sun comes out and it warms up and we’re back out again. We spend the afternoon in our chairs watching people set up and fiddle with their caravans.  A couple settle in next door to us and spend hours nesting. Suddenly our dog goes beserk and barks madly at the chap. He’s trying to strap a long pole with a tv aerial on top to the side of his van and our dog hates anything like that, due to her traumatic puppyhood (she’s a rescue). We apologise profusely to the rather alarmed man and try and calm our pooch.

Once again, Moffat provides us with the characters of the camping world (we came here two years ago, just for night and it warranted a return visit). There’s Mr and Mrs Labrador who have a puppy and an older Lab who stop every time they pass to chat, while our Dog grumbles at them. We watch Mr and Mrs Two Tables, who spend an inordinate amount of time nesting, their Ford Focus more like Mary Poppin’s carpet bag, the amount of stuff they drag out of it. They set up two tables and keep moving them in and out of the awning, trying to find the perfect position and in between this, there’s fussy owners washing caravan roofs with brooms, checking water levels and generally farting around.  It’s a fascinating social study of the British living outdoors, with our island mentality of being quite territorial, chairs and windbreaks marking perceived perimeter and never fails to get us chuckling over our wine glasses.

The Sun is in and out of the clouds all afternoon, the temperature up and down like a proverbial yo-yo. The Dog has discovered there are rabbits and rooks in the campsite and keeps an beady eye on them. We have a lazy afternoon and after finishing our last bottle of wine of the holiday, have a wander around, discussing the pros and cons of the various motorhomes we see with the view of perhaps getting one ourselves. As we walk, we hear a horrendous crash of crockery hitting the ground and not bouncing. Some poor person dropped her washing up and is bent picking up the pieces. Feel for her.

We head back to our own Van for our last night. And The Dog is officially knackered.

Northumbria and The Scottish Borders – Homeward Bound

It’s a lovely final morning – the sun is shining and it’s warm. Typical.

We don’t rush. We get our things together, do the final Van ablutions and then around 10am, start heading south. We’re going the slow way home and avoiding the motorway, following the maps instead. Trying to miss out narrow roads too, as best we can, which isn’t easy. We initially take the road to Boreland, but though it’s a lovely road, it starts to get a bit narrow and we hope we don’t meet a combine harvester. At Boreland, we pick up a B road to Eskdalemuir, a broad strip of tarmac, snaking its way up into the fells, green pastures on either side, little farms dotted along the wayside. It’s a lovely road to drive on, gentle bends – a great road trip road. We continue to gradually gain height, before dropping into Eskdalemuir, a small cluster of houses gathered together – more of a hamlet. We continue onto Langholm, driving down a stunning valley of lush meadows, fells and large tree plantations. In the glorious sunshine, the colours really stand out – the vivid greens of the fields, the gorgeous stone of the buildings, with the backdrop of darker greens and browns of the pine woods. What a hidden gem!

We pass through Langholm and continue towards Longtown, the land flatten out now as we drop towards the Solway Firth estuary.  Just before Longtown, we cross over the border back into England and bear inland more into the Eden Valley. We follow the road to Brampton, through gentle rolling countryside, slowly but perceptively climbing again. It is along this road where we’re overtaken by a motorcyclist, only to find him sprawled on the road outside a house, some two miles down the road. How he has come off, goodness knows, but what little traffic there is has stopped and people are helping him and his motorcycle off the road. Two chaps appear armed with dustpans and brooms and sweep away the many bits of motorcycle debris and within five minutes, we’re all away again as if nothing has happened. All done very efficiently and calmly and not a copper in sight.

We pass through Newtown, another vivid memory of our Hadrian’s Wall Walk last year. We had staggered out of a footpath after a 10 mile day, looking forward to sustenance. However, we needed to get transport to nearby Brampton for our overnight stay, which was 2 miles away, down a relatively busy country road with no pavements. So we spent a considerable amount of time calling local taxi firms who were either on the school runs or wanted to extract £25.00 from us for the pleasure. There was no choice but to walk to Brampton. We tried hitching a lift, but to no avail, so we put our heads down and bit the bullet.  Not the most pleasant of walks, burying yourself into hedges as cars bore down on you, the drivers giving you hard stares. Now in the motorhome, safe and secure and taking only minutes, we looked back on this particular folly with quiet amazement.

We didn’t stop at Brampton, but picked up the B6413 instead. We were starting to get a bit peckish and our earlier nibbling of our last few cheesy sticks was starting to wane. We were on the look out for refreshments in some form or other. During this contemplation, we lost concentration and made a wrong turn, but it turns out to be a fortuitous error, as it took us through the village of Langworthy with its large handsome village green, on the end of which was a converted horsebox serving coffee and cake. Something that you would of never expected, but in our world was perfect in location and timing.

We screeched to a halt and galloped over. Upturned crates became impromptu tables, surrounded by little garden chairs and it was here where we sat, sipping coffee and devouring cake, while admiring the Green and the surrounding village. It was very pleasant and a welcomed little break. We had a little wander around afterwards and discovered a pub that was open and serving. We had passed a few since Brampton, all firmly shut at this time of day because of restricted Covid hours. It would of been nice to have a proper lunch, but with cake already consumed, our needs were sufficiently met.

We left Langworthy and carried on, picking up the A66. Despite being a horrible trunk road (always having accidents and incidents) it goes through some spectacular Pennine countryside and the Howgills. We pulled off at Warcop and cut a corner off to Kirkby Stephen, noting the reddish/pinkish stone of the area. The weather is improving all the time and and as we came up to Sedbergh, there’s hardly a cloud in the sky! It would of been the perfect afternoon of sipping wine under the awning!

