A driving day, albeit a relatively short one, from inland Northumberland to the coast.
The weather wasn’t great so it was good to have couple of indoor attractions lined up for the day.
Our first stop was Hexham. After parking, and re-parking (blame the red/blue permit system), we walked the short distance into town. Hexham has a Waitrose and is an arty, well-heeled type of place. Its main attraction is the abbey, which dates from the 13th century, although earlier buildings were on the same site. A tourist leaflet detailed the ‘must sees’. These included the Frith Stool, an ancient seat of solid sandstone, and the night stairs, steps used by monks since the 13th century.
One highlight not in the leaflet was an aerial display of origami angels. These were to commemorate those affected by Covid-19; it was a stunning yet sombre display.
We couldn’t linger in the abbey as a wedding service was booked. Instead we had cake and coffee in the attached cafe and watched the wedding guests arrive, many in military dress.
Woodhorn Museum, Ashington
After leaving Hexham, we drove via Prudhoe, to Woodhorn Museum near Ashington. This is on the site of Woodhorn Colliery, an active coal mine until 1981.
After a protracted ticket purchase we finally made it onto site. At its peak 2000 people worked at the colliery. Today the machinery is silent. Winding House No 2 caught my eye, a second pit cage exit for the mine. A grim reminder of the dangers of working in a mine; it only became law for mines to have two access points after a tragedy at a nearby colliery.
The indoor museum, Coal Town, was excellent. It told the stories of those who worked in the mine, their families and the community. There’s no doubt it was a tough life with accidents, backbreaking labour and the hostile underground environment. Yet the sense of comradeship shone through. For that reason I enjoyed the exhibits dedicated to life outside the mine; miners playing football, racing pigeons and growing vegetables.
The final section of the museum displayed another pastime, art. The Pitmen Painters were an amateur art group from Ashington, mostly comprised of miners. Their paintings depicted 1930s life in the mines and above ground and provided a rare artistic insight into their everyday lives. The group found fame for their realistic depictions and even inspired a Broadway play.
As we left Woodhorn, I noticed the second wedding party of the day arriving to use some of the buildings. Wedding season, post Covid-19 restrictions, was in full swing!
One of the reasons I chose our next Airbnb was due to its location, just 15 minutes walking distance from Cresswell beach.
We visited after tea, walking along an almost empty beach and watching Arctic terns diving into the waters. These birds journey an incredible 22,000 miles every year following the sun from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Whereas our paltry 3 mile walk took us as far as Druridge Bay before we circled back inland to return to Ashington.
Our Airbnb in Ellington was an unassuming flat in the middle of a quiet housing estate. It felt a little strange being on holiday in a residential area but the flat itself was perfect. Quirky decoration, another box of breakfast goodies and comfy beds.