After a couple of very pleasant circuits of the pond's perimeter I made my way back to the awning for breakfast and to decide where to go to make the most of the sunshine. Janet had previously said that she was quite happy to go wherever I chose, so as her lamp had given up the ghost the previous evening I thought we could first look for a new one at Amble market then drive on to Alnmouth and also explore another couple of places along the coast. Janet was in agreement with this suggestion so with all three dogs in the back of the van we set off for Amble market and various points beyond. Now although the little town is only five miles away from the camp site there was a distinct change in the sky when we got there, with a lot of grey cloud around, though out to sea it was still blue so I kept my fingers crossed for that blue to increase. Arriving at the free car park I found it to be chock-a-block with cars and with not a cat in hell's chance of finding a space, but as I drove round on my way back out a car pulled out of a space in front of me so I nipped in there quick - or as quick as manoeuvering my 15ft van/bus/tank/juggernaut into a space just big enough for a Ford Ka would allow - then we set off to see what interesting things we could find at the market.
Reaching the harbourside I realised from various signs and posters why the car park was so busy - it was Harbour Day in support of the RNLI, and residents and tourists alike had all turned out to see the various attractions. A good look round the market stalls first yielded a new lamp for Janet then a wander along the harbourside itself gave me a long line of colourful fishing boats to photograph. From there we walked right round to the far side of the little beach and out onto one of the long jetties, where we stood and watched a demonstration where an RNLI crew member was winched slowly from a Sea King helicopter down into an inshore rescue boat which was lurching about in the rather choppy sea, then we wandered our way back to the car park.
Reaching the van I immediately realised that we weren't going anywhere for a while - some idiot had parked a 4 x 4 broadside on right in front of me, completely blocking me in, and as the row of cars behind was so close it would be dificult for me to do a reverse manoeuvre without risking hitting something it meant we were well and truly stuck. I was just beginning to wonder how long we would be sitting there when a car behind and just to the right pulled out of its space, so before anyone else could pull in there I reversed the van towards it and with a bit of to-ing and fro-ing (and several evil thoughts directed at the 4 x 4 owner) I finally managed to get safely out of the car park.
Back on the road again I headed through Amble, past Warkworth castle and up the A1068 to Alnmouth, following the relevant signs through the village to a large and very cheap car park right next to the beach. With the dogs on their leads we walked to the end of the car park and up the road to the riverside where I wandered along and took several photos while Janet sat on a bench and waited for me. There was still plenty of grey cloud around but the sun was shining and the blue sky was slowly increasing over the sea so hopefully it would turn out to be just as nice as it had been back at the camp site.
By the time we got back to the car park we were both ready for a coffee so we left the dogs temporarily back in the van and went across the road to see what was on offer at The Dandelion Cafe - and that was where I had what must have been the strangest cup of coffee ever. The young man who took our order asked if we wanted regular or large coffees, and knowing that in many places 'large' can often mean 'enormous' we opted for regular ones, but what we got could only be described as small. Expecting normal sized mugs, or maybe those glass things with handles on, we were very surprised to find that our coffees were served in what could only be described as bowls, and very small bowls at that. They were lime green and white, made out of tough dishwasher-and-microwave-proof plastic, and had no handles - how the heck were we supposed to drink out of those?? They looked like extremely small versions of the finger bowls you get in Chinese restaurants and neither of us was very impressed; had we known that 'regular' actually meant 'very small' we would have ordered large ones instead. The words 'Trades Descriptions Act' sprang to mind, but at least the slices of cake we had were a decent size.