We finally arrive home and unpack. We decide to get an Indian takeaway, but with opening times all over the place, we are thwarted. Another couple of aborted attempts at a pub meal, we finally find the local Chinese open and feast on chow mien and prawn crackers to celebrate a rather successful motorhome holiday.

The Dog slunks to her bed under the stairs, thankful for space and not to have to sleep in that shower any more.

Northumbria and the Scottish Borders – Day Six

A lovely sleep til 7am.  Today, we’re on the move again, heading to Moffat in the Scottish Borders.

We get ourselves sorted out and onto the road. We followed the A198 out of town, still admiring this town’s handsome buildings and streets, seemingly untouched by ugly developments.  We stop briefly at a Co-op in Gullane to pick up a paper, some croissants and other pastries and follow the road across yet another golf course(s), this one nestling in a wide valley – the Gullane and Luffness links.  It was certainly a stunning course, straddling the road! We pass the estate of Gosford House and drop back onto the A1. Every single community we went through seemed to have a new housing estate attached it – admittedly it is Edinburgh commuter belt, but the building still seemed prolific.

We’re  now entering the edge of Edinburgh’s urban sprawl and using the major roads, pick up the A7 heading towards Galashiels. Still major development on endless commuter towns and villages that one day will connect up and make a Greater Edinburgh.

But soon we’re out onto rolling countryside and a smooth road. We find a layby to park in and get a brew going.  Though it’s broken sunshine, it’s still cool, so we sit in the Van to have breakfast of croissants and coffee.  We continue on, driving through Galashiels  and Selkirk. Mountains and fells rear up, tree plantations clinging to their sides.  We follow a pretty valley. We come up to St Mary’s Loch and consider a stretch of the legs,  but everyone is congregating around the sole cafe and the car park is a definite no. It is very busy.  We continue on towards Moffat, taking in the beautiful lush countryside. It’s a rather pleasant drive. We soon rock up to Moffat and find our little campsite.

We make camp and even get the awning out, but the breeze is whipping it and we fear that it may get damaged.  It’s now clouded up and keeps spitting rain.  We decide to have a walk before supper and head into town, about 5 minutes away.  It’s 4pm on a Sunday and the shops are starting to shut down, but we still saunter around.  There’s a distinct chill in the air now and still quite windy, so we head back for tea.  Afterwards, we curl up and read the rest of the paper.  The Van has a telly in the seating area, but can we get it to come on? We fiddle with allsorts and finally give up.

The caravan next door has a huge Bernese Mountain Dog, so huge you could eat your lunch off his backside.  He’s got the deepest bark going too.  We’ve had to turn our Van around as our door faced their caravan and we kept setting the dog off barking, which started our Dog off. He must take all the room up in that caravan.

It was later just as we were going to bed, when we were fiddling with the multitude of light switches that adorn our Van and pressing buttons on the control panel simultaneously, that the telly burst into life. We had failed to press the light switch button on the control panel to get the electrics on. Doh!

On that note, we retired to bed.

 

Northumbria and the Scottish Borders – Day Five

It’s not a good looking day weather wise – it’s cloudy and overcast.

We’re going to check out North Berwick today, so retrace our steps from last night and back to the little car park. We walk along the road a bit until we find a spot where we can access the beach easily. The Dog has recharged overnight and eager to chase the ball again – where does she get this energy? We stop and chat to people along the way and suffer our most embarrassing moment of the trip so far. Chatting away to a fellow dog walker, we spot our black dog in the distance, by the road and instinctively yell at her to come back. But squinting I realise that it isn’t our dog at all and look around for her. She’s patiently sitting by the side of me, panting and waiting for the ball to be thrown. Before I can stop him, Hubby bellows again at the seemingly disobedient dog who has totally ignored him. I tap him gently on the shoulder and point at our bemused dog, who’s really baffled. The other dog owner suppresses a giggle, as we casually laugh it off, commenting about why black dog owners insist on putting red collars and harnesses on their hounds, so they all look similar. It’s so confusing y’know. She leaves us in our deranged little world and we slunk off to the town centre.

The sky is getting blacker and blacker, really dark. Of course, I’ve left my raincoat in the van and can imagine getting drenched in the middle of the beach. Again, it’s quite cold – no worries it’s only July. We approach the harbour, walking past the little seawater lido built into the sand – a few brave souls braving the elements. We have a wander around. Little cottages and warehouses line the street which opens to a little harbour. We cross over to the harbour walls and out to a little spur with long range views of other side of the Forth and Bass Rock. A metal bridge prevents The Dog and I going any further. It’s a rather pleasant area with a museum and sealife/information building.  There’s a cafe with a grassy area and tables, but it’s quite busy.  So we head up a terraced street, all brownstone houses and built in the typical Scottish style, and come across the High Street. Remarkably, it is starting to brighten up, the black clouds being pushed away. The High Street is buzzing and has a great selection of shops, again all very charming. We stop for a coffee and park ourselves outside on some tables, when we realise that the sun has come out properly and we’re sitting in the shade. Doh!

We wander up and down, nipping into shops to get odd bits and pieces, every time having to faff around with the facemask, sanitising hands, steering around people. A family have parked a big 4 x 4 on the High Street and have blocked the pavement completely with car doors and baby buggies so people have to go into the road to get round them. Some people are so oblivious to their surroundings.

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/northberwick/northberwick/index.html

The High Street gives way to some handsome villas and grand houses, set back in lovely gardens. We’re liking North Berwick very much. Very respectable and charming. It seems to be a very nice commuter town with Edinburgh being only some 30 odd miles away. We cut down a side road, popping out by yet another golf course and beyond that the west beach. To our right, is a putting green with a sign declaring that it soon would be converted to a 200 space car park. I was aghast! Together, it was a lovely open green space with fabulous views. I was very tempted to sign the ongoing petition to save it from the asphalt! Just so lazy people can park their tin boxes as close to the beach as possible. I hope the good residents of North Berwick save their open space!

