Spring in England April/May 2002
In April 03, we made a two-week trip to the north of England. The primary purpose of the visit was to help Mabel, Norma's mother complete her move from her house on Cockersand Drive to the Abbeyfield home, Chirnside House.
Each day, between moving and visiting sessions, we were able to enjoy some walking in the countryside near Lancaster. And, in the second week, we were able to make a short visit to the Northumberland coast. Here, you can see some of the nice places we went to during this holiday. We flew with Lufthansa to Manchester on 16 April. Almost impossible to believe was the temperature - in the high 20s (Centigrade) in mid-April. Everything, everything was in bloom: the daffodils and tulips were still flowering, and at the same time every tree, bush and weed was in full bloom. Naturally, we were not dressed for summer.
Our first morning was free, so we chose a nearby walk from the book "Pub Walks in Lancashire". A great book for the casual visitor - it describes walks starting and ending at a pub. For each walk, there is some historical discussion, a description of the pub and its menu, a map and detailed walking instructions. Our edition was a few years old and sometimes out-of-date. Often the management of the pub and therefore its menu had changed. Usually, the description of the paths was accurate and useful - though many of the paths are not much used. We chose #5 - Cockerham: The Manor Inn - just 5 miles south of Lancaster.
We drove down to the A588, then south to Conder Green, then Thurnam to Cockerham, and parked across from the "Manor Inn" to start the walk. The day was very warm.
We started on the branch to St. Michael's church - an impressive stone church on a local hill. The vicar arrived on his bicycle just as we were trying the church door and let us in, though he was only staying a few minutes. He told us he had recently moved here from a parish in Wales. The church is nice inside, simple with clean lines (not overloaded with ornamentation), built of local stone with small windows. The next part of the walk started well, though following the route was a bit tricky on barely used tracks around farmers fields. Due to the unusual weather, the usual mud near gates was completely dry. However, the footbridge over the "river" (ditch) Cocker doesn't seem to exist any more, or we couldn't find it, and we ended up chasing through a maze of fields all fenced with wire and barbed wire, with only one entry/exit each. Eventually we got back onto a footpath near Cock Hall farm and returned to Cockerham via Batty Hill farm. We were short of time now, so did not get onto the Lancaster canal and the Glasson Dock branch, which should have been the nicest part of the walk. For lunch we had beer and shared garlic mushrooms at the "Manor Inn", and then went straight to Chirnside House and took Mabel back to Cockersand Drive, to sort through her belongings.
On Good Friday, 18 April, we did moving duty in the morning and got off later to tackle "Pub Walks in Lancashire", #4 - Hornby: The Castle Hotel, a very pleasant walk indeed. Hornby is small town about 1/2 hour drive north of Lancaster. We parked in the back of the Castle Hotel. The walk led us past the castle, through the village and then away from the castle and up the river Wenning to the picturesque old village of Wray. We had good views of the thrirteenth century Hornby castle and its 19C extensions for most of the walk. The route description was detailed and accurate on this walk, though we were a bit mixed up on our apprroach to Wray. It is surprising how much styles and field gates slow down the walking pace - we took almost two hours to cover the supposed 3 miles (but we were also enjoying the scenery).
Wray is a pretty old village that prides itself on its appearance. We walked up the cobbled Main Street, looking at renovated stone houses from 1694, 1704, etc. In the Fall, Wray hosts a popular scarecrow competition in the streets. From here, it was back to Hornby through cart tracks and then small streets. We found a pleasant park beside the river Wenning to eat our sandwiches.
The next day, we tackled "Pub Walks in Lancashire", #22 - Hurst Green: The Shireburn Arms Hotel. It was a slow start as we got lost collecting our friends, Margaret and Tom and David, from Blackpool. Kathleen stayed behind to look after her mother. Finding the way to Hurst Green ( a village hidden in the middle of nowhere) was also problematical, and so it came to be 1:30 before we started the walk. The weather was still sunny, but extremely windy. The route started down the hill to the river Ribble. Again the instructions were very detailed and needed to be! We sheltered, by an aqueduct, to eat our sandwiches. Then continued up river and then on paths leading to Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit foundation from 1794 though some buildings are earlier. This picture is taken from Stonyhurst College looking down to the river and across to the hills of Pendle.
