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  • Julie Muller


two dogs sit on a vast sandy beach with ridged sand on a sub cold day
Bruno and Shep at the start of our walk on the beach at Druridge Bay

We started our next Northumberland coastal walk at Druridge Bay Country Park. It was sunny and bright when we arrived, but the wind was bitterly cold and blowing up a gale and our fur was whipped against our faces as we jumped down out of the car.

As usual we were keen to get down on to the beach.

Here the wind and waves were battling each other and, as each wave crashed towards the shore, the wind whipped off its crest and sent plumes of spray high up into the air. There were no birds at the water’s edge today- the sea was just too rough.

The beach beneath our paws was littered with small and untidy swirls of sand which are lug worm casts. Lug worms live in U-shaped burrows and spend their days eating all of the goodness in the sand before ejecting it out as sand casts from their rear end. There are actually two species of lug worm which live in the UK. One of them, the blow lug worm produces these rather untidy casts. However, the other species, the black lugworm, expels much neater spirals of sand, and they tend to live much further down the beach. They are also considerably longer than blow lug worms and fishermen love to dig them up to use as bait. Apart from humans, lug worms have many predators, and these know exactly where to ambush their prey. Fortunately for the lug worm they aren’t always successful and, all they get is a mouthful of tail. This is not pleasant for the lug worm but not the end of the world either, - the tail can just be grown back!

 As we walked, the strong wind blew storms of sand into our faces. Bruno couldn’t resist running in and out of the water, but It was far  too cold and rough for me.

As usual the golden sand was interspersed with shiny almost lustrous black slicks of coal dust.

Further along the beach, the sand was interrupted by rocky pavements which seemed to be made up of distinct layers of coal and mudstone and these were angled down towards the sea. We felt as if we were walking over seams of coal. Large thick damp carpets of seaweed had collected between the rocks, and it was slippery work wading through them and climbing up on to the pavements. Elsewhere large pools of sea water had been left behind by the retreating tide and, this time it was me that couldn’t resist a spot of sea bathing – the water is so much warmer in these rock pools!


A small island off the coast - white angular buildings and a white lighthouse - waves lapping on to a rocky shore in the foreground
Coquet Island - Sea Bird Sanctuary

As we walked further up the beach, we could see Coquet Island just off the coast with its small square whitewashed buildings and light house. This island is both a Site of Special Scientific interest and a Special Protection Area (SPA) because it is home to over 40,000 seabirds including the roseate tern which is one of the U.K.’s rarest sea birds. There are only 111 breeding pairs left and all of these come to Coquet Island to start their families, so they definitely need to be looked after.  Roseate Terns are so called because their normally brilliant white underparts blush rosy-red during the breeding season. They arrive here to breed in April having travelled all the way from West Africa and in the summer months, bird wardens live on the island to look after them (as well as all of the other birds which spend their summers here).


Coquet Island is also home to one of our humans’ favourite British seabirds - the puffin. These characterful birds spend most of their life out at sea but during April and May they come ashore to breed. The colour of their beak changes from grey to orange during the mating season and this is how they recognise their lifelong mates.  Puffins have been known to keep the same mate for over twenty years, but they usually don’t begin this partnership until they are at least five years old.  Each pair produces just one puffling each year.


As we rounded the corner, the rocky pavements gave way to small boulders and smooth-edged shingle. We trotted over it as quickly as we could - and were glad to feel the soft sand under our paws once again. We could see the town of Amble in the distance but between it and us there was still rocky outcrops and pavements to negotiate.


But we soon decided that this wasn’t a very good idea.


Patrolling the rocks ahead of us we could see a whole contradiction of bright orange legged, turnstones, picking over the stones and seaweed. They were perfectly camouflaged against the rocky outcrops, so it was only when they flew up into the air and we saw the distinctive patterns on their wings that we were certain who they were. Turnstones are yet more avian globe-trotters who have travelled thousands of miles, often at speeds of over forty miles an hour just to be here on the Northumberland shores.


We left them to feast on the sandhoppers, shellfish, and other marine delicacies and headed for the coastal path back towards Druridge Bay.


A dog sits amongst the sand dunes - the dark blue sea in the background - lovely sunny day with the grasses blowing in the wind
Shep rests before embarking on the walk home along the coastal path

The coastal path was quite hard surfaced so, whenever we could, we walked back down onto the beach. However, the tide had now turned and there was much less beach available for us to walk on – and in addition some of the shore birds had come back to feed. Two appropriately named red shank waded in the shallows, repeatedly dipping their beak beneath the surface of the water hunting for whatever the returning tide had brought them.

It was getting towards the end of the walk, and we two were also hungry, tired, and keen to have a lie down.

Druridge Park Country Park had woken up when we got back – there were so many more parked cars dogs with their humans, and children playing excitedly on the play equipment. Everyone was happy – including us!

A map to show the walk taken from Druridge Bay to Amble
Druridge Bay to Amble

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