We cross the golf course to another vast curving bay of fabulous sand (though slightly grittier than Northumbria’s).  The ball gets thrown into the sea, so The Dog gets to swim – one of her favourite pastimes.  Her energy levels seem boundless despite her 12 years. She just keeps going.  Eventually, we head back into town and suss out a fish and chip shop and to stock up on sweeties. Initially we head back to the harbour, but the fish and chip shop turns out to be that little cafe. No, we want the real thing, so we walk back towards the High Street and find a proper one.  They must of just opened and are setting out tables outside as we get served immediately. The big plan was to wander back to the harbour to eat our food, but the wind is strong and cool and it’s got considerably busier down there.  Here, we’re sheltered, though it’s on the pavement and people are passing by.  The fish and chips are delicious and The Dog gets her customary sausage. Towards the end of the meal, seagulls start to swoop around, looking to grab food – we quickly finish and gather our stuff.

We decide to take another route back to the campsite.  As we turn the corner onto the main road, there’s a delightful little communal gardens with benches in the sun, just yards from the fish and chip shop.  That would of been a much nicer spot to have lunch! Shame we hadn’t seen it earlier.(Seems to be theme here of picking bad lunch spots!) We walk along the main road and then peel off to a wide open parkland. It leads back to the beach, but there’s cars parked everywhere now and the road is busy. It puts us off going back onto the beach. We find another entrance to the park and walk towards the golf course clubhouse. The path veers right and leads us up into a woodland, speckled with dappled sunshine with a pretty little stream running through it.  It’s quite enchanting.  We are very impressed with North Berwick.

We pop out almost opposite to an ugly Tesco superstore and a sterile grey modern housing estate in the process of being built. It was the blot on the landscape of a rather handsome town. (Who allows these things to happen?) We find a little side road which conveniently takes us to the top end of the campsite and back to the Van.  Despite the strong wind, the sun is out and it’s very warm, completely opposite to this morning.  We drag our chairs to a nearby hedge and shelter behind that, soaking up the sun and dozing.

After an afternoon of idleness and a light tea, we decide to go for another walk to check out the headland. So we drop down, across the golf course and turn right, through the grass.  There’s now quite a few people camping with tents on the beach too.  We take the high path, looking down on little beachy coves and rockpools. The views to the west are stunning with the setting sun. We are able to drop down onto the sand, walking between the rocks. You can see the volcanic history here.  We watch gannets dive into the sea for fish off the rocks and then wander towards an interesting outcrop of rock. But a sign tells us that it’s still nesting season for the birds til 31st July (what happens to the birds on the 31st – get evicted?) and to keep off.  We start to walk away when we realise there is a group of youths already on it, obviously unable to read prominent signs.  I get quite cross about these ignorant people, thinking it’s okay to walk amongst nesting birds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bass_Rock

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craigleith

We saunter along (not worth having a go at these kids) as Bass Rock hoves into view and we can see the nesting birds swooping around. It’s quite a sight. It’s a lovely evening walk and we sit for a while, taking it all in and feeling very happy.  We meet a young local couple who are off to camp on the beach further up for the night – literally just a whim after a week’s work and we are quite envious. What a lovely thing to do.

The Law is to the left and Craigleith island to the right

The island is white from birds and their guano.

The route isn’t circular so we retrace our steps back, noting the illiterate youths are now in the sea, screaming and shouting.  We walk on the high path, adjacent to the golf course, back to the unofficial campsite cum car park, where two people are playing the guitar and harmonica in the back of their camper. The evening is cooling off now and we head back to the Van to settle down to read, write diaries or just watch the world. We try and look out for the comet that’s suppose be passing Earth throughout July, but we fail to see it – clouds on the horizon don’t help.  It’s now gone 11 and still not quite dark. Finally we head to bed and fall into a deep sleep.

Northumbria and the Scottish Borders – Day Two

We wake up, after a decent night sleep, to an okay sort of day. We have tea and biscuits in bed and then get ourselves organised for the day. We decide to go for a circular walk and pack a rucksack.  We walk down the little wooded footpath again, but before we get to the barley field, we do a right, clamber over a stile and follow the edge of another field of wheat heading towards Craster. The sky is overcast and heavy. We pop out on a small minor back road and drop down towards Craster cutting a corner off via a footpath. We come up to a small cafe and the tourist office which is firmly shut. We wonder whether to get a coffee now, but decide to go into the village first. We wander through little streets of dinky cottages and bob out by the Kipper Smokehouse and a pub offering crab sandwiches.  As it’s a bit early for lunch, we continue down to the harbour.  Craster is a small fishing village, seemingly very sleepy, but can imagine it being overwhelmed with visitors. Today, with people still creeping out of lockdown, it was rather nice to wander around. It was quite pretty, with the little harbour and the surrounding cottages. A large council estate was tacked on the edge of it, which doubled the size of the actual village.

https://www.visitnorthumberland.com/craster

We wandered back to the coffee shack by the tourist information and had a coffee and cake and realising we had missed a bit, went back down to investigate more. Here, the heavens opened and the rain coats came out and we sheltered under a porch. The rain is brief, but exciting shower. We have now exhausted what Craster has to offer and we wander past the harbour and a line of cottages looking out to see and onto the cliff walk towards Dunstanburgh Castle. It’s a wide grassy path with quite a few people around. Out to sea, the weather is busy – there’s a multitude of rain showers and black threatening clouds on the horizon. Here you can drop down onto the rocks and into the sea and a few people were looking at rock pools. We approached Dunstanburgh Castle, a ruin under the custodianship of English Heritage. Unfortunately we have to view from the outside, as there is only pre-bookings allowed in – no rocking up and getting in straightaway. (Everything has to be preplanned now).  It is an amazing edifice , perched on the headland, dominating the area around it. We walk around the edge of it, along a path covered in ferns and drop down, alongside the golf course. The Dog can smell beach and starts to pull.

