21. Jun, 2021

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MONDAY 21-06-21

Druids would have had a cloudy start to the day today, especially up here. Never mind, although we heard a bit of pitter-patter on the roof before getting up there was no sign of it when we left to go to Amble.

The bus service here is a bit confusing as we're surrounded by bus stops but we can't work out which one to wait at. So much so, that having walked down to the 'T' junction down the road, I ended up popping my head in to a nail bar to ask for their help. Not only did I get the information I needed but the lady having her nails done told me she was going to Amble just as soon as she was finished and would run us there if we wished. I thanked her for the very kind offer, and if she saw us still standing at the bus stop when she passed then we'd be very grateful to take her up on it. And so it was, we were still stood there. We all put our masks on and we sat in the back of the car. On the way we got chatting and it turned out that originally she came from Wisbech, which is in the north of our home county of Cambridgeshire. It is indeed a small world.

So a bit about Amble:

Various urns, cists, flint spearheads and other evidence of ancient burials were found near to Amble in the 1880s and 1890s. Some of those remains showed signs of cremation.

The harbour at Amble was the smallest of those that served the coalfields of Northumberland and Durham. It was originally under the control of the Dukes oif Northumberland until, in 1837, a port authority – the Warkworth Harbour Commission – was created to supervise improvements. Following consultations with various engineers, the proposals submitted by John Rennie in 1838 were accepted. These included the construction of breakwaters to the north and the south, which were eventually completed in 1849 at a total cost of £116,000. The larger northern breakwater, which was originally 2,300 feet (700 m) in length, was extended in the early part of the 20th century but suffered from the undermining effects of the tide and required shoring with slag brought in from the ironworks of Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.

The construction of docks had also been mooted in 1844 and 1850 but the arrival of the railway led instead to the construction of coal staithes (landing places). A change in consulting engineer in 1869 resulted in extensive dredging of the harbour but did not greatly improve the prospects of the port. Shipments of coal amounted to over 500,000 tons by 1914 but this was a modest volume when compared to the other regional ports. Robert Rennison notes with regard to the relative lack of prosperity that the port served a "small and discrete coalfield".

Other industries, such as sea fishing and both ship building and repair in an area known as The Braid had expanded with the growth of the town. Traditional Northumbrian fishing vessels such as cobles had previously sheltered in the natural harbour for centuries. One local coble manufacturing business, J. & J. Harrison, founded in 1870, had been the first to introduce engines to the form and was still producing it in 1973, along with more generally utilised craft.

The problem on this trip has been that almost nowhere we've visited has been big enough to keep us occupied for a whole day, usually two or three hours and we're done. Amble was no exception, nice though it was. The village is known for its Coble boats used for fishing and their design being inspired by the boats of Viking invaders. The boat used by Grace Darling and her father during their heroic sea rescue was a coble. These days though, I learned from the chap in the fish shop there aren't many around due to the change in fishing methods and the types of catch. He did point one out to me bobbing about in the harbour, and we came across a couple more in the marina later in the day.

The weather was still cool and overcast with a bit of a breeze, though we were encouraged by one of the weather forecasts suggesting that the sun would come out at about 14:00 and things would then get better.

In most harbours we've been to along this coast we've seen lots of ducks with their ducklings swimming about, and continually diving for food. Today we saw one mum and her little ones drifting in to the harbour between the breakwaters, presumably coming in with the tide. I can only assume they drifted out with it some hours earlier because those little ducklings would never have been strong enough to swim against the tide.

As we're not able to buy food at the pub we're staying at we have to either eat a hot meal out with a lighter meal in the evening, or we buy lunch out and The Chef prepare something in the evening. Since we chanced upon a chippie we decided to have fish & chips - again. It would be quick and easy and we could have something like a tin of soup and some crusty bread this evening.

Armed with a big bag of goodies we made our way back to the harbour area and found ourselves a bench to sit on where we could enjoy our meal whilst people watching.

Once fed we went looking for a couple of coffees and found them in a small cafe down the road. The Chef ordered two latte's and the assistant asked "Would that be to take away?", I asked if we could have a table and sit to drink them. "I'm afraid we have no tables available right now" came the reply "So it will have to be to take away" I replied.

Once we were fed and watered The Chef suggested that as the sun had finally come out as forecast, we should walk to Warkworth Castle and village about a mile up the road. So off we went, me with my backpack containing spare masks, sanitiser, wet wipes, a freshly purchased crusty loaf and waterproofs, whilst above us the sun was burning my already peeling nose.

It was a nice walk in to Warkworth  along the side of the River Coquet. We had a walk around the perimeter of the castle. I said to the Chef there was no need to pay to go inside because a crumbling wall looks the same whichever side you're looking at it.

With the look around Warkworth complete we made our way back to Amble where was relaxed for a bit before catching the bus back. On the journey back we were taken past Northumbria Prison, it is quite a big place and I noticed that on the long straight road from the prison up to the main road they'd built a path. It was good to know that if a prisoner were to escape they could do so without the fear of getting knocked over by a car. That's very thoughtful of the local authority.

I read in the Saturday paper that the film they were making back at the Bronte Parsonage Museum is to be called 'The Railway Children Return' and is to star Jenny Agutter who appeared in the original 1970 film, and Sheridan Smith who we saw in costume just after they'd filmed a scene outside the hall.

Today is my eldest daughter Clare's fiftieth birthday, the big 5-0. My word it makes me feel old. Thinking back to my fiftieth, I was happy, doing a job I loved, supported by the partner I loved, and I wish the same for her.

Tomorrow I shall start a new chapter.