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Uphill All The Way: Stop What You Are Doing (Ellington to Embleton)

Published on: 13 Jun, 2014
Updated on: 14 Jun, 2014

UATW 002 470This is the sixteenth report on the author’s progress in his bid to cycle from Guildford to Edinburgh. The reports follow: Uphill All The Way – The Idea and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One) and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part Two)

All Uphill All The Way articles can be found under the Leisure section heading on the front page, in their own sub-section called Uphill All The Way.

By Martin Giles

My advice is: stop what you are doing right now; get your bike out, or beg or borrow one, and jump on a train bound for Northumberland.

The cycling up here is just great and the Northumberland coastline one of the least spoilt in Britain.

My route from Ellington to Embleton. I decided to use the NCN Route 1 shown by the red line rather than the brown line route offered by Cycle Street.

My route from Ellington to Embleton. I decided to use the NCN Route 1 shown by the red line rather than the brown line route offered by Cycle Street.

You can ignore my advice of course, there are always 101 reasons to not do anything but really it is quite easy. And if you can’t cycle you can walk and if you can’t walk then, but only then, consider driving.

My expectations were high as I set out from Ellington this morning. The Plough had proved a comfortable stopover. At breakfast the manager overhearing my conversation with other guests said: “Did you say you are from Surrey? I am from Surrey too.”

Turned out ‘Julie’ was from Chilworth so we had an off and on ex-pat Surrey chat until I left. It’s a long way to Chilworth I remarked.” “352 miles,” she instantly responded. Not that she was counting. Nor need she. She was in another beautiful part of our country.”

I started out later than usual because of the delay caused by the unexpected bike ride to Ashington and back the previous evening. Unfortunately, this meant that I missed the sunshine of the morning but it was still expected to be dry.

I had missed the sunshine but it was still expected to be dry.

I had missed the sunshine but it was still expected to be dry.

I quickly cycled down the mile from Cresswell and picked up National Cycle Route 1. I had decided to follow it even though I knew it would be a longer route than that worked out for me by CycleStreet.

The area behind the dunes was often covered in wild flowers.

The area behind the dunes was often covered in wild flowers.

After a few miles the route went off road and I was going through what they call in Scotland the machair, i.e. the flat fertile area just behind the dunes at the coast. There was a prolific show of wildflowers. Further on parties of school children were being taught about the flora. I am sure that in years to come they will appreciate it too.

This was definitely off road. At times the path was very narrow.

This was definitely off road. At times the path was very narrow.

It was noticeable that the coastline was now free of the industrial development noticeable further south, important to the economy though it no doubt is.

A mile or so south of Amble there was a sign asking motorists to look out for red squirrels. I was happy to look out for them too and kept my eyes skinned. Sadly, I did not see so much as a suspicious movement in the pine trees in the area.

A sign warned to look out for red squirrels. Alas I did not get even a glimpse.

A sign warned to look out for red squirrels. Alas I did not get even a glimpse.

It was lunchtime and I hoped to fine somewhere that would serve me a ploughman’s. When I got to the harbour area I was spoilt for choice but I settled for the Harbour Cafe and was not disappointed on their menu, as well as a ploughmans, a favourite of mine at lunchtime, was a fisherman’s lunch. It was basically a small crab salad. That would do for me, especially at a very reasonable £5.20.

I had a conversation with a couple on holiday from Dundee. The wife was Scottish but the husband had ‘emigrated’ from Durham to take up a post with the Ministry of Agriculture. We spoke as representatives of Anglo-Scottish families about the impact of Scottish independence and agreed that as the consequences of independence were hard, if not impossible, to predict, many would, in the end, vote with their hearts.

They agreed that their was a lot of antipathy with the English and things English in some quarters but as the man from Durham pointed out there was similar antipathy towards the south and in particular the London based establishment in the north of England.

I said that in my view similar dissatisfaction existed in the South East of England too. A good number of the political class, not all of them, seemed to regard public opinion as a nuisance rather than something to be represented and guide their decisions.

Black headed gulls, like this one, are a common sight near the coast in Northumberland. They lose their black 'hood' in winter.