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/dunstanburgh-castle/

A little bit of a geology lesson here with the rocks

Eventually, we drop down where the rocks give way to sand and unleash the hound. We take our shoes and socks off and walk in the gentle waves, laughing at our dog who gets spooked by them and skedaddles away every time they approach.  Finally, we come up to a river that is flowing into the sea – The Dog takes a well earned drink from the fresh water – and branch back up into the dunes. Here, we wash our feet of sand and put our footwear back on, before follow the path across the golf course towards the club house. It’s here that we see road signs that only the Brits can put up. We do love rules.

We couldn’t help but chuckle at this sign. Northumbrian beaches are huge and there’s hardly anybody on them! It just seemed a bit over the top. It’s not exactly Bournemouth! But I suppose the councils have to jump through the bureaucratic hoops.

Quite a bit to take in here. Lots to worry about!

We walk up a steady pull of a hill towards the village of Embleton, pausing on the way at a little cute box with a roof on it, full of books for you to take and replace. We choose one book and carry on up the road.  Again, a small pretty little village with a shop where we buy provisions. We are tempted to go in a pub for a pint, but they seem to be on restricted hours and closed. We’re also a bit wary of entering places full of people too and prefer a beer garden. Thwarted, we head back to our campsite along a busy road.

Love these little community projects. Just brighten up your day.

We spend the rest of the day at the campsite.  We unwound out the Van’s awning and had lunch under there as another rain shower came through.  It is quite cool too. We have a wander around the campsite, checking out fellow campers and later, take the Van for its ablutions, an exercise that usually ends up with us doing something wrong! But we are getting quite skilled at this now and can report a seamless top up.  We settle down, to read books, snooze, watch the world and sip wine. A pleasant way to end the day.

Northumbria and the Scottish Borders – Day Four

Today, we’re moving on to our next destination – North Berwick.

Wake up around 6am – I’m having lovely deep sleeps in this bed – tea, coffee and a book before we launch into our finely tuned “getting ready for the day” ritual. Feed the The Dog who turns her nose up at it, tidying, breakfast and finally making everything is secure before we set off. Like a well oiled machine, us.

We head north towards Beadnell, and keep on the smaller coastal roads, hugging the coast until we reach Bamburgh and its magnificent castle dominating the village. We find a car park that accommodates motorhomes (so many car parks have either height barriers or just no parking spaces for anything larger than a car). We feed the parking meter lots of money (the prices start at 3 hours and £3.50) and wander through a park alongside the castle, through sand dunes and onto one of the most beautiful, stunning beaches of Northumbria. Immensely wide and flat with golden, soft sand, it is wonderful scene with the Bamburgh Castle as the backdrop. The Dog has somehow found more energy and is excited for some ball throwing and chasing. We saunter up the beach, the wind brisk and the clouds low and threatening. It keeps spitting rain. We’re dressed in shorts and several layers of warm jumpers and raincoats. Don’t you just love the British weather?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamburgh

Homepage

We get to a point – you could walk on forever – and turn around as The Dog is starting to flag and we wander back to the park. We meet a group of ladies playing croquet on the lawn, under the looming presence of the Castle and watch fascinated. It looks a simple game, but apparently, as we were informed, a game of cunning and stealth, trying to block your opponent’s ball. It can become quite vicious and nasty apparently, said the lady with a wry smile on her face.

We walk into the pretty village and find a cafe – the seating outside is taken, so we venture inside for the first time in months. Tables spread out, lines and markers on the floor, sanitisers and visor wearing assistants. A strange new world. But it doesn’t stop us getting coffee and a large slab of cake while watching tentative Brits, warily stepping over the threshold with haunted looks, asking timidly if it’s okay to come in. Suitably refreshed, we wander the rest of the street, picking up some crab sandwiches for lunch and having a general poke around. It’s quite delightful even under heavy skies. I’ve always liked Bamburgh.  We pass the Grace Darling museum which is sadly closed and saunter back down the street back to the Van. We continue our journey.

After hugging the coast, we are briefly spat out onto the A1 – trying to get a 23 foot motorhome over two lanes of speeding traffic is no mean feat, as there is no more coastal road to follow at the moment. We pass a place called Haggerston, where years ago, when the kids were small, we took a cheap and cheerful caravan holiday. We were rudely awoken by them at some ungodly hour, shouting that “the ducks are swimming under our caravan”. Keen to show us, we were pulled to the window, where the ducks were swimming under our caravan. Heavy overnight rain had created a rather large moat around our tin home and we were effectively stranded in it. It was a week of incidents and accidents that we still talk about today with great clarity and detail.

