(21st March 2014 – 18 miles)
I had a spring in my step as I left ‘The Queen’s Head,’ paused for a little window-shopping, picked up some lunch and crossed the bridge over the River Coquet.
On a warm, sunny morning, I had the fine prospect of several hours riverside walking. And at day’s end, I would see my partner and two friends. Phew. After twelve days away from home, I was looking forward to familiar, friendly faces. As much as I enjoy my own company, I was beginning to bore myself. But I would need to urgently practise my talking-to-anyone-else-but-myself skills. (Apparently, listening, not interrupting and appearing interested are quite important).
Soon after leaving Rothbury, the path joined the line of the old Northumberland Central Railway.
Passenger services on this spur-line were withdrawn in 1952 after a train derailed and crashed down an embankment killing a guard and three passengers. Which is something I felt I should share with you … if a bit unsure as to why. The line closed for good in 1963.
As the old track hooked away to the south, I left it behind and struck out eastwards along the river valley to the sea.
I had passed sad, derelict houses the day before amongst the gloomy trees of Harwood Forest.
This was the first of several I passed today but these sat in pretty, open countryside, not dank forestry plantation.
Curiously the last inhabitants left without their piano. Perhaps they were in a hurry or perhaps the piano was simply broken. Or perhaps they couldn’t bear their child’s interminable “Chopsticks.” Perhaps they left the child behind too.
I walked away, swivelling my head back and wondering once more why a house like this, especially in such a beautiful location and near to Rothbury, couldn’t be used.
I marched on through West Raw Farm
and immediately passed another abandoned cottage.
I suppose that mechanisation, the amalgamation of small farms and the resultant drop in the need for manpower have made these workers’ cottages redundant. But you’d think they would be viable – and valuable – if only as holiday lets.
The path dropped me down to the Coquet at the pretty bridge at Pauperhaugh – built in 1862.
The builders added two ‘dry’ arches to relieve flood pressure on the structure. Clever builders.
Another forlorn, stone cottage but I’ll shut up about them now
and soon I arrived above Brinkburn Priory. I wanted to explore this English Heritage site but there is no access from the south side, my side, of the river. I satisfied myself with a glimpse of the C12th church through the trees.
I crossed fields and woodland, farms and small country lanes but always with the Coquet chuckling nearby.
I recrossed the river at Weldon Bridge – built 60 years before Pauperhaugh. Here, large circular holes above the arches release excess flood water. The bridge must be an amazing sight when the river is in full, tumultuous spate and water roars through those arches and ‘windows’. And more importantly? Beyond the bridge? Why, a pub! And as it was 12.10pm – why, beer o’clock! I sat outside The Angler’s Arms, unloosed my boots, sipped a pint of lager, closed my eyes and relished being alive.
Back on the river, I ran after a pair of goosanders – who weren’t nearly as excited to see me as I was to see them. I managed a couple of quick shots before they left me far, far behind. Goosanders first bred in Scotland in 1871 and only spread into northern England after 1970. (That’s your interesting – and only – goosander fact of the day).
According to my guidebook red squirrels, kingfishers and otters can all be seen along this stretch of river. According to my guidebook.
The day’s walk was pretty, gently changing and fairly easy. But the path regularly climbed and fell, and it was still a long 18 miles.
By the time I reached the village of Felton at 2.30, I was weary.
The church of St Michael and All Angels dates from 1199 but with my feet throbbing, and with 6 or 7 miles still ahead of me, I didn’t linger. Besides, the more tired I become, the more my interest in ‘things’ slides away. I’m quite shallow like that.
I crossed a fourth handsome bridge – this one C15th and sagely only open now to foot traffic.
Beyond Felton, the miles felt endless, the sun hot, my provisions non-existent, my water low.
And even the slightest climb struck me as a personal and unnecessary affront.
(Got to like coltsfoot).
When I saw the remarkable 1960’s Morwick Water Tower on the outskirts of Warkworth my day’s trek was almost over. At 5pm and 8 hours since I had left Rothbury, I arrived at the very-good-indeed Westrigg B&B where my partner Jim, friend Tracy, a very welcome pot of tea and a slab of cake were waiting for me. The former two would accompany me on the rest of the path to Berwick. The latter two didn’t hang around.
