We love living by the sea and feel so lucky that its just a short walk from our front door in Whitley Bay. The North East coastline is blessed with so many fabulous beaches and towns and villages dotted up and down it with such charm and character. So on a gorgeous bright Monday in February we headed a little further North than our home patch and into South East Northumberland. We had reached that point in the winter where you need to spread the wings and take in the beauty of our coast. As we are sure you are getting to know both of us are non drivers, so for our jaunt out we had Lucy's parents along with us and her Dad made a fine chauffeur.
Our first stop off is somewhere that neither of us have visited in a very long time, indeed not since either of us met but have been meaning to go to for ages - Newbiggin by the Sea. For years we have heard that Newbiggin has two rather larger than life residents who since 2007 have been attracting visitors to the coastal town. "Couple" is a large sculpture created by artist Sean Henry that stands atop the breakwater looking out to sea (must confess we had to look up what a breakwater is and its a construction that helps with coastal protection).
Having seen it on many photographs over the years we were excited to view it for real. The sky was a glorious blue and the winter sunshine was bright as a button. Indeed, the winter sun was so bright that from the promenade it was hard to take a decent snap of the sculpture but we really should not complain about that. There is very handily a smaller version of it that you can really enjoy and see the detail of the sculpture as unless you are in a boat you aren't going to see it up close.
There is a real sense of pride in Newbiggin, and very rightly so and we felt slightly like two skiving school children being there on a Monday morning when everyone was at work but hey welcome to the topsy turvey world of running on your business.
We headed onto the main street and were all very struck on the array of shops it offered. Lovely small independent businesses, butchers, bakers and greengrocers. It was just like an illustration from a Ladybird Book from the 1960's. Lucy’s Mum was very struck by “Elaine Hats” and it’s magnificent selection of head wear but sadly it was closed on the day of our visit.
The back lanes off from the high street continue to show the real pride that Newbiggin's residents have, many of whom have decorated the outside of their homes to embrace the seaside vibe.
Newbiggin’s has a real claim to fame in that its Lifeboat station is the oldest in the UK and if that is not something to be proud of we don’t know what is.
Newbiggin has a beautiful church, St Bartholomew’s that dates from the thirteenth century and you can really feel the history.. It occupies a dramatic headland site and looked magnificent in the winter sun. It was time to be on our way and we had all loved our tootle about the promenade and town and will certainly be back to visit again and enjoy a bite to eat at the Endeavour.
Just outside of Creswell is the Drift Cafe and we have heard great things about this coastal gem. When we arrived it was still before noon but the cafe was absolutely packed and that speaks volumes of its reputation. It has many strings to its bow and in addition to offering fabulous food it also serves as a secondhand bookshop, sells paintings, Bric-a-Brac and various fascinating curious. We managed to secure a table and Paul was in heaven looking at the second hand books, if there is a whiff of an old Ladybird title he doesn't have in his collection he's on it. No joy there though but did score a victory spotting an couple of Observer series books to add to Lucy’s collection. For our foodie choices Lucy took no time in opting for a warming hot chocolate and slice of Bakewell tart (which to pull of the real deal is no mean feat) Paul loved the look of the scones and had a cheese and chive and Lucy’s folks embraced the gammon broth and perfect winter comfort food it was. The cafe was made up of a mixture of walkers, cyclists, folk like ourselves enjoying a tour of the coast and friends just meeting up in such lovely, warm and welcoming surroundings. We felt like an exclusive Monday "off work" club.
Nicely fed we headed back into our carriage but just literally a few yards as Lucy can never resist the opportunity of walking on one of our amazing beaches and very gladly we did as on such a gloriously sunny day. The view on Duridge Bay was absolutely breathtaking and absolutely cemented why we love living on the North East coast. As many of you will have realised by our posts on social media we are both big fans of the North East based crime drama series Vera, starring the wonderful Brenda Blethyn. We both smiled as you could picture Vera in her signature mac and hat stomping across the beach.
Back in the car and little further up the coast to somewhere that none of us had ever been to - Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre just down from Amble. As soon as we arrived we couldn’t believe that we have never visited this marvellous facility - it really is brilliant. Visiting the centre truly allows you to get closer to nature and there is so much to see and enjoy. The staff who work on the site clearly have an absolute passion for what they do and happy to answer any questions you might have to help with your visit.
There are six bird hides which includes a Members only hide, if you join the Wildlife Trust, a circular walk, binocular hire and there is a really useful information board at the reception where daily wildlife sightings are logged so you can keep track of what you might see. It really is a great family facility and offers a lovely cafe that also sells gifts and various tools to let you enjoy the nature outside. So inspired, Lucy’s Dad picked up a pair of handy pocket sized binoculars. You can observe the birds and other wildlife from the hides or (as well we did for a little while) the cosy comfort of the observation windows in the centre building. The centre runs an extensive all year round range of events so do check out their website and get booked on one as you really will learn so much nwt.org.uk
We had thoroughly enjoyed our jaunt out into South East Northumberland and it's beautiful coastline. Taking in places old and new and what was so lovely is that you can enjoy it all, all year round. So next time you have a stolen day off, have a trip up the coast.
Just for info: None of the places we visited knew we were writing about them for the purpose of this blog. As ever we only recommend places we love and have enjoyed visiting.