So we waved at Haggerston as we shot past, and carried on to Berwick Upon Tweed, a pleasant little town on the coast.  We weren’t in the mood for wandering around a town and so continued on the A1, and crossed into Scotland a few miles from Berwick. We dropped into the little town of Eyemouth and gave it a quick tour – it looked quite nice, but the parking of our vehicle sort of put us off. (There’s pros and cons to this motorhoming lark).  We followed the road out again and decided to check out St.Abbs, a bit further north for some reason.  We actually ended up at The Mount and the cutest little bay.  We managed to wedge the Van into a car parking spot, and walked down the short hill, to find a little cafe, toilets and a little bay of sand with several delightfully painted beach huts set back, all surrounded by rock.  It was lovely and several other people thought so too, as it was quite busy with families playing on the sand.  We picked our way through and headed to a grassy headland and climbed up. Here there was a bench overlooking the bay and so we sat down to admire the view. What a lovely little place. We then carried on walking, clambering up to the summit of the headland, before following the path to the next cove. This one was a pebbly one, accessed by a wooden bridge. We stayed here quite a while, skimming stones and throwing a stick in the water for The Dog. Apart from a mum and her son, we were the only ones here. We cursed that we had left our crab sandwiches in the Van – we weren’t expecting such a perfect place for lunch.

We finally sauntered back to the Van as our stomachs were starting to grumble and did the very thing that we always take the mickey out of every time we see it. Many a time, we have spotted people sitting by a busy dual carriageway with juggernauts hurtling by, in a layby next door to a pile of discarded rock salt, eating sandwiches and tea off a picnic table, facing either their car or some tatty wall and wonder why, when just up the road, there’s a beautiful scenic view point/picnic area. Sadly, we were those very same people as we pulled out our chairs and sat next door to the Van, in a scrubby little car park, surrounded by vehicles coming in and out as we munched our crab sandwiches and crisps, too lazy to walk back down to the beach …………….

We managed to get the Van out of the car park and drove on. We followed the road until it threw us back on the A1, through undulating farmland and pasture. Here, the A1 is just an ordinary two way road rather than a dual carriageway and was quite pleasant.  The road dropped down and opened up to a panoramic view.  There was a convenient lay-by where we stopped and cursed – a lovely place for lunch! If only we had known! You could see for miles – across the Firth of Forth to Fife, the little islands dotted in the sea, rolling countryside, fields and farms and then a dominating nuclear power plant on the coast and beyond that, a belching factory. Spoilt the view slightly, that, but it was certainly an interesting and varied landscape! There were ships far out to sea and with the sun poking its nose out of the clouds and brightening up the scene, it was quite a vista. We stayed for about 10 minutes, peering through our binoculars, until a car parked in front of us and blocked the view.  We then headed towards Dunbar, a charming little town lined with brownstone buildings. We tried to park, but it wasn’t easy, so we decided to give Dunbar a miss. There seemed to be a coastal path through the rocks, but just after finishing walking in St Abbs, we weren’t too bothered. Also it’s threatening to rain.

We drove to our next campsite at North Berwick – Tantallon Camping site. Just on the outskirts of town, we find the site rather pleasant. A mixture of static homes, tents, caravans and motorhomes, we are allocated a spot towards the back of the site which is perfect, as it all gently slopes towards the Firth of Forth, giving us a lovely view to the west and north. We overlook the islands of Craigleith and Bass Rock, home to thousands of seabirds and behind us, the The Law, a huge conical towering hill, that looks like it’s been droped there. It looks so out of place from the rolling countryside around it.  This area was very volcanic and there’s plenty of clues here, hence The Law.

Geologically, the law is a volcanic plug of hard phonolitic trachyte rock of Carboniferous (Dinantian) age. It has survived the scraping glaciers of the ice age. It is a crag and tail with a prominent tail extending eastwards.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Berwick_Law

The weather is being very trying today and now cloud has come in – it’s like being in a plastic box.  I wander to the camp shop for biscuits and something for the Van.  Now we are in Scotland, we need to wear face coverings when we enter shops, so I spend a little time fighting with the damn thing to stay on my ears.  I walk in to be greeted by a similarly facially attired human, his eyes peering at me.  The shop isn’t exactly stocked well and end up with two pieces of flapjack wrapped in plastic and two chocolate bars.  I try to pay with my phone, but with my mask on, my phone doesn’t recognise my face! Panic as I try and remember my password! I have enough trouble with technology without added distractions.  I accomplish my mission and head back to the Van for a well earned cuppa. Shopping is becoming quite a traumatic exercise!

https://www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/north-berwick-p240511.

We decide to stretch our legs with a tour (well, more like a nosey) of the campsite and wander to the beach. Yet another golf course to negotiate with busy golfers (the coast here is named the Golf Coast) and we watch out for any badly hit balls flying towards us. We stop at a small car park just outside the golf course, full of motorhomes that are “wild camping” despite notices declaring “No Overnight Parking”. To our right, is another grassy headland heading up and over, to our left, a wide sandy beach leading towards North Berwick itself. This needs checking out, but it will be tomorrow now. We saunter back to the Van.

It’s too cold to sit outside – there’s a stiff cool breeze whipping across.  We have a simple supper.  The Dog, instead of eating her bowl of food, spends many minutes trying to bury it with her nose (always does this when we’re away on holiday) and has actually scraped her nose as there’s a blob of blood on it.  Stupid hound. I add cheese to her bowl, noticing that it’s starting to drizzle.  We put the heating on and huddle under blankets to keep warm. The weather apps on the phones are telling us it’s 18 degrees and sunny.  Mmmm.

Let’s hope it improves tomorrow.

Northumbria and the Scottish Borders -Day Three

I am rudely awoken by my own alarm, that I have set every Thursday for work and curse for forgetting to switch it off.  My crabby mood is fleeting as sunshine pours into our Van and it has the signs of a glorious day.

