Friday, May 29, 2009

A sunny bank holiday? what next?

Last Friday afternoon Kirstine and I made a dash for the coast amongst the beginnings of the traditional bank holiday chaos. Before we could cross the pennine border into Yorkshire the exhaust fell off the car and the rear suspension collapsed too. It was like a scene form 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em'. A very nice man from the AA came along and patched things up for us so that we limp to a nearby Kwikfit. Having initially left Manchester at 1-30pm we eventually arrived at Belford in Northumberland around 9-30pm.

On Saturday morning we headed off to circumnavigate Holy Island. We launched from the harbour on the island and following the guidance provided on John Rae's excellent kayaking website. With a Castle, sea birds, seals, rocky headlands and deserted sandy beaches this trip has it plenty to recommend it.

We even got a gloomy squall to get our hearts racing for the last part of the day as we paddled back towards the harbour.

On Sunday the wind was far stronger than we expected.

We went for a paddle in the shelter of the sandstone cliffs along the coast between Berwick upon Tweed and the Scottish border. This is a true classic amongst sea kayaking coastlines.

There are tidal lagoons, caves, arches and plenty of wildlife in amongst it all.

Later that day we drove along the coast to meet up with Ollie Jay who works as a canoe and kayak coach, and guide to the local area.

We packed up our boats with some supplies and went for a short paddle in the evening sunshine in search for a nice sheltered beach to sleep on. The night tried to draw in but never quite made it. Star gazing from amongst the dunes was good fun all the same and made all the better with a glass or two of red wine.

The bank holiday Monday morning sunshine gently warmed us from our sleeping bags. We took plenty of time over breakfast to the sound of Curlews, Oystercatchers, Skylarks and Terns. All too soon we were back in the 'real world' packing our toys away in readiness for the long haul home along the A1.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Durham Heritage Coast

Ever since the pit closures of the eighties this area has been occupied by a community short of employment and wealth. Well placed money for redevelopment has done much to revive this area but there is still much to do. Our paddling this last weekend took us from Fish Sands close to this statue of Andy Capp on the Hartlepool Headland along the Durham Heritage Coast to Sunderland.

We paddled north along the coast towards Crimdon Dene where there is a breeding colony of Little Terns hidden amongst the sand dunes. A little further on and there is a small headland called Blackhall Rocks. Closer inspection reveals the headland to be almost completely hollow. This is a huge cavern with numerous entrances at ground level, and a pebbly beach inside.

Later in the afternoon we settled for a deserted beach to camp for the night. Until the 1980s waste from the coal mines and steel industry was dumped along this shore without regard for any consequences. Following a huge clean up the beaches are turning from black to a more naturally sandy colour and wildlife is beginning to return.

The Magnesian Limestone that makes up most of this coastline is riddled with caves and arches and we made the most of the rockhopping opportunities.

The Limestone is overlaid with Boulder Clay and sandy glacial deposits and there is plenty of evidence of frequent cliff collapse.

Upon our arrival at Sunderland we found a delightful cafe by the beach inside the north pier where we found pie and chips to be our reward for paddling against tide and wind all morning.

There is a greater selection of photos here.

A Farewell To Johnny Roadhouse

During my past existence as an under used musician I worked for a number of years in a well known shop called Johnny Roadhouse Music. The shop on oxford road was more an institution than a mere retail outlet. It was a place where all manner of characters (including musicians) would meet up, drink the establishment's tea and sometimes even buy things. 123 Oxford road was always a hive of activity and this was all down to the traditions laid down by the great man himself, Johnny Roadhouse! I often got a ride into work with him. Once in his car I would be captive to his teachings, points of view, awful jokes and unfeasible anecdotes. Through the din of Saturday's could be guitar gods he would declare, "There is nothing worse than a quiet music shop!"

Johnny Died aged 88 following a short illness. When I attended the funeral at Manchester Cathedral I was stunned by all of the familiar faces. People I had served, worked with and played with more than 10 years since. The shop has been run by his son John for many years now. Long may it retain its importance in Manchester's cultural landscape and stand as a living breathing and very noisy memorial to Johnny Roadhouse.

A visit to the Calf of Man

Over the Easter week Kirstine and I went to the Isle of Man for some sea kayaking and exploring. We started off with a couple of short day trips.

Our first trip was to the southeast area to explore Castletown and the Langness Peninsula. The coastline is rugged with cliffs, gullies and deep caves.
Santon Burn is a deep sheltered gully with clear blue water and south-facing shingle beaches. The perfect sun trap lunch stop destination.

Another day trip took us to the northeast area of the island to have a look at Maughold head.

We continued on paddling south spending plenty of time rockhopping, sunbathing by a lagoon and exploring the wooded glen at Port Cornaa.

The highlight of the holiday was our trip over to the nature reserve on the Calf of Man.
The calm seas and light winds meant that we could paddle all the way round the island before finally landing. There is no camping allowed but we had booked some basic accommodation in the bunkhouse at the bird observatory.

In the warm sunny afternoon we took a walk around the island where we saw Willow Warblers, Wheatear, Chough, Stonechat, hundreds of seabirds and thousands of rabbits.

The wardens made us very welcome and even got the log fire going for us in time for tea. As dusk fell they allowed us to watch as birds were trapped, weighed, measured and ringed.

For most of our stay we were guests of Keirron Tastagh who runs Adventurous Experiences. He and his family always make me feel welcome and this trip was no exception.