Holy Island Walk


Holy Island

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

A perfect walk around Lindisfarne
This surely has to be one of the best walks in the country. A round of Holy Island. Check the tide tables before you go because you have to navigate a causeway that gets flooded at high tide. Otherwise its a beautiful drive across the sands to the island.
This walk is only about three miles distance but takes much longer than normal to walk because there are so many distractions on the way. You can extend the walk easily be taking diversions among the dunes.
Arriving on the Island across a causeway is an exciting start and you park in one of the large car parks and make your way through the town to the harbour. We did this walk in the afternoon and so we picked up some crab sandwiches from one of the cottages and some local prawns from a fish monger. Make sure you go for the local ones – they are smaller than the more attractive tiger prawns but who wants to eat something flown in from miles away when the smaller ones are the tastiest and haven’t travelled as far.
The harbour is the best place to sit down in the grass and contemplate the view. There are boats on the mudflats, the view of Lindisfarne on its rock in the distance and the overturned boats turned into huts, once used for the herring industry. They make stunning photos.
When you are have feasted, make your way to the left of Lindisfarne and follow the track which was once used to market limestone to the kilns.
Opposite Lindisfarne there are the walled gardens. Then a few hundred yards you reach the shoreline where it is worth scanning the horizon for birds and maybe some beach combing. Turn left and follow the coastline along and you reach the lough which is a fresh water pool supposedly dug by the monks to supply fish to the abbey. There is a hide and it is worth spending some time looking out over the reeds. We saw Little Grebes amongst the reeds.
From here the path heads behind the dunes and you can extend your walk by crossing the dunes to the shoreline. Be careful here, there are peri-peri burs from New Zealand growing. You should check your clothes so that you don’t spread the burs outside the region.
From the dunes, the path goes inland back to the carpark.
This is perhaps one of the finest and most interesting short walks in the country. The afternoon would have perfect if there had been somewhere open for tea but typically, come 5.00pm, all the tea shops shut even though it was a lovely afternoon. Bring a thermos!

Seahouses, Northumberland


Seahouses

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

A Review
A mixture of old harbour with new tourists. On the one side, fishing boats, lobster traps and ropes. On the other hand fish and chips, bucket and spades and the worst of British tourism. Our cottage for the week is on the older side of the town so it is a short walk down to the harbour where the eider duck waddle ashore and stand around preening themselves.
In the old harbour huddle the fishing and tourist boats protected from the rough seas outside where the waves break over the rocks in dramatic fashion. Seagulls make themselves busy picking up the remains of the fish and chips that get left around. Herring gulls are the most boisterous, fighting each other for every morsel. The black headed gulls are smaller and behave like first formers around the school bullies. They delicately nip around picking up pieces that the big boys have missed. Meanwhile small crowds of starlings and house sparrows busy themselves around collecting nesting material.
Look out over the harbour wall towards the Farne islands. The light from the lighthouse breaks through the mist. In front of the harbour wall are the rocks known as the Tumblers. A low plateau of rocks which makes up the whinstone – igneous rock, resistant to erosion.

The harbour was built in 1889 to cater not just for the fishing trade. The lime kilns were also built here right by the harbour and are now used by the lifeboat people for storage. The lime industry was important because as farming intensified from the 18th century, lime was more in demand as it increased the fertility of the soil.

Although there are plenty of places to eat to cater for all tastes and pockets we liked the atmospheric pub; The Olde Ship Inn. One of the smallest bars in England full of fishing memorabilia. There was another bar where you could eat and a separate dining room. It was bar food but good. I had mussels as a starter and a game pie with tasty potatoes and vegetables. It was wholesome and fresh. Washed down with a pint of Lindisfarne ale. The room is a little on the small side so you can hear everyone’s conversation but hey…

There are some splendid shops and services. The community centre has internet access for a small charge and the Bakers is a delight. Trotters sells some delicious cheese scones and quiches that are just the thing for a rough boat ride across to the The Farnes.

Seahouses is where the boats to the Farne Islands go from so if you are planning a trip out there it is handy to stay in the port. We had to wait all week for a trip because the sea was too rough. It was worth it to see the puffins and other seabirds.

The Farne Islands


Puffin

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Finally managed to get to The Farnes. The Farne Islands are a small group of Islands off the coast of Northumberland. They are the summer breeding grounds of many seabirds.

The weather was wet and cloudy this morning but the sea was calm and it was our last day so we had to go. We caught the boar from Seahouses. The boat chugged out to Staple island where we nosed up into a cove surrounded by guillemots sitting on rock painted paint with their droppings. Along with 60 other people from our boat we stepped nervously off the boat onto the shore and slipped and slid our way up the path. It was only a small island and there were only certain areas that we were allowed on.
Along the paths, female eider ducks sat disconcertingly around on their eggs ignoring everyone who went past. The guillemots sat in huddled crowds on the edge of the cliffs. Every now and then you can spot a razorbill. They stand around with the guillemots trying to blend in but their beaks are slightly different and they are easy to see once you get your eye in.
Then there are puffins. They come ashore to breed and lay their eggs in burrows like rabbits. They fly busily around sorting out nests and generally being busy bodies. I tried photographing them in flight but they are very fast. The only way is to latch on to them as they appear over the horizon and follow their movement. You feel like a gunner shooting enemy aircraft (Not). In the end I found it easier to watch them stand on a bank and wait until they took to flight. They seem to throw themselves off the grass with arms and flippers outstretched before taking to the air.
Back to the boats and we cruised around to the Inner Farnes. A slightly larger island completely taken over by Arctic Terns who nest everywhere. They even nest by the path and in one case – on the path. They get pretty angry at all the tourists coming ashore and scream and shout at them. They even try to attack your head. There are good views down some cliff stacks with kittiwakes and more guillemots. There were loads of puffins and a group of Sandwich terns – black beaks. The Arctic terns have red beaks and there are some Common Terns although the Arctics are more common on The Farnes. We managed to spot one Roseate Tern on the beach.
It’s a great place to experience sea birds in the raw. Half term week is not the best week to go as it’s so busy and it was difficult to get that lost in the wilds feeling with hundreds of tourists stamping over you, making inane comments and using their mobile phones.

Wild places

I am reading ‘Wild Places’ by Robert Macfarlane. It is a magical book as he takes us on a journey around the mountain, moors and woods. I have been comparing it to some of the wild places that the Ravenous Rambler likes to go. I am currently up on the Northumbland coast waiting for the storms to die down so that it will be possible to go the Farne Islands to see puffins and other sea birds. Not sure that it is really going to rank as a wild place as the only way of going there is in the company of hundreds of other tourists but maybe there will be some sancturary. We will see. Meanwhile you can buy a copy at the Ymzala Book Shop