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Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
Fig.1 The pebbles on the rock beach, Beadnell, Northumberland
Head down to watch you step on slippery rocks gives you the chance to hunt for treasure. As a boy I returned home with interesting stones and fossils. Forty years on I see what could be a piece of ripening fruit, an ammonite and a stone covered in tiny balls of frozen water which won’t last ten minutes in the late December son.
Fig.1 The Point, Beadnell, Northumberland. Sunrise, 28th December 2014
This morning I set off on a tour of my childhood holiday destination, the Northumberland fishing village of Beadnell; age something to 11 this is where we spent every Easter and Summer, many half-terms and weekends too.
Fig. 2. The rocks, looking north east from Beadnell Village towards the Farnes Islands and the Longstone Lighthouse.
I grew up amongst the rocks, the pools, on the shingle and grit beaches and walking and exploring the sandy bay, dunes, 18th century lime kilns and ancient harbour. A visit once a decade brings back found memories of fishing around in pools exposed by the retreating tide, collecting fossils, clambering on low cliffs, fishing off the harbour wall, playing ‘kick the can’ in the dunes, making dams in the water outfly halfway around the bay, the ‘quick sand’ around the mouth of the river and sliding down sandy dunes.
I see our cottage, learning to ride a bike, my father’s keys locked in the car, roses up the side of the house, my grandfather in the shed making toy boats, my mother in the kitchen cooking shrimps …
Forty five years ago.
Little things come to mind: the different texture of pebbles, grit, sand, cliff-top grass to the feet. The fingers that jut into the north sea are made from volcanic rock.
Fig. 3 The ‘Point’ Beadnell.
The memories of jelly fish dead on the beach, of eating crabs being landed by fisherman very early on a summer’s morning, their net sheds, the clanking of halyards on sailing dinghies now gone – no boats in moored in the bay where once there were too long rows, many of the dune now thick with gorse designed to protect them. A noisy place now quiet.
Fig.4 The public footpath from the beach caravan park across fields to Beadnell Village.
I pass through a ‘kissing gate.’ Age six or so I was told that one also kissed when passing through such a gate, and for decades after I enforced this culture on others: kiss the person behind as you pass through the gate.
Walking through the old village I turn away from the tiny cemetery by the church under the rookery as it spooked me as a boy and it spooks me now.
Fig.5 The view to the old harbour and lime kilns, Beadnell Bay at low tide. Dusk. 28th December 2014.
Kathryn Tickell was at The Stables, Milton Keynes last night.
The music was wrapped around the stories of shepherds and farm labourers on the hills of the North Tyne valley. My father’s great grandparents and several of my mother’s too came off the land above Hexham, from Newton, to Chatton and Alnwick, to find work on Tyneside in the mid to late 19th century.
For a while my father lived in Chollerford, on the North Tyne and I was at school for five years down the road at Newton.
Trips out to Kielder, before and after the reservoir, were common. We often drove into Scotland over the fells via Wooler and Jedburgh.
In the 1920s my grandmother and her sisters would go and stay in Rothbury for the summer.
Northumberland, you could say, has some resonance for me.
I have a book of memoirs from 100 years ago which were brought up to date with stories of dreadful winters in 1963 which I don’t remember and of 1979 that I do as I often struggled trying to get from my father’s place in the Eden Valley, to my girlfriend in Wylam then home to Gosforth.
Picnic spots, school camping trips, parties in Church Halls and even singing in The Tynedale Festival and in churches in Hexham, Corbridge, Matfen and Alnwick.
Do I hanker after it?
The brackish water, bogs and ferns? a drive along the Military Road below Hadrian’s Wall would be enough.