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Walking the Coast Path - Belford to Fenwick

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Stage 5: Belford to Fenwick Phil Wightman

We're hosting six guided walks over the summer, each in the company of the path's originator, Iain Robson. We've been writing a diary of the walks, which are being published in the Northumberland Gazette. This is the fifth entry: Belford to Fenwick

Stage 5: Belford to Fenwick - Wednesday 26th July 2017

Waterproofs were the order of the day as we headed out from Belford for Stage 5 of our Coast Path Walks last Wednesday! The forecast predicted heavy rain showers for the four hours it would take us to walk to Fenwick. Undeterred though, twenty four hardy souls set off and crossed their fingers that somehow we’d stay dry.

Despite this being the Northumberland Coast Path, this section of the path is completely inland, so we headed north-west out of Belford on the Wooler road before taking a footpath alongside the Belford Burn that would eventually bring us out at Swinhoe Farm. It’s a very scenic route through pasture and alongside fields of beans and wheat. There was a slight drizzle but no one minded.  

Jasper, the long haired chihuahua was with us again this week - complete with raincoat - but he wasn’t our only four legged friend. We were also joined by Millie, the border terrier. She was very well behaved and quite happy to stay on her lead and view the livestock that we passed.

We also had two children with us. At seven miles, this stage is the shortest, so ideal for little legs. There was plenty to keep them entertained - especially Iain and the chocolate crispies in the back pack.

We reached Swinhoe farm shortly before midday. The path took us through the farmyard where we joined a track signposted for Holborn. We made our way along this wooded track, stopping briefly to look at the birds on Swinhoe Lake. Iain also explained some of the history of the lake. Autumn is here and we spotted lots of mushrooms by the path through the woods. Although Iain said that some of them were edible, no one fancied eating them for lunch.

We were relatively sheltered through the wood but, as the rain started to fall heavier, we were about to get very wet as we headed for our lunch stop. St Cuthbert's Cave was our destination - it isn’t actually on the route, but is well worth a detour and it was going to offer us a dry place to rest. We headed off up the hill, heads down and hoods up.

St. Cuthbert’s Cave is an overhanging outcrop of Sandstone rock, supported by an isolated pillar of stone. It is reputed that the monks of Lindisfarne brought St.Cuthbert’s body to this place in 875AD following Viking raids on Holy Island. To reach it, we had to walk down a very steep and slippy wooded bank - several people had walking poles which came in very handy to help provide a steady footing.

Once fed and rested, we set off again, making our way back onto the correct route. There are a few stiles to manoeuvre along this section but thankfully Dave - who is walking every stage with us - is always on hand to help everyone safely over. A real gentleman!  

A few people made their way onto the crag above the cave to get a view of Holy Island and Lindisfarne - in better weather, this is where we normally sit for our lunch. We gathered again at the gate at the bottom of the hill, this is where the Coast Path joins St. Cuthbert’s Way - a long distance trail from Newton St. Boswells in the Scottish Borders to Holy Island. The path is well marked and took us towards Shiellow Woods.

This track takes a turn onto a footpath through the woods leading to Detchant Strip. This section of the path was particularly clarty (a good Northumbrian word for muddy)! after all the rain. We squelched our way through, trying hard not to slip and fall over. We came out of the woods at Dolly Gibson’s Lonnen. No one seems to know who Dolly Gibson was and we’ve never managed to find out in all of the ten years that we’ve been leading these walks. If anyone knows who Dolly was, we’d love to find out.

The path through the lonnen eventually emerges into fields, where we were greeted with sunshine. The predicted downpour hadn’t lasted very long at all, being blown over by the wind. A quick look at our watches and the Arriva bus app - we’d missed the earlier bus back to Belford! Given the wet conditions underfoot, we hadn’t really expected to catch that bus though. So we set off down the hill towards the end at Fenwick, pleased to be warm and dry but a little bit sad that next week would be the final walk.

View all the images from this stage of our walk

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