As usual we’d come away without making specific plans other than booking the camp sites. There was one task set for Tuesday though and that was to collect the part from the caravan dealers down in Birtley, just south of Newcastle. It would eat into our sightseeing time but it had to be done and the murky start that presented itself as I glanced bleary eyed through the curtains suggested that we wouldn’t be missing out weather wise anyway.
The part - a 12v power supply and battery charger - was due in by mid morning, and I’m sure as we pulled in to the dealers the courier was just leaving. We completed the ever necessary paperwork, thanked them again profusely for making things so easy - and left to start our sightseeing.
Newcastle was close but we’d planned to give that a full day anyway, so after re-joining the A1 in the wrong direction, we eventually passed through the Tyne Tunnel and headed for Tynemouth.
You may recall that we passed through here briefly last year, and wanted to stop but couldn’t find anywhere to park. No such problem this time however and it was well worth stopping too. As the name suggests the town stands at the mouth of the Tyne river and an impressive statue of Admiral Lord Collingwood stands overlooking at the head. Mr C - a Newcastle lad - done his stuff at Trafalgar. The four cannons surrounding the statue belonged to his ship, the Royal Sovereign.
The remains of an old Priory and castle sit upon another headland at the end of the main thoroughfare.
A refuel at a cafe on the corner propelled us up and down said street and once again we considered how much cars spoil things - particularly otherwise attractive towns and villages - necessary though they may be.
Of particular note on our stroll though was a church. Not unusual you may say as I’ve been known to photograph a few on our travels, but this one had an unusual twist. It was now a shopping centre. Small units had been constructed and a mezzanine floor put in and independent outlets were plying their trade. To me, it’s a far better use of the space although you could argue that one religion is being swapped for another loved by us Brits - shopping. To prove a point, I bought a vinyl album - my first for over 15 years. Those who only see pics of my on the blog and social media poncing about in my long leather coat and jeans may expect it to have been something dark and metallic. Friends will know better and a copy of Chic’s classic album C’est Chic will come as no surprise. Yes, I’m a bit of a disco queen and proud of it.
Moving on we passed Whitley Bay, Seaton Sluice and Blyth - all visited last year - before stopping at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. Newbiggin was the recipient of half a million tonnes of sand from Skegness back in 2007 following years of erosion. That year Sean Henry’s sculpture ‘The Couple’ was fitted to the breakwaters.
Last stop was at Amble - and the first stop IN Amble was the Co-Op for a snack. The town was pleasant enough but the beach - shielded from the road by sand dunes was pretty spectacular. Coquet Island - featured in the current ITV series about Northumberland with Robson Green was barely visible such was the weather.
Once back I fitted the new charger to Patsy’s innards. As suspected it was straightforward with just four screws to undo and three plugs to attach. The old charger used to get quite warm - when it still worked and it’s little wonder given the space it was squeezed into. The instructions supplied with the new one stipulate a minimum clearance all the way around the unit for ventilation which the manufacturers seem to have completely ignored. I may look in to moving it at some point. Still, that little gripe aside it was great to have normal service resumed and I would like to say thank you again to Paul and Jackie at Marquis in Birtley for all their help.
The evening once again saw us in the pub - not to eat this time though - Trev had become reacquainted with Patsy’s cooker - but wanted to use their free Wi-Fi to send the blog. The presence of real ale was of absolutely no interest whatsoever. And if you believe that…….
Wednesday, and the direction was west - to Cragside house and estate. Again, this was featured by Robson Green and it was the reason we decided to go. He - or at least the producers - did not do it justice because it is fantastic. The house does not open until 1pm but there is plenty to do - one of which is a six mile drive around the estate which is just beautiful.
For the walkers there are over 40 miles of tracks through the estate. At the front is the Archimedes screw that uses water from the lakes to light the house. The Armstrong Trail - named after the owner is a delightful walk through the pine woods crisscrossing a stream passing the base of the rock garden that leads up to the house.
The house itself is again a delight. Wonderfully restored and preserved rooms over three floors. Lord Armstrong was a pioneering engineer in the Victorian era and this was the first house in the world to be lit entirely by hydro-electricity. Today, every single light bulb is of the LED variety to save energy. It really was something special.
We still had the formal gardens to see but both sets of feet were aching so decided to head off, knowing that we will certainly be back one day. Cragside is a National Trust property and we are now members thanks to our dear friends Tony, Jane, Steve & Louise who bought Trev a membership for his 60th birthday.
We paused for a thirst quenching cuppa and a scone in nearby Rothbury and stopped again on the way back to admire the pretty village of Felton. The attractive bridge you see in the photo is now only a footbridge - cars cross on another bridge behind.
With all this exhausting sightseeing it would have been unfair to make the Portly Partner cook twice on the run - well that and it being Steak night in the pub. Three courses for fifteen quid including an eight ounce rump that was very tasty. Well worth it. This is the first pub site we’ve stayed at and it certainly has it’s advantages - though my liver and wallet might disagree! The beer is good, the food is good and it’s very friendly. Moreover from a campers point of view there are all the facilities you need. They have a great set-up. It wont be our last pub site I can assure you.