The Dog now sleeps in the shower area, where I have to step over her (the Van has a rather quirky lay out). This Dog ain’t for moving – yet. We get up slowly – we have a plan of catching the bus up to Beadnell and walking back along the beach. On checking our phones for bus timetables, we conclude that there’s a bus at 11.37, so we chill, drink coffee, read, have cake and camper watch. It then suddenly dawns on us that we don’t know where to actually catch the bus! So I waddle over to the office and get informed that you flag the bus down outside on the road and by the way, there’s timetables around the corner.  It’s  the beginning of a small farce, as I read that there’s a bus at 10.35 – in about 10 minute’s time! I dash back, we leap up, chuck everything in the Van, grab The Dog and present ourselves on the road side. Then we start doubting the information, so we start scuttling backwards and forwards to the office, where there are two timetables pinned up, with one of us always on look out for the bus. We start to bicker slightly to which timetable is right and how much the Covid-19 has affected the bus services. Finally we have a lightbulb moment and actually call the bus company. We are reliably informed that the next bus is at 11.37.

We slink back into the campsite and plop back into our chairs for 3/4 of a hour and get chatting to another camper, who is also attempting to catch a bus. So we repeat the exercise and wait on a narrow patch of verge as cars speed past us. 11.37 comes and goes and it’s approaching nearly 12 noon. Where is the bus – can understand a few minutes late, but really? Just as we’re on the verge of abandoning the whole project and have a rethink, a bus finally comes around the corner and we flag him down. It’s a single decker with nobody on it.  We have to put on face coverings (compulsory on public transport) and take a seat.  The driver is obviously way behind schedule and gives us a rather startling ride to Beadnell.  He drops us off conveniently beside a cafe on the corner and peeling off our face coverings with relief and a big gulp of fresh air, we stagger across and take seats outside.  It’s now very warm and sunny.

We finally order our longed for full English breakfast, going through the new normal of sanitising everything, keeping distances and giving contact details.  What a weird world. Opposite is a rather splendid church, built from the brown stone of the area. It’s quite a pleasant, quiet corner of Beadnell and thankful for the bus stopping there.

With our stomachs full, we walk down towards the sea, down a lovely residential street of houses and bungalows. At the bottom, we spot a campsite that we stayed many years ago where, overnight, a vicious storm blew in early one August Bank Holiday, causing our little two man tent to collapse and the complete site to empty of campers by 6am.  We turn right and walk along past more houses and the sea. Some people have put clapboard on their homes in gentle pastel colours, making them look rather smart.  There’s a whole jumble of different housing – bungalows, chalets, houses. Behind the houses, a recent development of bog standard box houses has been squeezed in, a characterless build of monotonous houses overlooking their back gardens.  At least, they’re hidden I suppose.

We follow a footpath and drop down onto yet another beach. It’s fairly crowded with people enjoying the sun and making the most of it, after  enduring a few weeks of cool weather. The beach isn’t as nice as our beach further down, but it’s still a decent one. As the crowds thin, we let The Dog off for a run and to chase seaweed thrown into the water for her. We wade a river across the beach and later, have to leave the beach to cross over a headland. Here, there’s an icecream van in the car park, so we buy two 99’s with strawberry juice, and sit in the grass to eat them, giving The Dog the remnants. We carry on, through the grassy path before dropping down to Low Newton by the Sea and a pub.  We feel a pint of beer would be good at this juncture and turn the corner for the pub. Alas, there’s a huge queue outside and bodies all over the lawn in front.  Can we be bothered?  It’s another little honey pot for people to gather and we walk towards a little path to access the beach. Here, a young family are blocking the entire path while they wrestle their screaming baby into it’s buggy (can’t you do that somewhere else) and a few yards further up, a young couple stop dead in front of us to talk and despite seemingly noticing us, do not move. So much for trying to social distance here, people. No awareness at all – all got the holiday brain on. I have to say “excuse me” before the pennies drop and they move. Honestly.

We carry on along the beach, coming into our little area. We walk past the houses in the sand dunes, thinking how lovely it must be to have a home here overlooking the sea and with such fantastic beaches to walk on. Can imagine being there on a stormy day, snug in your little house as the wind rattles the windows. Today, it’s been a lovely sunny day and quite warm – we’ve been walking in t-shirts and actually caught the sun. Fingers cross for more days like this.

We find our little gap in the sand dunes, up towards the holiday cottages and fields and back to our site.  We’ve walked about 6 miles today, just about right. The Dog however, has probably doubled that and shows it, by first gulping down her breakfast (she’s decided to have only one dinner a day, rather than two and will only eat it if there’s cheese in it as an added incentive).  She then crashes out on the grass by the Van, not even attempting to move when our neighbour returns with his motorhome to park on his patch.

For us, the chairs are out and we catch the last of the sun, before making tea and relaxing. A rather lovely day.

Northumbria and the Scottish Borders – Day One.

We’ve hired a motorhome.

It’s a rather large one – it’s like a flipping bus. So we’re off for a week to Northumbria and the Scottish Borders for a change of scenery and set off towards the M6 at Lancaster. We have a plan (well, more of a mission) – full English breakfast at Shap to start our day. We know a lovely little cafe cum bakery in the centre of the village and we normally make a beeline line for it when we’re heading north. so in excited anticipation, we pull off the motorway and drive down the exceptionally long High Street of Shap.

So imagine our disappointment as we pull up slowly to check it out and discover that not only is it shut, it looks like a permanent closure. Our hearts sink and our stomachs grumble as we wonder where we can get breakfast on route. We continue on, realising there’s nothing worse than getting excited about something and then getting it cruelly whipped away.

