Pretty much a full 20-miler today. I walked north along the coast road through Bamburgh and on through Budle and Waren Mill to the A1 where it runs North along the coast towards Berwick and Scotland.
This first stage was the fun part of the journey. I think I have fallen in love with Northumberland because this is a beautiful part of the English coast. Mind you it might have something to do with seeing it bathed in glorious sunshine under an azure sky, whereas the previous areas I have been through have not had that advantage on the whole.
I can imagine that on a winter’s day with the rain sheeting out of a grey overcast and the wind slapping against your head like a loose sail cloth, the Northumberland coast would look pretty bleak. But bleak, as I mentioned in earlier posts, can have its own aesthetic. On the other hand, so can a corpse-strewn battlefield.
There is no getting away though from the fact that the far North East is a very fine part of England, an undiscovered jewel that is steeped in history, mantled with a raw beauty and blessed with a sense of being at peace with itself that I have not encountered elsewhere.
Mind you, as in all love affairs, true love must inevitably survive the test inherent in the inevitable discovery of character flaws. The character flaw that put my heart to the test in this case was the A1 that I joined near Belford and then walked along for twelve ruddy miles in the hot sun as far as Scemerston.
Imagine a two-lane highway that stretches into the far distance, with no pavement, obliging you to wade mile after mile through the long grass and uneven ground of the flanking verge. Imagine not so much as a burger van on it or indeed anything of interest unless you find dead hedgehogs fascinating, the traffic howling by at about 300 miles an hour and the interesting views to either side of the road (such as the holy island of Lindisfarne just off the coast) cut off by tall hedges and the need to keep your eye on incoming juggernauts. Imagine trudging along it for twelve miles with your new boots making your feet sore as hell, dehydrating because your water ran out and hungry because you haven’t seen anywhere to buy food since Bamburgh. If you can I imagine all that, you have my afternoon and early evening.
I did realise though why people on that stretch of the A1 drive so fast: the road has no toilets and nowhere to buy food so they are trying to reach the end of it as soon as possible so they can eat or take a pee.
Then just to make life really interesting the mercilessly beating sunshine gave way to gathering storm clouds and threatening flurries of rain as the afternoon wound down into evening.
On this adventure I have had small tasters of what it feels like to be pounded by the elements, alone, tired, thirsty and hungry and on occasion not knowing where I am going to lay my head at night. Nothing life-threatening of course and always ameliorated by the knowledge I can escape this small self-inflicted purgatory any time I want by taking a bus back to home comforts. Yet it has been just enough to remind me that we live in a brutal universe from which we are shielded by the civilisation we have created by our own team effort and which if we are smart we will go on working shoulder to shoulder to create. Our civilisation, imperfect though it may be, is one hell of an achievement, bought about in the teeth of incredible adversity and of which we should be proud. Through it we have enabled ourselves and those who come after us to have succour, comfort and even some fun. It is worth saving.
And talking of the many delightful features of our civilisation, a case in point is the Old School guest house in Scremerston. Owned by Carole and Alan these gorgeous premises are tastefully converted from the old stone-built village school to make a beautiful home and guest house that harmoniously combines modern and bygone elements in a delightful rural setting not far from the sea.
I’m very grateful to Alan and Carole for their generous support and for giving me shelter and a great breakfast in their delightful home. It is very, very much appreciated. I will put a link to the Old School B and B in Scremerston in a following post.
So day 62 takes me up to 955 miles and closer to the magic 1000 mile mark. On Day 63 I will go through Berwick on Tweed and across the border into Scotland.
See you on the road!