The forecast for today was for very high winds for most of the day along with a fine-ish morning then a blustery and showery afternoon. We decided to postpone our original plans to go to Rothbury to visit the gardens at Cragside House and instead take a shorter morning walk south to Warkworth then head over to Alnwick and back to Alnmouth.
Zoly was really tired last night and we figured that he’d appreciate a less arduous day. We set out for Warkworth at about 10. The sun was shining but the winds were already really strong. The path from Alnmouth to Warkworth has been made into part of the National Cycle Network, so it was really well-surfaced and sheltered from the adjacent road by a hedge. At the start of the path there were some lovely views back over the River Aln to Alnmouth. Not far along the path we we came across a lovely bench – carved and painted with a plaque in memory of Michelle Turnbull who died in 2009. ‘Find me here, I am not gone’ – a beautiful memorial.
The main railway line to Edinburgh was over to our right and just south of Alnmouth we could see a level crossing with a house next to it. Mum had told me that my grandparents had lived in a house near Alnmouth by the level-crossing. This had to be it – there’s no other level crossing in the vicinity as far as we can tell. As we were looking, sirens began to sound and red lights started flashing; the gates came down and an express train went through heading north. While all this was going on my phone rang – it was my sister! All coming together this felt strangely satisfying – but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mam told me that it wasn’t this house!
From here it wasn’t far to Warkworth, but on the edge of the village the cycle path veered off to the left and towards Warkworth Bay. Going straight in into the village there wasn’t any pavement, so we were forced to walk on a very busy road. A Welcome to Warkworth sign asked: Please Drive Carefully, but this was entirely in vain – Matthew and Zoly were almost hit by someone in a car who started to drive towards them!. I’m always a bit baffled about why carful driving requires a polite request. In this case it was a completely ignored anyway – cars and lorries and buses were thundering past at top speed on a narrow winding road. This bit of our walk was not pleasant. Thankfully we arrived in Warkworth intact (physically if not mentally), and were greeted with a much nicer sign: ‘Welcome Cyclists’ in a hotel window. Also a funny notice screwed to a house wall: ‘Friends always welcome – family by appointment’.
We made our way up to the castle – on our way we passed a young woman with very bright red dyed hair, I assumed that she must be another local estate agent. Once at he castle we were delighted that we could go in – and for free – with our English Heritage membership cards and that Zoly could accompany us. The women staffing the shop made a big fuss of Zoly – one of them even went off to find some dog biscuits to feed him – we won’t have any trouble taking him back there!
The castle was just as I remembered it – small, but high and lots still intact. My uncle Eric and aunt Sheila live in a house that looks on to Warkworth Castle and when I was a boy I used to visit them and their two boys: Stuart and Neville. We would play in the shadow of the castle and I remember thinking that they lived in an impossibly romantic spot. I thought about calling on my aunt and uncle today – they were delightful, warm, friendly and kind to me when I was small. But they are quite elderly and both rather frail now – I was worried that dropping by unannounced with a husband and dog in tow would be too disconcerting, (I also had that ‘family by appointment’ notice in my mind!). I decided to stay away.
After the castle we had a look in the church – a nice Norman building with a leaning tower. The interior was not so attractive – full of clutter and a CD player playing Gregorian chant, which was rather off-putting too!
There were some spots of rain and the wind was cold by now. Given that our walk in to Warkworth on the road had not been pleasant, we decided to take the bus to Alnwick, pick up some groceries, have a look in the tourist information office, which had been unaccountably closed on Sunday and have some lunch in Barter Books. We also called in at a wonderful pet shop in Market Street and bought Zoly a new harness – he had lots of fun trying on different ones. He had lots of fuss in there, too! On our way to the bookshop, we passed the Conservative and Unionist Office, I was looking at some posters of their candidate in the window when a young man came out of the building, “She’ll be our next MP”, he said when he saw me. “I rather hope not”, I replied – but I fear that he’s right – the Lib Dem has a small majority over the Tories and is retiring at this election, so they’re bound to lose.
We had had a pleasant walk home though – the promised rain never really materialised, so we could have gone to Cragside today. Still, back early meant we could get on with some laundry, write some postcards and Matthew wants us to download and watch Paddington!