Out There: A place by the sea

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It was my mum’s 70th birthday recently and she very kindly took the whole family away for a weekend to the historic village of Alnmouth in Northumberland.

We stayed in a large Victorian terraced house just metres from the beach.

It was a perfect place for a family break as it was peaceful, close to a delightful park and surrounded by stunningly beautiful countryside.

I’d been to Northumberland before with my husband Mark (aka Sparky) but we hadn’t been to Alnmouth.

Exploring the village with its grand and quirky architecture was sheer pleasure. There was something of interest around every corner. Some of the buildings were extremely old and there were several cosy pubs (although we didn’t have time to visit).

However, it was down on the beach were our hearts were truly captured.

We climbed down steps next to the lovely River Aln and took in views of the old cross on Church Hill and the vast expanses of sand stretching into the far distance. Luckily the sun was shining brightly so the sea and sky were both an intense blue.

Gulls, oystercatchers, cormorants and other seabirds were soaring on the light breeze.

We learned that Alnmouth was founded almost 1,000 years ago by William de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick, and it developed quickly as a market community.

It was once an important port between the Tyne and the Tweed but its status changed on Christmas Eve, 1806, when a savage storm pounded the Northumberland coast and swept the course of the River Aln away from the harbour. Evidence of the storm exists today – we could see that Church Hill had been cut off from the village by the river.

This new course was not as deep, making life difficult for ships to anchor, and the port declined over time.

The coming of the railway sounded the deathknell for Alnmouth as a harbour, but instead brought visitors to enjoy the quiet and picturesque village.

The whole family – me, Sparky, my mum and dad, my sister, her husband and their three kids and my brother and his wife – just about had the beach to ourselves.

The children loved playing in the water and we all felt invigorated by the superb views of the sea.

My dad – joking referred to as ‘the hobo’ by Sparky – spent the entire time collecting driftwood in carrier bags to burn on the stove at the holiday home.

That evening we had a family meal around a huge table at the holiday home and thanked our mum for everything she’d done for us over the years.

Sadly, on the Sunday things started to go downhill. Several of us caught a nasty vomiting bug.

Sparky and I were about to set off back to Caton when my stomach started churning.

And when Sparky tried to start his car it wouldn’t budge.

There was something badly wrong with the clutch and we ended up having to be towed by the AA all the way back to Lancaster.

Unfortunately for me that was when I started to be sick. I had to get the (very kind and understanding) AA man to stop every few minutes to let me out to be sick by the roadside. Thankfully it was dark so nobody could really see what was happening.

The car had to be towed to a garage near Blackburn where he’d bought it so he dropped me off at Forton Services for a couple of hours.

I was in a dreadful state by the time we reached Forton Services and was still terribly sick. The staff were so kind to me that it nearly made me cry. They offered me water and a first aider also tried to help. Many thanks to them for their compassion and care.

Sparky eventually picked me up from Forton Services at about 1am and we made our way home. Luckily my mum didn’t get the full-blown sickness bug but she did have a bad stomach. Not the greatest way to end a birthday celebration weekend but at least we did have one wonderful day on the beach.

The bug hasn’t put us off and we’ve all vowed to have another holiday in Alnmouth at some point in the future.