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  • Julie Muller

From SaltMarsh to Seaweeds - A Walk From Cambois To Newbiggin By The Sea




A dog sits amongst tall grasses on a cliff overlooking a rocky beach with the sea behind
Shep stops for a rest on the English Coast Path

It has been a couple of weeks since our last walk along the Northumberland coast SSSI as I haven’t been feeling very well. Somehow, I developed some very nasty sores on my tummy and my paws felt very sore too. So, Julie took me to see the dogter, and I was given two weeks’ worth of antibiotics, a soothing cream to rub on my tummy and pads, and Julie was advised to take me on shorter walks on softer ground.

 

So, I was delighted to finally get back to the coast.

 

Julie’s plan was to walk from Cambois up to Newbiggin by the Sea, so we parked at the same car park as we did for our last walk.

 

As before, the beach looked so inviting, but once again we walked away from it. Sadly, it is just not possible to walk along the beach from Cambois up to Newbiggen because of the river Wansbeck, so we went in search of the coastal path.

 

It didn’t take us too long to find it but, to our horror, our path was blocked by a red and white barrier. We had driven for quite a long time to get to Cambois so Julie decided to see if we could find a way through.

 

We slipped through the barrier and walked along the track and soon discovered why it was there. Right in the middle of the path was a bright yellow digger and a small heavy road roller. Two orange hi-vis jacketed men were in deep discussion. Julie stopped to chat to them about the work that they were doing, and then we were once again on our way. It was such hard work walking along the muddy rutted track today, but by the time the summer comes, this work on the coastal path will be complete!

 

I picked up my little legs as best I could as I traipsed through the mud. Below the track, the river Wansbeck was snaking its way out to sea through a wide muddy estuary. We could see three brightly coloured boats wedged in the mud whilst the skeins of water sped past them.

 



Two dogs sit on a metal footbridge over a still river. Behind them is the walled river bank with grass and a thick woodland - the trees are not in leaf
Shep and Bruno sit on the footbridge above the River Wansbeck

Above us, another concrete road bridge transported lots of cars, buses, lorries, and vans over the river. Luckily this time, we didn’t have to join them, and we were able to cross over the river by a small metal footbridge.  Below us, the water torrented over a weir producing enormous floats of creamy white foam.

The cascading water was quite noisy, and Bruno and I were so glad to get to the other side of the bridge.

 

It was definitely low water again – and within the huge sand banks that had been left by the ebbing tide, we could see stretches of low wooden fencing which seemed to be holding them in place and stopping the sand and sediment from being washed away.

This is really important because it allows the formation of salt marsh which is a very special habitat and supports a whole range of different plants and animals, In addition, salt marsh acts as a very efficient store of carbon. Every time the tide comes in, it brings with it lots of sediment which is rich in carbon. The sediment becomes buried in the mud thus trapping the carbon within it.

 

Today the sand banks were smothered in bright green seaweed and frilly brown bladderwrack and there were a few birds quietly picking over them.

 

There were even more birds in the trees hugging the riverbanks and we felt serenaded as we splashed through the muddy puddles along the track. Spring was definitely in the air.

 

As we walked further towards the sea, we passed through small areas of sand dune sprouting with unkempt marram grass and punctuated with spiky teasel heads.

The sand was lovely and soft to my paws, and I followed a path pockmarked with foot and paw fall leading down to the estuary. But sadly, this wasn’t the right way – shame!

 



Two dogs on a sandy slope overlooking a mud/sandy river estuary - tide is out but water is glinting on the water. Sand dune grasses swaying in the breeze. Buildings on the opposite side of the river and small boats are visible
A wishful Shep looks down towards the sandy River Wansbeck Estuary

Above us, perched on the hill, there were lots of mobile homes, and we soon realised that we would have to walk through the holiday park in order to stay on the coastal path. There seemed to be hundreds of caravans, and many of them had amazing views down towards the sea. I bet that this place is heaving with humans in high summer but today, there were only a handful of cars and even fewer humans about.

 

The roads were quite hard and cold to our paws, and I was glad to return to the softer, if muddier, ground which overlooked the sea.  Way below us, the beach was paved with rock, and littered with huge boulders – there was a group of red shank very busily foraging at the water’s edge.