While we had been in the cafe the weather had improved rapidly; the blue sky had chased the grey clouds away and we emerged into brilliant sunshine. Janet needed to post a letter so retrieving the dogs from the van we made our way into the village in search of a post box, and having found one we had a general wander round while I searched out things to photograph. One of the local pubs, which had Mediterranean-style white walls and blue paintwork, looked particularly attractive with its hanging baskets and tubs outside, but to get a really good photo of it proved very difficult as there was a long line of cars parked outside it. In a small courtyard off the main street I found the backs of the coloured cottages which overlooked the river, but access to the front was through a private alleyway so it looked like I wouldn't be able to get any photos. I reckoned without the kind elderly gentleman watering the flowers in the back garden of the end cottage though - he overheard my conversation with Janet and said that "just this once" he would open the communal gate for us to go through so I could get the photos I wanted. I certainly didn't expect that, it was a really nice gesture and enabled me to get several shots of the quaint and quirky cottages and gardens before we made our way back to the van.
Back at the van we gave the dogs a drink then set off for our next port of call, the little fishing village of Craster several miles up the coast. Driving down the lane to the village itself I saw a line of cars parked on the grass verge; a sign just ahead said there was no vehicle access to the village for members of the public so it looked like we would have to park up and walk there. Fortunately it wasn't far and when we got there I understood the reason for the sign - a row of cottages stood either side of the small harbour with a very narrow dead-end lane running in front of each of them, and with residents' cars parked outside most of the cottages there was no room for any other vehicles. While Janet sat on a bench in the sunshine I wandered around the harbour taking my photos then I rejoined her and we walked back up the lane to the van.
From the top of the lane I could see the bay with its beach curving round and with Dunstanburgh Castle on the headland in the distance; it was a good view and certainly worth a photo, but it was when we got to the bottom of the hill that we had a nice surprise. Set back off the end of the lane were three rows of quaint white-painted cottages forming three sides of a square round a very pleasant green, and with The Ship Inn in the far corner. Several tables with bench seats were set outside the pub, and on the grass many people were picnicing, sunbathing or otherwise relaxing. I shot a couple of photos then leaving Janet parked on one of the benches I wandered a short distance along the beach before returning to the pub, whereby Janet went in to get some cold drinks and we spent a very pleasant half hour sitting in the sun before making our way back up the hill to the car park.
It was just after 7pm when we finally got back to the site; Janet took Aphra and went back to her own tent to sort out some food for the two of them and after connecting the awning to the van I did the same for myself and my two. It was just after 9pm when Janet came over to join me and we spent a couple of hours discussing various topics and generally putting the world to rights over a glass or two of wine. Janet is a well-educated person, and though I always enjoy my own company when I'm camping it makes a refeshing change to chat to someone of the same age and mindset as myself. The evening seemed to fly by and eventually it was time for me to take Sophie and Sugar for their bedtime walk - after the day's sun it was a very mild night, and standing outside the awning with a very clear sky and no light pollution on the site we could see every star in the sky. I've never really been interested in astronomy, I can recognise The Plough and that's my limit, but Janet is really clued up on it and named practically every star and constellation we could see before we said our goodnights and she set off back to her own tent.
I was just about to put the dogs on their leads when I heard Janet's voice outside the awning saying she couldn't find her tent - she'd wandered off in totally the wrong direction, completely lost her bearings and walked into a tree! Now had I done the same thing myself I could have blamed the wine as I don't normally drink and I'd had two large glasses, but though I was perfectly okay Janet, who drinks the stuff regularly and only ten minutes before had named all the stars in the sky, seemed to have suddenly gone all woolly-headed. We blamed the large dose of fresh country and sea air we'd had that day, and after we'd stopped giggling I escorted her back to her tent and made sure she went in it. I thought that was the safer option - left to her own devices she could have ended up anywhere!
Back at the awning I finally managed to put Sophie and Sugar on their leads and take them for a short walk down to the end of the lane and back, then after settling them in their beds and making myself a quick brew - the wine had left me with rather a dry throat - I took myself off to my own bed and spent a while reading my book. Every so often though a mental image of Janet walking into a tree would pop into my mind and it was all I could do to stop breaking out into fits of giggles - needless to say, when I did finally settle down to sleep it was with a big smile on my face.