The Hexham Racecourse campsite is on the top of a hill and has wide open views over the racecourse to green hills and woodland. This lofty position does mean it catches even the merest hint of a breeze. The walk into Hexham is an easy 1.5 km but the return is back up the hill and a trifle more demanding. The peace and openness of this relaxed campsite suited us very well and the facilities are modern and clean.
Hexham is a quiet little town but certainly worth a walk around to see the abbey and the old gaol and there are plenty of cafes to sit in and watch the world go by. We walked down to the town in the early evening and pottered through the streets and the park.
On a wet day we took a longer walk from the campsite through luxuriant woodland where raindrops dripped long after a downpour had stopped. The long ribbon of West Dipton Wood follows the brook along a narrow valley to the charming Dipton Mill Inn. We followed tracks and lanes to the hamlet of Juniper where we picked up a path over the dramatically named Devil’s Water into Dipton Wood, a large area of woodland and heather that is varied and delightful. We didn’t meet another walker until we were on the paths and lanes that took us into the Tyne Valley and Corbridge where the sun started to peep out. We treated ourselves to pancakes with ice-cream in the Emporium Ice-cream Parlour before catching a train back to Hexham and tackling the hill up to the campsite.
Our next stop was the Caravan and Motorhome Club site by Whitley Bay. On the way we returned to Corbridge to visit the fascinating site of the Roman town that has been excavated. The Whitley Bay campsite is arranged so that pretty much everyone has some sort of sea view, looking across to the picturesque St Mary’s Lighthouse that can be reached by a short causeway between high tides. We walked along the coast to the centre of Whitley Bay and joined the queue for a Di Meo’s Ice Cream, spoilt for choice by their range of delicious flavours. There were plenty of people enjoying being on the beach and I decided it was warm enough to have a paddle in the sea as we walked back.
We ended our trip near to Durham. We walked to Causey Arch, the world’s oldest surviving single-arch railway bridge and along the old railway line into the village of Lanchester. The Lanchester Valley railway was built to carry iron ore and coal to the Consett steelworks and was opened in 1862. Trains ran here for just over one hundred years and today it is a level and popular walking and cycle path. In Lanchester we found the charming Kaffeehaus Amadeus, a small and delicious slice of Austria in County Durham.
Before we headed home a friend took us on a short walk to see Brancepeth, an unexpected picture-postcard village with a castle and St Brandon’s Church, which had exceptional 17th-century features but was destroyed by fire in 1998. The church was restored and is now a light and airy space with a stunning modern stained glass window depicting colourful flowers.