 

 

 


Two dogs sit on top of a sandy cliff amongst tall dry grass stems. Reddish cliffs in the background - lots of boulders on the beach - sea is visible shining in the sunlight
Shep and Bruno sit on a cliff gazing down at a stony beach below them

The cliff edge looked rather unstable and so Julie kept us well away from it. Luckily, the coastal path follows a safe route along the edge of a field which is vegetated with tufts of coarse grass, spikes of sorrel and other wildflowers. The air was heavy with the sound of skylarks as they rose from the grass and soared above our heads- Although skylarks sing throughout the year, they are less vocal at this time of the year, so we were very lucky to hear them. Their airborne song has been known to last for well over an hour! – We didn’t hang around long enough to listen to them today. I wanted to find the beach.

 

We carried on following the path down to Newbiggin and eventually found a long flight of steep steps down on to the sand.

 

The sand here was much coarser to our paws than we are used to. It seemed to contain a large number of tiny shell fragments and, as a result was so much harder to walk on. Julie kept sinking into it, but Bruno and I were able to skip over it much more easily.

At this part of the beach, a large area of boulders, stones and rocky pavements separated us from the sea. All the rocks were carpeted in soft bright green seaweed and there were lots of rock pools to paddle in. The sand, itself was heavily ridged almost as if it had been ploughed.



One dog stands on a sandy beach which is heavily ridged . Water in the furrows. A line of white houses at the  top of the beach
Shep stands on a ridged beach gazing towards Newbiggin

We raced along the beach in search of softer sand. and we were not disappointed. There were lots of other dogs and their humans playing on the beach too.

 

In places, fine black deposits of coal had collected in puddles on the beach – the legacy of coal mining never seems to be far away!

Elsewhere large fronds of kelp, complete with their holdfasts, were strewn across the beach. Seaweeds have so many uses. Eating them can increase the numbers of good bacteria in your gut but they also contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals which promote healthy skin and hair. Lesser known is the fact that some midwives use sticks of woven kelp, during labour, to help to widen the birth canal. They are also very good as healing agents!

 

We looked out to sea and saw a metal sculpture of a couple of humans, themselves gazing out to sea.

Although the sun was shining, the wind was picking up and Julie decided it was time to head for home.

 

 

 



Two dogs sit by a huge stone on a sandy beach - Blue sea in distance  Row of white houses behind
Shep and Bruno sit very small beside the Hunkleston Stone on Newbiggin Beach

This time we scurried quickly across the top of the beach and were astonished to discover a huge hunk of rock sticking right out of the sand. Bruno and I felt very small indeed standing beside it.  This rock is the Hunkleton stone, and it was left here at the end of the last Ice Age by the melting glaciers. 

 

A dog and its human were playing in the rockpools as we walked past them. We couldn’t resist going to have a look ourselves and I led Bruno and Julie out on to the rock platform. It was a bit slippery, but well worth it. There were huge clusters of periwinkles adorning the rocks and, curiously, they were all facing the same way. Everywhere was covered in barnacles, and forests of seaweed swayed in the rippling rock pools.  We searched for crabs and shrimps, but they were just too good at hiding from us.

 

So, we returned to the steps and sadly walked away from the beach. The clouds were gathering in grew swirls and it looked like rain.

 

We walked back along the cliffs. This time the skylarks were silent, but we could see a kestrel hovering over the field. All at once it dived to the ground, remained there for a few minutes, and then climbed high above us again.  No wonder the skylarks were quiet.

 

It was raining as we walked through the caravan park and back along the banks of the river Wansbeck.

The path back on the other side of the weir was just as muddy – It was clear that the men had been working very hard. However, the digger was now driverless and there was a large pile of chippings waiting to be laid. The path in front of it was new and soft so we all stayed on the grassy edges where we could.

We were glad to get to the other side and back to the car park.

By now, the sun had returned. Bruno and were both caked in thick black mud and, although we were tired, the beach at the bottom of the slipway looked so inviting.

 

And so, the three of us ran down the slipway and headed for the sea which seemed to be a very long way out. The sand here was very cool and soft and firm and we dodged all of the other dogs and their humans as we ran and chased each other down the beach. Eventually we made it to the water’s edge and even I, though a bit scared of the tongues of tide, dabbled all four paws in the cool refreshing water – it was bliss.

 

We didn’t stay long – just long enough to freshen up before our ride home.


An O.S.map to show the walks from Cambois up to Newbiggin
Our Cambois to Newbiggin Walk

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