Looking up across the countryside towards Hurst Green.
Proceeding uphill towards Hurst Green, four of the fields were protected by "kissing gates". Near these is this photo of Tom, Margaret and Norma. Back at the hotel at 15:40 for refreshment and a look at interesting newspaper cuttings there on display: One about J.R.R. Tolkien basing the geography of the Shire on the area around Hurst Green (one or more of his sons were educated at the college). There is now a "Tolkien Trail" here. The second about Arthur Conan-Doyle being at the college together with two brothers whose names included "Sherlock" and "Moriarty".
While growing up in Lancaster, Norma had often walked along the not quite disused railway track between Glasson Dock and Lancaster - along the river Lune. Now that it is really disused, it has been converted into a public bike path/ walkway. Easter Sunday, we got a chance to spend a couple of hours exploring theLancashire Coastal Path. And very nicely done it is, and extremely popular. We started at the Stork and headed for Lancaster, but turned back after the golf course as we felt drops of rain. Sorry, no photos.
Tuesday, 22 April, we took off for a quick break in Northumberland. We travelled north towards Carlisle and then across country on the A69, which follows the old Roman road parallel to Hadrians wall. Then we would go north up the east coast from Newcastle to Amble, across the river from Warkworth. We would stay in Amble and explore the coast to the north, including Lindisfarne (Holy Island), Seahouses and Crasper.
We have to go back to explore some of the inland hilly areas, such as near Wooler.
The day started cloudy, then brightened a little. Our first objective was the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran (near Greenhead & Haltwhistle) , which we reached at 1pm. The site is at one of the former camps on the 80 mile long Roman wall, built by order of Emperor Hadrian in AD 122 as the northern limit of the Roman Empire. We enjoyed the visit here: the exhibits were interesting, and more so their ideas about livening up historical presentations. They had short movies with actors dressed up as Roman officers welcoming their recruits, and demonstrating the lives of Roman soldiers. Also good presentations on the decay of the Hadrian fortresses and the villages that grew up around them, and a great "Eagles eye" film view of the wall. As in other times that I have visited places on Hadrian's Wall, the place was bleak and it is no wonder that the Romans wanted to go no further. We ate our lunch quickly at a picnic table outside and cold. We started out to walk to one of the high points of the wall shown here (Walltown Crags), but decided not to go to the top. Rather, we wanted to get to our B&B before it was too late.
We continued to Newcastle, where we had a lot of trouble with the signposting and lost a lot of time. We gave up the idea of stopping in Whitley Bay, but went straight up the coast road to Amble(-by-Sea) ariving at 5:30 in brilliant sunshine. Our Bed and Breakfast for the next three nights was the Hollies. Seemingly a moderately sized modern bungalow on a neat estate, it had room inside for four rented rooms - two of them with en suite - as well as for the owners. We were warmly greeted by the owner Brian. Not only did we have our bedroom and private bathroom (though we had to cross the hall to get to it), but we had the use of a very nicely furnished living room. And breakfasts were very inclusive. Good value at Â£39/day (for two). Brian was justly proud of his beautiful garden.
We ate a reasonable meal in the pub (Marina Arms) around the corner. Here, we met a very interesting couple from Alnmouth (on the coast below Alnwick) - the Harry Potter movies were, in part, filmed in Alnwick Castle and used many local children. This couple were employed by Time Warner to teach the school children during the filming. (ChildrensÂ´ education must continue whatever.) They talked about classes attended by Harry Potter and his doubles, fully dressed in case they would be called for filming. They also travelled down to Oxford with the children when scenes were to be filmed there.
We took a walk around the marina, harbour and town before retiring for the night.
The next day of our holiday, we drove up to Lindisfarne. The route is littered with historic castles. First, the road goes around Warkworth castle, which was surrounded by an amazing display of daffodils. Then around Alnwick, and further up the coast, Bamburgh.
Spring was not as advanced here as in the west. Trees were just ccoming into blossom. Everywhere the daffodils were amazing - huge clusters even on rubbish dumps.
