The journey was straighforward enough, across the M62 and straight up the A1, and with only one brief stop at Durham services I arrived at Honeysuckle cottage just after 9.30am. The owner and his wife were just on the point of going out to a wedding but they welcomed me, told me to pitch wherever I wanted and pay them the following day, and left me in the capable hands of a guy named Simon who told me where everything was. My first impressions of the site were quite favourable; about a mile off the main road in quiet countryside and not a big place by any means, with the owner's bungalow at the top end, a dozen static vans in a corner and a few seasonal tourers along one side and across the bottom end, with a small grass area in the middle for tents; there was also a small children's play area near the entrance and a separate small camping field behind the seasonal tourers. A few hens and a female turkey with her cute chicks roamed about and a cockeral strutted about, watching over his brood. It seemed I was the only tent camper booked in and once I'd decided where I was going to pitch I parked the van and started setting up camp. It didn't take long as I was only using the small tent and didn't have many accessories, and once everything was sorted out I made myself a brew and had half an hour's relaxation while I decided where I was going to go.
Because many of the messages on Kip's Doglost page mentioned various places nearby I already knew that the little town of Amble, about five miles up the coast, had a harbour and just up the river from it was Warkworth Castle; both of these places sounded nice so I decided to spend the afternoon exploring round there then drive the few miles back to Low Hauxley in time for Kip's celebration. First though was a short dog walk along the lane, then with Sophie and Sugar ensconced in the back of the van I set off to Amble and Warkworth. It didn't take long to reach Amble, and though I saw a sign for the harbour I decided to drive further on and check out Warkworth Castle first then work my way back. On the outskirts of Amble the coast road ran parallel to the river at one point and I could see the castle up ahead; a very convenient lay-by along the road meant I was able to stop and take a couple of photos before continuing to the castle itself.
The car park at the castle didn't have any designated parking spaces, the few cars that were there just seemed to be parked anywhere, so I picked the shade of a convenient tree and went to see what the fee was according to the information board near the castle entrance. It was £3 to park and £4.95 to get into the castle grounds, but on production of the car park ticket at the pay desk the car park fee would be refunded - that seemed like a bargain, and as I couldn't take any photos without going right into the grounds I quite happily paid the fee and set off to explore, though unfortunately I couldn't take the dogs with me. I spent quite some time wandering round the grounds, which provided many good photos, then after a quick check on the dogs I went to explore the inside of the castle itself.
There wasn't actually anything inside the castle, it was just a labyrinth of empty rooms, but information boards showed which rooms were which and what they would have looked like centuries ago when the castle was in use. I spent quite a while wandering about up and down various stairs, along passageways and through doorways between rooms, and I was so engrossed that when I finally decided to leave I couldn't find my way out! I was going round in circles, up one flight of stairs, through various rooms and down more stairs, only to find myself back where I'd just come from - and when I arrived in the wine cellar for the third time I began to wonder if I was destined to be trapped in the castle for ever. Maybe no-one would find me and I would die in there, to come back as a ghost and wander round the castle for the whole of my ghostly life! Eventually though I realised which room I'd gone through on my way in and finally found the right doorway, emerging from the gloom into the bright sunshine. My wanderings round the upper floors of the castle hadn't been in vain though, there were some good views from up there and I'd got some nice photos looking down towards Amble.
Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink then set off to see what Amble itself had to offer. Going back along the road towards the town I saw a sign for a marina, which obviously meant boats and water and therefore an opportunity for some photos, so I turned off and followed the lane which ended in a rough-surfaced car park, beyond which was a large expanse of grassland and thickets of trees - a good opportunity to let Sophie and Sugar have a run about for a few minutes before I followed the nearby path to see where it would lead. It came out by the water side, with the premises and car park of a sailing club to my left and the marina proper on my right. With many colourful boats around it was a great place to take photos and I got several before returning to the van and driving round into the town.
The town centre itself seemed to consist of just one main street, and following the 'harbour' and 'parking' signs took me down the length of it to what I assumed was the market square, with a small pay-and-display car park on the right and a larger free car park - albeit on rough ground - on the left; I chose the free one and with the dogs on the lead set off to find the harbour. It was only a short walk away but if I was hoping for some good photos I was to be disappointed - there wasn't a single fishing boat in sight, and no fishermen or anyone doing anything remotely interesting. By that time the brew I'd had much earlier on had worn off and I was beginning to feel a bit peckish - it would be well after 6pm before I got something to eat at Kip's celebration, and as there was a small tea room place near the harbour entrance I took the dogs back to the van then went to treat myself to coffee and cake. Someone on UKCS had recommended the fish and chips from the nearby harbour chippy and I was tempted to try them, but I very rarely eat fish and chips anyway so I decided to stick to coffee and cake, and very nice it was too. A walk up the main street followed, I thought maybe I might find a mouse in one of the shops but I was out of luck; time was getting on by then and I didn't want to be late getting to Kip's 'do' so I went back to retrieve the van and dogs and set off for Low Hauxley village hall, arriving just before 5pm. I've already written about Kip's celebration on a previous page so there's no point repeating it here - suffice to say that even though the reason for everyone being there was a sad one it was also a happy occasion in many ways.
It was 9.30pm when I left the hall, it didn't take long to get back to the camp site and once I'd parked the van I fed Sophie and Sugar and took them for a pre-bedtime walk along the lane before settling down in my tent for the night. It had been an enjoyable, if somewhat unusual, day - apart from the two brief rain showers on the beach at Low Hauxley the weather had been good, I'd been to a couple of nice places and got some good photos. I didn't know what the following day would bring but I was really looking forward to exploring somewhere else.