We stay on the A6, going through little communities, looking out for a cafe,  but of course, you don’t see one when you need one. We’ve also got the added dilemma of having to park our oversized vehicle. We end up in Brampton, one of our overnight stopovers on our Hadrian’s Wall walk last September – we had rocked up after a monster day and basically stayed in the B&B and didn’t move. As we drive into the busy town centre, it’s nice to see that it’s got a thriving little shopping centre with parking around the little square and along the road.  However, our home on wheels is far too large to park here (even if there was a parking space). So we turn around and head out of town where we had seen a good spot to park and walked back into town.

https://www.visitcumbria.com/car/brampton/

It’s nearing lunchtime now and we suss out a little cosy looking cafe in the corner,  with a small queue outside – another new order of Covid.  So we wait outside and choosing our brunch while we wait. The lady in front gets served and we shuffle forward, ready with our order. The second blow of the day occurs when we’re told that the cafe needs to close for 20 minutes for cleaning and catching up on washing up etc. Nooooo. Another Covid-19 phenomena – less staff and the need to disinfect the place regularly.  This time our shoulders sag along with our hearts and we troupe off, not in the best of moods. We scout around town for an alternative, but Brampton is not awash with food outlets catering for the all day breakfasts.  We end up buying a takeaway pie and chips with coffee and head back to the Van to eat them, tragically passing a pub that’s offering all day breakfasts……………

Suitably refreshed, we followed the A69, going east towards Newcastle, running parallel with Hadrian’s Wall and start reminiscing about our walk last year. At Chollerford, we pulled away from the A69 and headed north east.  The landscape is fantastic – fields and moors, big wide spaces and sky, gradually changing to rolling foothills, trees and fields full of sheep and cows, passing through pretty villages. We drop down into the town of Rothbury, nestling in a pretty valley and manage to park on the road in the centre of town. The Dog is relieved to have a stretch of the legs and a  wee.  We wander the shops, looking for provisions and nibbles – local butchers, a little deli and bakery, our favourite sort of independent shops. Again, Rothbury is an attractive little town, with the main road running through it, but with wide grassy tree lined banks separating vehicles from pedestrians. The dapple shading enhances the stone buildings and adds to the character of the town.  It had a lovely community feeling.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rothbury

We drove towards Craster and our camping site for the night.  We’ve booked in the Caravan and Camping site at Dunstan Hill, near Embleton. After we’ve checked in, we launched into getting out table and chairs, connecting to the electric and getting the kettle on – we have our priorities. We sit outside, diving into our snacks that we have bought and spend the time camper watching.  It is a fascinating occupation watching other campers – fighting with awnings, fiddling with their caravans – some actually giving them a wash, setting up chairs outside, but then disappearing back in their homes, door firmly shut. Its quite entertaining. After our nibbles, we go for a walk and The Dog, her promised beach. There’s a little footpath running down the side of the campsite, through a narrow strip of trees which leads into a field of barley. Down a cinder track, past some delightful holiday bungalows and crossing a rather busy golf course. Then over some sand dunes and to The Dog’s delight, one of Northumbria’s stunning beaches.

The Dog was in heaven. A wide beautiful soft sandy beach, gently sloping to the sea, with hardly anybody on it.  Despite being 12 years old, she’s galloping around like a puppy. Dunstanburgh Castle is to our right, sitting on a grassy headland. On our left, in the distance, peeking over the sand dunes, a straggly line of beach houses. We stroll towards them, walking in the surf.  It’s quite cloudy and there’s a stiff cool wind. Everybody’s wearing shorts in homage to the non existent summer we’re having and thick chunky jumpers and coats on top. Typical British summer wear. We wander up to the little houses and turn back. Instead of retracing our steps, once past the golf course, we follow the road, through the little hamlet of Dunstan Steads, admiring the little cottages. It is very nice. We cut across the fields, back to the treelined footpath and back to the van. We finish off our nesting and head to bed.  The Van has a fixed bed so no need to build it before you go to sleep, but it is quite high up. We settle down. For some reason, The Dog joins us on the bed, completely out of character. But she couldn’t get comfy and tries to get down, but can’t due to the height and the narrow passage. I tried to pick her up to help her, but got growled at for my troubles. We spent the next 20 minutes of Dog settling down again, then wanting to jump off, growling at my attempt of assistance and repeat. Finally (why I didn’t think of this earlier?) I put on the light and she jumped off unassisted with a heavy landing and a harumpf. She ended up sleeping in the shower area on her mat and we all fell into a deep sleep, our first night in our Van and a week of adventure!

 

River Lune, Caton

It was a quick walk before the rain set in for the afternoon. The Dog and I headed to Caton and the metalled Millennium Path where we were guaranteed not to get blathered in mud.

We parked up just off the roundabout and picked up the Path. We sauntered along, The Dog sniffing and splashing through water. It was reasonably pleasant and the sun tried to push its way through the clouds. The few brief times it managed it, there was a definite warmth – it was nice to feel some heat.

We stopped a couple of times to pass the time of day with fellow dog walkers. It’s a pleasant stroll through the edge of Caton, past sheep fields and rows of trees, just following the path, an easy stroll. We crossed the River Lune as it meandered one way and then the other way, walking across the old iron railway bridges with splendid views of the river and beyond. We carried on walking up towards Halton following the river. Here it’s more wooded, but you could see civilisation. We reached the old railway station freshly painted and looking smart. Here we turned right and crossed into Halton via a single track vehicle bridge. The river was running fast and the weirs making a thundering sound.

At the end of the bridge, we turned right again and into a modern housing estate. There were two separate new estates going up, one across the field and another further up river, peeking over a high hill. The estate butts the river and we soon left the brick and mortar, to drop down by the fishing area and past the eco houses. We were soon back into countryside.

I was startled to see the river bank had been washed away quite severely. The power of the water is unbelievable. Recent weeks has seen heavy rainfall and with water pouring off the Dales, the rivers have been at maximum levels. It makes you stop and think how dangerous water is when it’s in full flow and how much damage it can inflict. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with.