Lindisfarne is an island, also known as the Holy Island. The causeway is open (drivable) according to the tide. We were lucky that the tide was favourable most of the day. The island is famous for Lindisfarne Priory, one of the most important early centres of Christianity in England. It was founded in 635 and was home to a small number of monks. We (and everybody else) parked in a large parking lot at the end of the causeway and walked through the thriving village to the Priory. Lindisfarne Castle can be seen here through the ruins of the Priory.
After walking through the ancient priory, we continued on and up the Heugh, the highest point on the island with views in all directions. Here is a view looking south to the coast of Northumberland. The area is known for shipwrecks: this shows some navigation towers, but we could not figure out how they worked.
And another view from the Heugh, showing the Priory and the village behind.
Then down to the harbour, and another view of Lindisfarne castle. It was a warm cloudless day - we walked back into the village and ate lunch outside in a beer garden at the back of the Ship Inn. Imagine sitting in a beer garden in April in the far north of England! and we were deliberately sitting in the shade.
Much of the Northumberland coast is lined with sand dunes. So is part of the causeway. We stopped to explore this section - not high but very wide - it was quite some distance to the sandy beach on the other side. Then we had to rush back to Seahouses where we had booked an evening cruise round the Farne Islands.
Seahouses is one of the larger towns on the coast. There were many tourists around. The town is well organised with parking areas to accommodate them. Several operators offer cruises around the Farne Islands and their many bird colonies. The islands are well-known for several large species of seabirds eg. shags, and especially for the abundance of puffins. We arrived back at 4pm for the 4:30 cruise with Billy Shields. His day was running a bit late so we had some time to walk around the Seahouses harbour and the lower part of town.
Once piled into the boat, Billy Shields drove us straight out to Longstone Island. Here we embarked to walk around the island and visit the lighthouse. There was a long story about the history of the lighthouse and an incident of shipwreck that made it famous. The island was in two parts - the other one almost inaccessible and "full" of seabirds.
Eider duck from postcard
We looked patiently for seals, but saw none.
Back in the boat there was a large group of eider ducks swimming into our harbour. Unfortunately, by the time I got the camera out they were swimming away again!
We cruised slowly around many islands with seabird colonies - cormorants, guillemots and shags.
We also saw seals.
After finally, we came to the area of the puffins. The sea was dense with them, and they were pretty amusing to watch.
Postcard puffin up close.
Thursday, 24 April - the last full day of our break - Norma decided that the toothache, which had been getting worse for some days, could not wait until we were back in Munich next week. Our hosts worked hard to find a local dentist who would help, and found one in Alnwick with a cancellation. We had to get there immediately - we tried but there was road construction etc. Dr Williams did a little tapping and stuff and then pronounced that "something was probably going on around the root". This was confirmed by X Ray. Norma left with a prescription for penicillin to calm it down for a few days (it worked and the problem was solved 6 weeks later in Munich, with a nasty operation called root resection).
So, on with the day - the tooth only really hurt when eating - to visit Alnwick Castle. There was plenty to see in the grounds, so (mean as usual) we just walked around outside. Are they out of there minds to ask 7 pounds each to go inside?
In various places around the castle they had cardboard mockups of Harry Potter & co.
In the afternoon, we drover to Caster on the coast for a walk along the cliffs - pretty low cliffs, but very interesting rock formations - and a good dose of fresh sea air.
The only picture we took of daffodils, on some waste ground beside the path back to our parking place.
The next day was time to drive back to Lancaster. The weather broke and it was a miserable day. Norma's Aunt and Uncle used to live at Whitley Bay, on the coast a bit north of Newcastle. A favourite outing was to walk out to St Mary's Island, which contains a few houses and a lighthouse. We parked the car at Hartley (north of the island) and could hardly see the island through the fog/mist/cloud, walked along the path and arrived to see the island vaguely through the mist and cut off by the sea.
Whitley Bay, once a fashionable resort and dormitory town, was looking very dilapidated.
Back in Lancaster, it was back to work - shopping, moving, fixing things for Mabel.
And a finally back to Munich, where Spring had just arrived.