In the evening, we strolled down into Warkworth to meet local lass, and old friend, Jonquil at The Hermitage Inn: she would join us for the following day’s walk to Embleton.
After eleven days of solo walking, it was good to be amongst friends, chatting (when I could get a word in edgeways) and relishing an end to the sometimes loneliness of the long-distance walker.
18 thoughts on “St Oswald’s Way: Day 3 – Rothbury to Warkworth”
Thanks for this helpful post which we used to inform our walk on this section at the weekend. The forest has changed due to destructive logging, and storm damage has led to a signed diversion for now in the forest.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi Christopher, I’m pleased this was helpful – though it is a pretty old post now. I have very fond memories of walking that beautiful countryside. Best, David
What a delightful perambulation. Eighteen miles…I feel exhausted just contemplating it! Those houses are quite fascinating..as you note, one would imagine they would be occupied, at least for holidays. Love the churches, bridges, the lovely pathways… Very inspiring…Thanks for sharing – always enjoy your observations…
Thank you Jo. It was a fine day’s walk on a great path. I’m just sorry its taking so long to finish writing up. But almost there now! I’ve even got another day’s walk ready to publish. Just call me speedy. Dave
LikeLiked by 1 person
It looks stunningly beautiful, and your account was an absolute delight to read…apart from the jealousy : / Looking forward to your next missivie…The nice thing about this sort of writing, I imagine, is that the scenery isn’t changing particularly quickly, so one has the luxury of some time…Also, I think you really brightened up several people’s dreary November day with your incredible vistas, and flaneur observations. So, the timing seems quite good : )
Ah, yes. Well of course brightening up November days was always part of my grand plan (cough). I’m trying to think of a way to get new walks out much quicker but short of giving up the day job and spending even more time in front of my laptop, I’m struggling. An occasional walking blog is what this is! D
LikeLiked by 1 person
Just the clammering public here….always want more. Congrats again on your award. Most people struggle to write one blog, in addition to their day job, and you manage to do two. Sigh.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Miserable goosanders. Lovely bridges though. But what we really want to know, is have you bought one of these derelict cottages? You’ve told us you have bought and sold but kept us in suspense about what and where.
Ha! Wouldn’t that be something? A derelict cottage and a piano in the middle of nowhere – worthy of a whole new blog, I suspect. And oh goody, I’ve managed some unintentional suspense. As I say to Charles below, you too can live in one of the cottages, Janna. Come on now – no excuses (like living on the other side of the world for instance). D
Living in Florida and not knowing anything at all about the English countryside it is always a pleasure to read about it while you are doing all the walking. Your photographs are excellent as usual. I especially liked all the old stone, abandoned buildings.
Good idea of yours to have them restored and rented out as vacation homes.
Hi Meta, I can’t imagine a starker contrast than between Northumberland and Florida! I’m very happy to do all the walking if you’re kind enough to read my very occasional posts. Dave
18 several miles too far for me so it was a pleasure to follow in your footsteps and seeing things through your lens – narrative very interesting too.
Hi Laura, 18 miles is towards the top end of my daily limit (at least for now!). I’m pleased you like the post (and are so patient). Dave
March 2014! I’m surprised that you can remember anything at all. But I noted that you ommitted those important details, such as what you picked up for lunch or what kind of cake you had at the end. Wonderful bridges. And all those houses. I always find them very disturbing,giving me fantasies of buying them for a song and having a holiday home. I could have had a property empire if I had bought them all.
Good to hear from you.
*hangsheadinshame* It could be worse, Charles. Couldn’t it? OK, perhaps not. And I like to tease you with hanging details (but for your ease of mind it was 2 not very nice Co-op sandwiches and a Victoria sponge in the afternoon). And yes, aren’t the dilapidated cottages tempting … and lovely. But as you ask, here’s one you can have. The house which featured in the previous post is on Rightmove to let. Here it is: http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-to-rent/property-53170445.html. (Click on the letting particulars for some particularly cosy interiors). Should keep you busy. D
Nice post and lovely pictures. Do read and follow these blogs to go on a roller coaster ride of fun and more; http://www.enchantedforests.wordpress.com and http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com
Thanks Mukul (and nicely plugged blogs!). Dave
Thank you too