Stranded and Wet! Wild Camping Catastrophoe

Our plan was to have a leisurely bike ride down the Northumberland Coast, stopping to relax on the sand in the sun occasionally, camping on a grassy patch, exploring seaside towns and and watching the sun set over the sea. It didn’t go exactly to plan unfortunately. To read the first part of the story click here.

After leaving the pub with bellies full of chips and ale, we ventured out into the misty dark to find somewhere to camp on the eerie Holy Island. We followed a trail through the crop fields away from the little town, pushing our bikes along because I was so sore from riding all day. The whole way we were looking back behind us, worried that someone had spotted us creeping away. Signs were plastered all over the island prohibiting camping and we were terrified that someone would suspect us from our strange eloping into the nature reserve with our backpacks full of gear. We imagined scenes of the townsfolk running after us with burning pitchforks and carrying us back to the drowned causeway to swim to the mainland. We passed the grazing cows in the fields, feeling their suspicious eyes on our backs the whole time. Eventually we reached a fence and a gate, with a sign announcing that we were entering the nature reserve and detailing the various bye-laws, which yet again forbade our right to pitch our tent. Alas, with no other options we strode forth. The land became uneven as we entered the reserve, clustered with hillocks covered in sand and mallum grass. We left the bikes concealed behind a hill and scoured the area. Eventually, we arrived right at the coast, coming across craggy little coves of beach. However, we decided to camp on a flat patch among the hills to avoid being spotted from afar and finally set up camp in the dark with difficulty due to our lack of torches (damn our unprepared selves yet again).

It was hard to sleep that night- we were sharing a roll matt and sleeping bag and constantly paranoid that rangers would come along and discover us. Josh didn’t sleep at all and woke me at 4am suggesting we set off as the sun was beginning to come up.We took down the tent in a miserable silence. The night before we looked forward to a beautiful sunrise over the beach but the weather was just as awful as the previous day, if not worse. Low, thick cloud gave the world a gloomy appearance. The long wet grass saturated my feet as I trudged along sleepless, groggy and in pain. I took out my camera and took a snap of the beach… the red low-battery sign flashed on the screen. That was the last straw. To be wet, exhausted with a throbbing ankle and sore bum was one thing. But all of that with no camera… I wanted to go home.

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Beach on Holy Island at 4:30am
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Holy Island Castle shrouded in fog

We weren’t sure what we wanted to do from that moment, battling between continuing on our route South down the coast as planned or make our way back to Berwick so we could get the train home. I didn’t want to give in to defeat but the next train station wasn’t for 40 miles- by the rate we were going it would take us two more days and in the miserable injured state I was in, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy myself, especially without the motivation of taking pictures along the coast. So, we gave in. We’d go back to Berwick. But not before another torturous bike ride back down the endless-seeming causeway to the mainland.

Once back on the mainland a few lifetimes later, we perused the map and decided it would be quicker to follow the A1 main road back to Berwick instead of going back via the cycle route. This was another one of our bad decisions. At first it seemed to speed up the journey as the flat, downhill paths running along the A1 let us cruise at high speeds. However, after a while the paths disappeared and as it got later, the main road became busier with cars and trucks. We were eventually forced to walk pushing our bikes along to avoid running into danger. My shoes sloshed as we trudged along the road, full of water, my glasses spattered with rain drops. 18-wheeler trucks zoomed past us carelessly close and we became wary of remaining on the main road. Thankfully, a narrow road turned off after a while, offering us a chance to rejoin the cycle route along the coast.

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I was glad that my camera lasted long enough to take a few more pictures of the coast on the way back, which cheered me up a little. When we eventually made it back to Berwick, my long-term dampness took its toll as I started to feel ill and feverish. At the train station after waiting for the train for an hour and a half feeling and looking horrible, we were refused entry as some rude girls got their bikes in the hold before us after only just arriving on the platform. Still fuming about their audacity!

After all, we were the ones to blame for everything that went wrong with our lack of preparation and I’m ultimately glad for the experience for the highlights and the lessons learnt!

Much love ❤

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