Sunday, 6 October 2019

Pilgrim's Way to Lindisfarne

Recently I was lucky enough to land a small piece of work in Berwick-upon-Tweed, so I made the most of it and headed over early for a spot of exploring.  I really rather like Berwick, here are a few reasons why...

It's a place crammed full of history and amazing views, and there's plenty to keep a history nerd occupied for a while.

Just down the coast from Berwick is Lindisfarne.  We'd visited there a few years ago (actually 9 years ago, where did the time go?!) when we pootled over on Delores; this time I was on my own and instead of driving over, I wanted to walk over, following the Pilgrim's Way.  The weather and tides looked to be perfect and, although I would be alone, I knew I wouldn't be on my own as there were bound to be others taking advantage of the conditions.  I was right.

I scoured the internet for tips but couldn't seem to find all the information I needed about the crosing in one place - how long did it take?  What was the best footwear? etc. so, having done the walk, both ways, I thought I'd share my insights.

1.  Check the tide times.
2. CHECK THE TIDE TIMES - seriously, I cannot stress this enough.  I live on Morecambe Bay so am well awae of the dangers of heading out across tidal marshes.
3. Getting there and parking.  We'd visited before so I know about the huge car park on the mainland right next to the causeway.  This car park is now CLOSED.  No, I do not know why.  It's blocked off with huge concrete blocks.  To be honest, as I'd arrived not knowing this I parked on the roadside - not ideal and space is VERY limited, but I was determined to cross.  A better solution would probably be to take the bus from Berwick.  Bus times etc. are here.
4.  How far is it?  I plotted the route in Viewranger and it came out as 2.79 miles one way, so double that if you're planning to walk back.
5.  Boots or feet?  This is a tricky one.  The going is soft, very soft, with lots of paddling. I found that on the way out I wore my boots for the first, muddier, part because, as I quickly learned, boots grip a LOT better than bare feet.  In the middle, paddling tends to take over for a while, so I took my boots off for the second half. I did the reverse on the way back.

6.  What else will I need?  I found a walking pole incredibly useful.  It really is very slippery out there and I have a rubbish sense of balance anyway, so really needed the pole.
7. What's the walk really like?  It's a great walk, though more challenging than it first appears.  Soft mud is tiring.  It's also (depending on the time of year) cold in the paddling bits.  There's one stretch of hard sand with lots of broken shells, which I tackled in bare feet, but my feet were so cold that I didn't notice the pain so much.  There's also a channel to cross - having watched the folks ahead of me wade through a narrow part that went up to their thighs, I opted for a wider section, which was shallower, and only went in up to my knees.  These channels will, of course, shift with the tides, but it's a useful rule of thumb.

8.  How long will it take?  When I was researching it I read a post from someone who claimed that he and his wife had made the crosing in 35 minutes - that's pretty impressive stuff!  I walked briskly, pausing only to take a few photos, and it took me a shade over an hour to get across.
9.  Is there anywhere to rest?  Not during the walk, no.  There's nowhere to sit and the refuges dotted along the route are there for emergencies only, plus they are tricky to haul yourself up into.  There is a nice bench at the far side though, where you can wolf down some tea and cake before heading back.  Or you could get the bus back, or walk along the causeway, just be aware that there's no pavement and it can get pretty busy.

10.  How to time it.  I figured it would take me about an hour.  I'd also read that it wasn't wise to set out the moment the causeway opens as the channel at the far side can still be quite deep.  I set off an hour before low tide, so was on the island for low tide and walking back just as it turned, and I didn't encounter any problems at all, conditions were identical in both directions.
11. Is it easy to follow the route?  Yes, very easy.  From the mainland, walk along the causeway (watch for the cars, there's not a lot of space and they whiz past!) and over the first bridge, you will easily see the tall poles marking the route all the way across; just stick close to them and you'll be fine.

12.  Is it worth it?  Yes. I was properly muddy and soggy by the end, but it's a great walk with loads of amazing photo opportunities.  Just make sure you CHECK THE TIDE TIMES before you go.  (Sorry, did I already mention that?)  It's really quite something to be out there, in the middle of the walk, with nothing else around you, knowing that you're following in the footsteps of thousands of folks who didn't have GoreTex boots.  The road only opened in 1954, before then, this was the only way over.  Well, this and boats.

If you have any other questions, please just ask - it really was a great walk and I'd be happy to help with any other info if you need it.

Meanwhile - we haven't written any books about Northumberland (yet!) but we have written LOADS of books about Cumbria.  You can buy them all right HERE.  We will be happy to sign them and they make the perfect gift for lovers of Cumbria.  Honest they do.