Black headed gulls, like this one, are a common sight near the coast in Northumberland. They lose their black ‘hood’ in winter.

Whenever did you see a politician say, “Well we lost this election because our policy is completely out of line with what most voters want?” Instead they say, “We need to try harder to get our message across.” It never seems to occur to them that we have heard their message and most of us don’t don’t like it.

I had earlier spoken to a retired lorry driver and his wife from Leeds, at breakfast. He was an admitted floating voter and had supported Ukip at the European elections. He too was completely disillusioned with politicians from all the major parties. I have heard many others express similar views. I wonder if it will lead to any significant change?

His wife, by the way, said that she always voted Labour regardless, as her family had before her, but she did like “that Farage fella”.

The ruined castle that still dominates the High Street in the pretty village of Warkworth.

The ruined castle that still dominates the High Street in the pretty village of Warkworth.

After Amble came Warkworth. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t and regretted not waiting to have my lunch here. It has a pretty High Street overlooked by a castle once occupied by the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland of Norman descent who, also owned Albury Park (hence the Percy Arms in Chilworth).

Sillage making, I think, near Alnmouth.

Silage making, I think, near Alnmouth.

Then on to Alnmouth. I would have liked to have had time to explore Alnmouth. It has a pretty setting which I had been able to appreciate from by approach, passing farmers who I think were making silage. But when time presses so must the tyres and I carried on.

Alnmouth in its pretty setting on an estuary,

Alnmouth in its pretty setting on an estuary.

I did pause though to take a photo of a distinctive U bend in the river Aln I recalled from by O level physical geography and elementary geology that such bends eventually formed ox-bow ‘lakes’ and become cut off from the river. Mr Mitchell, my teacher, should be pleased that, even if I was not one of his best pupils, he instilled an interest in the subject that remains.

This U bend in the river will eventually become an ox-bow lake, detached from the river.

This U bend in the river will eventually become an ox-bow lake, detached from the river.

As I was taking a couple of photos a group of four touring cyclists came by. We started to chat. They were interested in my trip and explained that they were a group of friends who periodically took off to do a bit of cycling.

They were cycling from Newcastle to Edinburgh in just two or three stages, putting me to shame. But we all agreed that the main thing was to get out there and do it. How far you go etc. should be up to you. After all, who are you trying to please?

I was adopted by them for the next 10 miles and good company they were. They were stopping at Craster, just short of my destination of Embleton. Their accommodation was just outside the village so having said farewell I cycled into Craster itself which had been recommended by several people as a pretty place that I should see.

Craster is a pretty little fishing port, well worth the extra few miles to visit.

Craster is a pretty little fishing port, well worth the extra few miles to visit.

They were right. It is a pretty little unspoilt northern fishing port. Happily some fishing continues but I expect it is a relatively minor component of the village’s economy these days.

This pillbox built of concrete formed in sand bags shows that Second World War defences were not just a southern feature. This one faced inland and was sited to cover the rear of other pill boxes facing the coast. Defence in depthe is a concept that was well known to the army since at least the First World War.

This pillbox built of concrete formed in sand bags shows that Second World War defences were not just a southern feature. This one faced inland and was sited to cover the rear of other pill boxes facing the coast. Defence in depth is a concept that was well known to the army since at least the First World War.

I continued on Route 1 up a couple of steepish hills towards Embleton. I had covered 30 miles, nearly 10 more than I needed to on more direct routes, but I regretted not one yard of it. It had been a great ride and a great experience.

My first view of the Bluebell Inn, a welcome sight as the evening approached.

My first view of the Bluebell Inn, a welcome sight as the evening approached.

Nonetheless it was approaching early evening, so the sight of Bluebell Inn, my B&B for the night, was very welcome. I could rest there knowing that tomorrow could be just as good, although the weather forecast was poor.
12.06.14 UATW computer data:

Miles cycled: 30.77 miles

Average speed: 9.4 mph

Cycling time: 3 hours 15 minutes.

Next report: I continue on Route 1 to Berwick and my last full day’s cycling in England.

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