The sun had gone in for the day, but bright yellow gorse was out and brightening up the riverside. Birds were singing in the trees and as we entered woodland, I realised that the floor was green with foliage. It was like spring was in the starting blocks. Just waiting for the sun’s heat and then it would burst forth. I love the anticipation of everything coming to life and the delight of seeing new growth. I had seen lambs and the daffodils are at their peak. It was lovely to see.

We picked our way through the woodland and up towards the road. The Dog was back on her lead as we briefly followed the pavement and into a field. I kept her on lead in case of any sheep were hiding around the corner. We came up to a picnic site with lovely old benches carved with animals. They were in a great spot looking up the valley towards Ingleborough and the Dales, though Ingleborough has been consumed by low cloud.

We stopped here briefly to look at the information boards and look at the white stumpy installation with Witches 400 written on it. It is one of several way markers on the Lancashire Witches Walk which ends in Lancaster, remembering the women back in the 17th century accused of being witches on the most flimsiest of ludicrous charges. This one commemorates Jane Bulcock, one of the women accused of witchcraft, along with her son John, in the Pendle Witch trials of 1612. I had seen other commemorative stones in Clitheroe too.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancashire_Witches_Walk

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendle_witches

After our musings, we dropped down back onto the Millennium Path and sauntered back to Caton. A nice stretch of the legs, some 4 miles. I noticed that the hawthorne bushes were starting to sprout too with that vivid bright fresh green. A brilliant colour. Spring is definitely around the corner, but I wished it would hurry up!

Hoffman Kiln, Stainforth

I discovered this place out of the blue last year, when I was doing a circular walk out of Stainforth. I was walking with my daughter and The Dog, when we came up to what we thought was a singular lime kiln and was in for a pleasant surprise.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoffmann_kiln

https://www.visitsettle.co.uk/craven-lime-works.html

https://www.cravenmuseum.org/archaeology/fact-sheets/the-hoffmann-kiln/

It wasn’t what we expected at all and was quite breathtaking. We had a quick look around, not expecting to be distracted like this on our walk. It needed more than just a cursory look around that we could give it that day and promised to return and check it out thoroughly……..

A reasonably dry morning beckoned and we took our chance. It’s a completely hidden gem with no road signs or any hint it was there. Luckily I had checked on a map beforehand, but even as I turned the car down a small single track road and under a railway bridge, I had a hint of uncertainty. We followed the road down a bumpy lane, past derelict buildings and broken fencing. Daughter started to voice her concerns but suddenly, tied to a post, was a sign that said car park and we sighed with relief.

On a cold winters morning, it wasn’t exactly heaving. We were the only car apart from a faded caravan parked long term opposite. It wasn’t exactly screaming tourist attraction. It looked more like an ideal place for a thriller film, where the hapless hero is brought in the boot of a car and given a heavy work over by big burly heavies in black leather jackets and dark shades on. I quelled my daughter’s reservations with what I hoped was a careless nonchalance, but briefly wondered if my car would still have its wheels when I got back. We checked out some noticeboards and worked out that you followed a trail. So we clambered up some steep steps, and contoured along, where more information boards told us that the old lime quarry was once the local rubbish dump and where kiln buildings once stood. We walked down to the lane where we had first came in and back towards the car park. Old derelict barns stood on our left and at the end was a white house obviously lived in. We went through a wooden gate and towards the Hoffman Kiln itself.

It was here last year, when a young family popped out, dad spooking the kids, that we initially thought it was a singular cave-like kiln and you peered up the chimney. We walked into the gloom, expecting a small circular space, but as our eyes became accustomed to the gloom, we realised it was a long corridor extending into the depths with openings on one side. It was basically a long elongated oval. It was truly amazing and totally unexpected. This was making lime on an industrial scale. Apparently they lit two or three of the furnaces and got them going, before lighting another three and so on, so they had a continuing supply of lime production. It was incredible. Now it was dark and damp, puddles on the floor and the need for torches. Water dripped through the brick roof and formed stalactites, water droplets accumulating on the tips. A multitude of colours ran through the brickwork as minerals seeped through. It was spooky, but truly fascinating. It’s own little natural art gallery. We spent ages taking photos and studying the nooks and crannies.

We came out into what seemed blinding light, but was in fact a rather overcast day. We wandered around the grounds – past ruined winch houses and other mechanical artefacts. We stood on top of another lime kiln – this time, three in a row, tall and towering. They were built right next door to the Settle Carlisle railway line and a picture showed workers with wheelbarrows walking wooden planks to dump the material straight into the rail wagons – not a safety helmet, goggles, hi-vis or a health and safety notice in sight! The working conditions must of been atrocious here, though it was probably a very welcomed source of work for people living in this remote valley.

We were stunned that it wasn’t more well known as a tourist attraction and more made of it. Money had been invested into it as there were information boards galore and also an audio system whereby you pressed a button on a post and listened to bygone stories of the men who worked there. But apart from the wonky car park sign nailed by the car park, nobody would know it was there. It all seemed a bit odd and we wondered who had put the time and effort into creating it. The signs and boards advertised that Lottery money and other organisations had funded the site, but the adjoining area wasn’t welcoming at all. Perhaps that land was owned by the house we saw and was a separate area. It was certainly an enigma – money invested into a project, but no highlighting of its existence.

We wandered around a little more, fascinated. We had spent a hour and half here mainly taking photographs in the main kiln and reading boards, but threatening rain clouds were gathering and we headed off, down to Settle for a warming cuppa and a piece of cake. We would come back in the summer, no doubt dragging an unsuspecting relative along, hoping for more visitors and bright sunshine.