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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Walk 76 Holy Island to Berwick-upon-Tweed

Walk 76          The coast opposite Holy Island to Berwick-upon-Tweed (Northumberland)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 75
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx
Difficulty:  Fairly easy
Terrain: footpaths, sand and pavement
Access: Parking at Berwick (There is some parking near where the Causeway starts for Holy Island).
Public transport: 501/505 link to Berwick - times vary according to tides at Lindisfarne.

Walk through Beal to the Northumberland Coast Path. The vast stretches of Goswick then Cheswick Sands are alongside the sand dunes. Don’t be tempted to walk out towards the sea as there are dangerous quick-sands and when the tide turns it races in and there is a risk of being cut off.  

Much of the walk north meanders alongside a golf course. Parts were flooded when I went and were just about passable.  For a small stretch the path runs parallel with the main east coast rail line. I took my own route down to the coast so I could see Spittal Sands. The official coast path follows the road into Berwick.

Spittal is a former fishing village – its name derives from a leper hospital which stood here in the middle ages. L S Lowry, the famous painter, was active in painting scenes in and around Berwick. The sands at Spittal were one of his subjects. Information boards here and in Berwick provide lots of background detail. Until the 1950s a little ferry crossed the estuary to Berwick and Lowry painted this and other sailing boats.

With its long sandy beach and spa, Spittal became a popular holiday resort in the 19th century. There is an old chimney near the beach but I could not find out what it was used for.

Cut along the estuary to England’s most northerly town. Between 1147 and 1482 Berwick changed hands between the Scots and English thirteen times. The slightly ambiguous nature of the town is reflected in the status of its football team. Berwick Rangers are firmly in England but play in the Scottish league.

The town is particularly attractive, especially the old bridge which dates back to the 17th century. It was built after James 1st is said to have complained about the dodgy wooden one that he was forced to use. It is now used one way for traffic and for pedestrians; this is the one you should use to cross into the main town. Further along the river is The Royal Tweed Bridge which was opened in 1920 and takes most of the heavy traffic. Also down this end is the impressive railway viaduct.

Pictures show: Goswick Sands; estuary near Spittal; the old bridge at Berwick; looking along the old bridge to the town.

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