7 miles (11 kilometres) linear walk along the England Coast Path. Late October, calm weather in sun, with fam
Yesterday I stood at the station as the rain lashed down, last night I watched from behind the shutters as fog settled moodily on the narrow alleyways of Alnwick old town. This morning I woke up to calm, warm blue skies. I picked a great day for a walk along one of the most beautiful stretches of the Northumberland Coast Path, between the estuary at Alnmouth and Warkworth castle.
The various coastal paths have recently been drawn together by Natural England to form one proposed continuous national trail of 2795 miles, the England Coast Path, and this is how I found it signposted, with new shiny signage and fresh wooden fingerposts. As is often the way, it is also part of another path, St. Oswald’s Way which sounds amazing, treking from Holy Island (about which more here) to Hadrian’s Wall. I add this to my ever increasing mental to do list.
We start, family plus dog, on the estuary of the River Aln. When the tide is low it is possible to wade across without the need for the bridge, but we were too late so we walked down and along the sand, Shovell going beserk with freedom, water and sand. We walked as far as we could between the sailing boats and quiet saltflats before jumping back to the official path to cross the bridge. It’s duck central under the bridge and needless to say I haven’t remembered my 15 kilos of duck food.
There’s an inland section for a while, the sea tantalisingly close and I’m itching to get back to it. We walk a path sandwiched between rosehips and friendly bull calves, sadly destined no doubt to become burgers, and above us the rooks in a rookery look down on the tops of our heads. But it’s not long before we come to the coastline again and, because I love dunes more than most things, we walk down to the beach following St Oswald’s Path through the warm, dry sand dunes. It’s extraordinarily peaceful, and there’s a glimpse of the sea.
The beach is long with caramel fudge coloured sand stretching for miles. I notice the pleasing way my feet scrunch and sink slightly into the moist sand as I walk along. It is a deeply pleasurable feeling that goes to my core and makes me smile.
I walk down to watch the waves and Shovell hurls himself in after a piece of floating seaweed. Like all dogs, he loves this sea business.
I beachcomb on my own for a while, there’s an interesting stone and a small piece of driftwood. I watch the sand flies for a minute or two. It’s a curious thing that virtually every bitey insect will get me first and get me badly. I have a terrible allergic reaction to all of them, huge red welts which weep later on, but I don’t think I’ve ever been troubled by sand flies.
We all find our own space for a while. It’s warm and I can watch the breeze blowing the surface sand and admire the low sun casting shadows of the ripples. While lovely son runs up the dune to slide down, Shovell digs himself an enormous hole and gets in it.
The tide is slowly coming in and eventually we have to leave the beach as it has covered Birling Carrs, so we turn up the hill through a caravan park and then along the edge of the dunes again. At this point we have to stop and retrace our steps as someone has lost a phone. This seems to be becoming a traditional part of walks now.
There’s an odd section of the official path which is beside the golf course, far nicer than it sounds, this is one rough you definitely don’t want to end up in. There are even marker poles to help you stay on the fairway but I wonder how many golf balls have naturalised and colonised this habitat, sleeping in holes underground and living off sand and marram grass. It’s not so different from their usual bunker sand and turf.
But there’s a soup with my name on it and it is waiting for me up by the castle in town, so we follow the path into town looking over to the castle across a field of white leucanthemum daisies. It’s such a beautiful part of the coast and I’m pleased to tell you my very late lunch was beautiful too.
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This is a straightforward, easy walk from Alnmouth where we parked on the beach road, along the well signposted England Coast Path to Warkworth where we got a bus back from Coquet Bridge. A walk there and back is still no challenge if you have time. Depending on tide times you can walk much of the way on the sand, or move between the dunes path or beach. My GPX is here
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