Under the glare of the sun I squinted, rueing the absence of my hat. Surrounded as I was by henbane, hemlock, deadly nightshade, giant hogweed and many others, I had to force myself to stop making an initial draft of a festive shopping list. I was in the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle, a topic on which I may have much more to say at a later date.
Finally we had an experience with the tent that did not involve rain, wind or other nasties. We had taken The Urchins to Northumberland and were fortunate to find a pitch at Waren, our intended site at Budle Bay having been full, a first sign of a change in our fortunes. Waren turned out to be pretty much everything that makes camping a joy. A terrific atmosphere and really good facilities. It was also a great base from which to explore the area, pretty much unknown to us, past vists being too far into the murky of the past to raise any memories, pleasant or otherwise.
My goodness it does cost a fortune to keep everyone entertained, even for a little over 48 hours. That said we were pretty much on the go all the time, resulting in exhaustion dispelling any discomfort as we all slept well after heaps of fresh air.
From Bamburgh Castle to Seahouses; from Seahouses to Alnwick; and on out to Lindisfarne guided by the puffins and seals of the Farne Islands. The Fog on the Tyne was kept well at bay as we played in the sun until it was time to Run for Home. And amongst all that some real nuggets. The Poison Garden was kept under lock and key under instruction from the Home Office and tours were accompanied by guides, very knowledgable ones. But The Grasshopper found Alnwick’s brightest gem not in the castle or it’s grounds but in the remnant of the railway station.
Barter Books is a bibliophile’s delight and an entire day could have been spent in amongst the stacks, with hundreds of thousands of works on offer, Ella singing, coffee brewing, even lunch if desired. It is in itself a reason to return to the area. But I had to curtail my time and my desires, for The Urchins and the bank manager were calling.
Seahouses may have had charm back in the days when fishing had an industry, but as tourist traps go it still has plenty to offer. The source of boat trips a-plenty it also fed the hordes returning as well as those from the caravan park. During the day parking was problematic but peace returned in the evening. Being a fishing port seafood was on the menus, always deep fried and served with chips from the various eateries competing around the harbour. The Urchins loved the crazy golf, though the crazy price tempered my enthusiasm somehat. It is clear that Urchin the Elder has not inherited her aunt’s skills with a club in her hand, and astonishing only that she did actually find the hole from the tee on three separate occasions. The coaching manuals would be closing their covers in disgust.
The castle at Alnwick, the town itself, and even that woderful bookshop, seemed oblivious to the Gavin Maxwell connection. I must do some more reading but my unreliable memory dredges up ancestral links of Maxwell to the Percy family, and funding from the Duke to bail him out on occasions. I was surprised that the bookshop had nothing, and the castle guide even less.
Bamburgh castle was a stately pile of some antiquity; a massive monolith above the dunes. Both castles have joined the rounds of the star gazers and the set-jetters, being immortalised in films by Burton & Taylor amongst others at Bamburgh, and most notable some soptty child by the name of Potter at Alnwick where they play quidditch in the grounds, or above them as they case may be.
The trip out to Lindisfarne was at times lumpy but a nice way to spend the afternnon. Seals basked and played, puffins surprised us by being around so late in the season, and Holy Island iteslf was very quiet, the tide closing the causeway, the castle, and the shops. So we were spared the hordes, but had little else but for an ince-cream and some tat to look at, much of it along the fairy-tale lines of the godly. The brainwashing of The Urchins is clearly sinking in and often it was I had to bite my lip to avoid putting them right and starting the next war. I will bide my time, and keep Grayling’s Bible to hand.
It was though a welcome break, not without expense much more than anticipated. Family tickets for anything seem to have risen and to be without limit, but it was good, even if it did not seem to be fullly appreciated by all.