A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the tag “Northumberland”

Not Puffin Hunting

We could see the Farne Islands from where we were staying in Northumberland. Islands and boats are a winning combination in my book so there was no way we wouldn’t be paying them a visit. Actually, the secret reason for the trip north was to get on to the islands – and to look for puffins.

So we hopped aboard one of the many boats offering such a trip from Seahouses harbour. Puffins were advertised as arriving from the end of March, which was a whole week previously, so obviously there would be no problem …

Seahouses harbour

Seahouses harbour

As the boat approached the islands, it was amazing to see how the number and variety of birds increased – and also the noise! There were birds everywhere – flying overhead, flying past the boat or sitting on tiny ledges of rock. There were eider ducks, shags and kittiwakes, and, around one of the outlying islands, fulmars. But no puffins.

However, there were seals! So many seals! They were basking lazily on the rocks, totally unfazed by the boat coming close and the many pairs of eyes staring at them. They just stared back, not very interested. They came in many shades, from rust coloured to black, from grey to speckled. And they were all so very chilled.

seals

seals

After a tour of the islands, we landed on Inner Farne for an hour’s explore. We tried not to think about puffins. I’d already heard a distinct lack to the word ‘puffin’ and there had been no sign of any flying about so far. Sightings were going to be unlikely.

more seals!

more seals!

This experience of Inner Farne was very different from our previous visit when we had been pecked within seconds of arrival by fierce little arctic terns guarding their nests which they’d carefully placed right by the side of the footpaths. At least this time we had arrived before them and could look around without cowering!

It was clear that this was puffin city as the whole island was pocked with burrows – puffin homes. It was just that they hadn’t moved back in yet. Although this was disappointing, I did console myself with remembering that we had been before and seen them at their height. This time we could enjoy the other birds.

nesting shags

nesting shags

The stars of the show were the shags which were nesting on rocky ledges all around the island. We could get very close to them and were able to clearly see the tufted crests on their heads.

rocky living!

rocky living!

After a wander round the whole (very small!) island we sat by the shore enjoying the sunshine and waiting for our boat to take us back home. The odd shag flew by with its beak full of nest material.

All in all, it was a very good day not puffin hunting!

waiting for our boat

waiting for our boat

As to accessibility – I had to climb down a number of steps to the boat but that would vary with the tide. The boatmen were very helpful in providing stable arms to get me aboard. On the island, if you can walk a little way uphill at the start (or have sturdy pushers!) it is wheelchair accessible as there is just one circular footpath around the island which is covered by duckboards. It wasn’t even very bumpy! There are also trips which don’t include landing on an island.

Happy adventuring!

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Castles by the Sea

We’ve just got back from a few days exploring in Northumberland. It’s been a few days spent outside all day in fresh sunshine, and enjoying fabulous views. We stopped at the Angel of the North on the way up: a beautiful piece of art and engineering.

Angel of the North

Angel of the North

Then it was onward and upward to the very north or England, a land of wide empty fields to the west and miles of long sandy beaches to the east. One day was spent on castle walks. In the morning, on Holy Island, we spotted Lindesfarne Castle from the monastery ruins. It was at the far end of the island but we decided that we could manage the walk there.

distant Lindisfarne Castle

distant Lindisfarne Castle

I had good pushing assistance from Pete and our teenage son (who coped very well with a break away with both parents and no sister for moral support!). It was about a mile from the car park, and the terrain was not very wheelchair-friendly approaching the castle itself – so we simply went round the side and admired it from the outside. There were many, many spots to sit and enjoy the sea views and, although many people were doing exactly that, there was still plenty of space and it still felt wild and empty.

view from Holy Island

view from Holy Island

Later, we headed a little south to Craster with its picturesque harbour. From here we took a footpath to Dunstanburgh Castle, a truly impressive ruin that stood against the skyline about a mile away, tempting us towards it.

Craster harbour

Craster harbour

The path was largely flat and more of a walk (or wheel) over short grass than along a footpath. However, after a time the route started to slope gently up towards the castle, and not always so gently. Also, sometimes the path became very stony and I had to get out of the wheelchair in order to negotiate those sections.

Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance

Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance

My fantastic pushers did a marvellous job, and indeed our son was the most game for pushing me over the last and steepest section so that we could get to the castle itself. It is a huge castle, even as a ruin, spanning right across the ridge, and becomes even more imposing the closer you get.

getting nearer

getting nearer

The wide expanse of grassy hillside with no sign of any road ever having cut across it looked absolutely made for horses to gallop across and up to the castle. You could practically hear their hooves thundering past! Once inside, I sat on a wall watching out to sea happily, whilst the other two had a good wander around, including climbing a (non-ruined!) tower.

below the castle walls

below the castle walls

It was a great walk, though I can’t really call it wheelchair-accessible. A strong mobility scooter would probably be fine. Someone who can get out of a chair to help with tricky bits would be ok, but you also need strong companions to push so … on the edge of accessibility. But if you can do it, do! It is well worth the effort.

view from Dunstanburgh Castle

view from Dunstanburgh Castle

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