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Sharon Cain
Time for Life Correspondent
4:15 AM 18th September 2021
lifestyle

Coastal And Country Treasures: Northumberland’s Wonderland

Coquet Island: home to 36,000 nesting birds every summer

Photography: Steve Hare
Coquet Island: home to 36,000 nesting birds every summer Photography: Steve Hare
With a rich heritage dating back to the Stone Age and a myriad of magical and mystical legends, Northumberland’s coastal and country treasures are a magnet for lovers of the great outdoors.

Our Time for Life Correspondent, Sharon Cain, shares some of the area’s best kept secrets including glorious golden beaches which, unlike its southern neighbours, remain peaceful havens in the peak holiday season.

Best Kept Secret

Northumberland neighbours: resident herd of deer
Northumberland neighbours: resident herd of deer
Having lived in 20 eclectic homes in England and overseas - including a tree house in the Philippines - I thought I’d become blasé about arriving in pastures new.

Eating my words at breakneck speed following our recent move from Yorkshire, I was bowled over by Northumberland’s raw beauty which continues to enrapture me daily.

The 64 kilometre Heritage coastline - a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - is nothing less than sensational. The starting point is on our doorstep at Druridge Bay - a seven mile seven mile stretch of sand and country teeming with a wealth of wildlife and sea life.

Unlike our southern seaside neighbours which, particularly during school holidays, are bursting at the seams, tranquillity pervades on the raw sand-dune swept beaches - even in the height of summer.

It has been proven time and again that living by the sea is beneficial for our mental and physical well being – helping us to sleep better. Every day the North Sea delivers a different experience, assaulting the senses and leaves me feeling invigorated. Our golden retriever Bracken has developed an insatiable appetite for surfing the waves which can be wildly dramatic on a windy day.

The area is also prone to sea frets - known as coastal fog - which take on a ghostly aura and are common in the Spring and Summer.

It is not unusual to spot pink footed geese, dolphins, kittiwakes and oystercatchers. Sadly, nature’s cruel side is also apparent by the dead seals washed up on the beach. After just 18 days of being weaned, seal pups they are abandoned by their mothers and around 50 per cent of them die within the first year.

Caption 3 Sleepy seal basking on the Farne Islands
Caption 3 Sleepy seal basking on the Farne Islands
Our TV watching has been swapped for real life wildlife viewing where our neighbours include a resident herd of deer, horses, geese, and a pheasant that mercilessly torments Bracken in the knowledge that it is out of reach of the dog’s leash.

Who’s watching who? Geese and horses rub along in harmony
Who’s watching who? Geese and horses rub along in harmony
At bedtime we are lulled to sleep by the hypnotic sound of crashing waves, surf and seabirds. By day we savour the walks on the golden sand where anti-tank blocks and pill boxes built to defend the shores serve as a reminder that the area was earmarked as a potential landing place for a German invasion.

A two mile walk up the beach takes us to the Druridge Bay Country Park - a blanket of meadows and woods restored from an old opencast coal mine - the area boasts a rich mining history.

Located on a beautiful lake, the park offers water sports activities and is also home to smaller nature reserves with resident herd of swans and rare birds.

Britain’s Friendliest Port
Stunning: sunset over Amble
Stunning: sunset over Amble
Having stopped to refuel at the Druridge Bay Country Park café, we can either continue along the coastal path or along the beach for a further three miles to the historic harbour of Amble.

A gorgeous gateway to the Northumberland coast situated on the estuary of the River Coquet, Amble is renowned for being Britain’s friendliest port.
The accolade dates back to July 6 1935, when RMS Mauretania sailed past Amble as she headed for the docks at Rosyth to be broken up.

The Amble Urban Council sent the ship’s captain a telegram saying “Amble to Mauretania. Greetings from Amble, last port in England, to still the finest ship on the seas” to which the captain responded “Mauretania to Urban Council, Amble, to the last and kindliest port in England, greetings and thanks. Mauretania.” As the story was endlessly relayed over the decades ‘kindliest’ became ‘friendliest.’

Medieval Magic
Medieval monument: Warkworth Castle
Medieval monument: Warkworth Castle
Amble is perfect pit stop for scrumptious seafood and stunning views up the Coquet Estuary to Warkworth Castle which was besieged by the Scots in 1327 and was instrumental in the long-running war between England and Scotland.

Dominating a hilltop, the majestic Castle and Hermitage form one of the most unusual medieval monuments in Britain. Descendents of its owners, the formidable Percy family, also own and live in Alnwick castle, England’s second largest inhabited castle after Windsor Castle.

Film favourite: Bamburgh Castle
Film favourite: Bamburgh Castle
Northumberland boasts 70 castles - more than any other county - which are magnificently situated along the coastline, rugged islands and in market towns. The world famous Bamburgh Castle, a national treasure, has proudly dominated the Northumberland coastline for over 1,400 years and featured in films including Macbeth, Becket, Robin Hood and Transformers: The Last Knight.

Prolific Puffins

From Amble you can take a boat trip to Coquet Island a mile away which is home to 36,000 nesting birds every summer.

They include most of England’s rare roseate terns along with kittiwakes, oystercatchers, fulmars, eider ducks and the endearing puffins, often called sea-parrots because of their brightly coloured beaks.

Puffins are prolific off the Northumberland coast where more than 40,000 pairs can be found across the breeding season from April to July. Curious by nature, they communicate by moving their eyes, heads and bodies and the babies are endearingly called ‘pufflings’. They also spend two thirds of their lives at sea and mate for life.

Eye catching: sunset over Druridge Bay
Eye catching: sunset over Druridge Bay
Spectacular Sunrises and Sunsets

Northumberland’s Heritage Coastline guarantees conversation-stopping sunrises and sunsets. With around 2,000 stars, the area also boasts Europe’s largest area of protected night skies thanks to minimal light pollution and laudable conservation efforts.

The heart-stopping beauty of this land of contrasts and its welcoming residents has completed my conversion from a townie to a lover of captivating coastal and country backdrops.

Every day delivers something magical - spotting dolphins diving for mackerel, watching fresh fish being unloaded in anticipation of a seafood feast or listening to the geese - often called the chatterboxes of the waterfowl world - as dusk descends over the nature reserve on our back door.