(24th March 2014 – 12 miles + 1 mile off route)
Studying the map, and between mouthfuls of a ‘Four In A Bed‘ winning breakfast, we discussed the day’s walk. Neither Jim, Tracy nor I fancied going back down the road into Bamburgh and plumped instead on cutting across country on a lane through sheep fields (sheep, sheep always sheep). This short-cut sliced a mile or two off the official path, including the only stretch of coast on today’s route but heck, paths are of our own choosing. Right?
Politely backing away from Glororum’s friendly, chatty hostess (who probably carried on talking long after we disappeared over the horizon), and with Bamburgh Castle now on our right, we headed off northwards under another clear sky.
A few hundred yards later, the SOW from Bamburgh met and crossed the lane and, turning west, we were back on track and heading away from the sea.
The route veers away from the coastline to avoid the bulge of Budle Bay and heads towards the town of Belford, before swinging back for a reunion at the Lindisfarne causeway.
This big loop led us over rolling farmland, past baby cows
and through small woods.
I missed walking on golden sand by the brine but this was nice birdsong-walking – if lightweight compared to the fells and mountains Jim, Tracy and I normally tackle on our group walking holidays.
In the spring of 2014, I wore black, the lambs wore red.
In the small town of Belford, we stopped in another sunny pub garden for another morning coffee, pressed our noses against The Wooden Toy Shop window, wished we were 6 years old again, grabbed sandwiches from the Co-op and trooped out again within the hour.
Today was pleasant if unchallenging: an easy route to follow,
through a pretty, gentle landscape … but with no real sense of adventure. Occasionally – and only occasionally – I miss a howling gale or a blizzard; a high peak or even horizontal rain just to, you know, jazz up my life a bit. But then there’s no pleasing some people: I might moan when the way ahead is lost under snow, visibility non-existent or a mountain blocks the way; moan when I’m blessed with a perfectly charming spring morning, on a simple byway. Tsk. But, to avoid a too close encounter with a 100 mph train, we had to phone the signal box for permission to cross the East Coast railway, so that was a bit exciting. Kind of.
At midday, near Swinhoe Farm, we sank on the path’s verge for those sandwiches and water glugging
and shortly afterwards (with the aid of my 300mm zoom lens) looked down at Lindisfarne. The end is nigh.
A long-distance footpath I had considered adding to this year’s walk now joined us from the west. The St Cuthbert’s Way, on a 62 mile amble from Melrose to Lindisfarne, merged with our path for the final flourish. I had, briefly, considered including Cuthbert on this holiday; latching him on to the SOW, Hadrian’s Wall Path and Cumbria Way to create an almost 300 mile traipse. Sadly, self-employment = zilch holiday pay = couldn’t afford an extra week off work. Cuthbert must wait.
Because we were walking a giant half circle, and even after several hours, Bamburgh still wasn’t very distant. (Though we had missed the coast today, I was relieved to see that we had also missed walking through a caravan park. Phew, a close call).
We turned due north once more,
through red squirrel-less woodland and back towards the North Sea.
At about 3.30 pm, following a small country road (with a too close encounter with a dog for Tracy – she’s not keen) we arrived in our destination, Fenwick.
But once again we had an extra mile before loosing our boots and dumping our sacks. On virtually every day of every distance footpath, I face an extra mile at day’s end. It might be law.
Our 20-minute stomp out of Fenwick along a farm road followed the SOW for a little before the ‘Way struck off to the left for a final sprint to Holy Island.
We however stuck to the road, recrossed the main railway (by bridge this time) and headed for ‘home’.
And what a home from home it was. Tracy had chosen another excellent B&B, Fenham Farm. She was accomplished at arranging our sleepovers and, after a whispered discussion, Jim and I agreed we might invite her to come walking with us again.
Our room in a converted outbuilding was large, comfortable and welcoming. Breath out.
Later, our host, Waltie, offered to drive us the couple of miles to The Lindisfarne Inn, West Mains for our nightly celebrations, face-stuffing and pop … and pick us up again afterwards. It was a good pub, with good enough food but I was finding that the appeal of any pub food was paling – after two solid weeks.
Tomorrow, our last day and the shortest of my trek, we would leave the St Oswald’s Way behind to continue along the Northumberland Coast Path to Berwick-upon-Tweed and an unexpected party.
But, as ever, the finish of a path filled me far more with a sense of regret than one of elation.