By dint of pure circumstance, a whole walk developed from two halves. As a late substitute I tackled the St Oswald’s Way which starts with a five-mile stretch from Lindisfarne Castle over the Holy Island causeway to the Northumberland mainland. It takes in Bamburgh Castle, fish-and-chip soaked Seahouses, kipper famous Craster, the beauty of Alnmouth Bay and ends this first half at Warkworth Castle.
With the Farne Islands and Dunstanburgh Castle almost always in sight, this Northern stretch is hauntingly beautiful with the broad sandy beaches matched only by field after field of flowing wheat and barley succumbing to the machinery of harvest. Whilst the terrain is easy, this walk is not without danger which in order of magnitude comes in the form of cars and coaches hell-bent on beating the Holy Island tide, flying golf balls, twice crossing the A1 without underpass or bridge and three times the main East Coast railway line with only the assurance of a remote signalman for comfort.
The planned annual walk witnessed my usual companions falling by the wayside one by one before the starting date. Julia saved the day by walking with me on alternative daily stretches of the much more demanding South Downs Way. For “Downs” read “Ups”. Taken Easterly from Winchester to Eastbourne, this trail is amongst the finest in the UK and in stark contrast to my walk last year on the Dingle Peninsular in Southern Island, is pretty much road free. The one negative with the rural path is its attraction to cyclists whose mix with walking is not good. Done Easterly has the bonus of the prevailing Westerly wind contrasting sharply with Hadrian’s Wall path of two years ago in the face of howling gales.
Tackling the South Downs Way means climbing onto the Downs and descending off and repeat and repeat. The final stretch is reminiscent of the South West Coast Path since the Seven Sisters are not kindly nuns but beastly lung-breakers culminating in the ascent to Beachy Head. But, the views cancel all pain.
Tired legs and creaking bones dictate that this, my 24th consecutive yearly 100 miles or so plod, will be the swan song. As months pass towards another September, maybe though the itching feet will overrule – again. Whatever, Julia’s co-option into the long-distance walking club is most welcome and above all, appreciated; proving once again that as all others fall away …….
John Smith, Colonsay, 16 September 2013