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It was very cold, dark and misty on Tamworth Station as I awaited the 0612 train that would take me directly to Alnmouth, a journey of almost 4 hours. Mercifully, the train was on time and I, with a few other cold mortals embarked and we set off towards the North. It was destined to be a fine day and, within half an hour, the skies began to lighten and the mist slowly lifted over the meadows as the cattle began their daily task of keeping the grass short. Very soon after, the Sun rose and the remainder of the journey was uneventful before I arrive on time at Alnmouth at 1000.
The original plan was to take the bus to Amble since I had walked this first part of the journey in 2008, but there was a long wait for the bus and it was a shame to miss travelling outdoors on such a pleasant day. I therefore assembled the bike and set out along the cycle path which followed the A1068. The cycle / footpath was well separated from the vehicles by a hedge and the route afforded excellent views over the picturesque town of Alnmouth and, the sand dunes which stretched between Alnmouth and Warkworth (1040 - 3 Miles) with its castle and ancient stone bridge.
A short climb up the unspoilt Bridge Street and Castle Street soon brought me alongside the River Coquet which splashed over a weir on its way to Amble and the Sea (1055 - 6 Miles). The harbour at Amble provided the most attractive setting for a car boot sale I have ever seen. The locals appeared to be buying avidly but, to my eyes, the goods on sale were little better than trash!
On my way out of Amble, I passed an oddity in the form of an isolated spire in the grounds of Amble Cemetary East. In 1878, the spire linked two chapels which were described as "amongst the best specimens of architecture in the town". As if to forestall any centenary celebrations, the chapels were demolished in 1971, leaving the lonely spire.
Onward along a minor road and past dunes with a view towards Coquet Island and its lighthouse to Lower Hauxley which was once a fishing village. The cottages are grouped together in square formation and once would have presented a pleasing, integrated aspect. Unfortunately, the fishermen have left and they have become holiday properties which have been "improved" with no consideration for their position or history.
The track continued with the sea on my left and lakes, the results of opencast workings, on my right. The countryside on this part of the ride has been beautifully restored to such a degree that it is virtually impossible to imagine the industrial activity that must have scarred the landscape in times past. Quite a large number of people were in this area, taking advantage of a sunny autumn weekend.
Hadston Carrs (1125 - 9 Miles) was little more than a shelf of rocks in the sea. The route continued close to the sea, alternating between dirt track and metalled road. The way was punctuated by the occasional farm building, ruin and, of course man made lakes until Drurudge (1210 - 12.5 Miles) again, a farm and a few buildings.
Cresswell (1230 - 14.5 Miles) was an unpretentious place, a real community with its own school and shop. I enjoyed a sandwich while overlooking Druridge Bay from the low cliffs. A number of families were our enjoying themselves.
Newbiggin beckoned and I skirted the smelter, hidden by trees and reached the seafront ay Newbiggin-by-the-Sea (1330 - 19.5 Miles). I finished off my sandwiches and took a little ride around the once attractive, now delapidated town. Newbiggin occupies a small bay and features a church with spire that guards the town from seaborne invasion. A more recent feature is the statue of a boy and girl who stand on a platform in the bay. They are watched by identical, but smaller figured from the promenade. In my opinion, this represents one of the best attempts at modern sculpture.
The Arriva bus eventually emerged up the road and whisked me off to Morpeth, an old town clumsily modernised. A meal and a pint at Wetherspoons put me into the right humour for the ride to the station and the train journey back to Tamworth.
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