Summer beaches are often overcrowded so it’s good to escape to a quieter and more relaxing sandy cove.
Beadnell Bay is one of Northumberland’s most popular small seaside towns. It’s not as dramatic as some of Northumberland’s beaches but boasts stunning views of Bamburgh Castle and the coast.
There’s just the right amount of activity going on. The sheltered horseshoe of the bay makes it popular with water sports fans. There’s everything from kite surfing, kayaking, wake boarding to sailing and dinghying.
But it was the sailing that brought us to Beadnell this week because we’re buying a boat. Don’t laugh – this may seem incredible news for someone who’s uneasy on water but it’s true. I’m still trying to get used to the idea.
My partner Tony has developed an obsession with sailing. It started many years ago on a family holiday to Cornwall but has grown into something more serious over the last 12 months.
I blame the parents. They bought him Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons as a child. Reading these books made him fall in love with sailing.
But it was a trip around Scandinavia last summer when we stayed at marinas in our camper van which launched his bid to buy a boat.
Plans were hatched, sailing books and manuals were bought. Charts were studied. Evenings were spent studying knots and navigation.
Soon Tony was booking himself onto dinghy and sailing courses, learning the craft of navigation and crewing.
A five day yachting course along the North East of England coast resulted in an official rubber stamp. Tony became a qualified sea dog or ‘competent crew’ man.
You’ll be pleased to hear that the advanced skipper and radio communications courses are coming up very soon.
So the next stage was always inevitable. Buying a boat,
For months Tony has been trawling sailing magazines, websites and eBay in search of the perfect boat, veering between a dinghy and a small yacht. After much navel gazing, he opted for a small 17 feet yacht.
Tony has also been keen to stress that “boats aren’t as expensive as you think” although he refuses to tell me the true price of the second-hand boat he’s buying.
Imagine Tony’s unparalleled joy when he spotted a yawl similar to the one he’s buying on Beadnell Beach this weekend.
The Beadnell Bay boat was a beautiful sight with its wood rigging and deep blue and cream colours. How could I fail to fall in love with it?
By now I was starting to get enthused about the boat. I had visions of relaxing on board with champagne as Tony navigated around the coast on a summer’s day with barely a ripple on the water.
Then I remembered that the North East coast of England is one of the windiest places in Europe. Could this be wetter and wilder than I’d thought? Looking out across Beadnell Bay, it looked gusty and bumpy – far from ideal conditions for champagne quaffing.
A trip to the sailing club did little to allay my fears. When I asked what would happen if Tony fell over board, I was told that I’d be expected to turn around the boat, trim a fine line and rescue him from the murky waters!
At this point I thought it was best not to mention the following facts: 1) I can’t swim and have a fear of deep water ; 2) I have a back problem; and 3) I have absolutely no aptitude for sailing.
Tony wasn’t bothered too much by these apparently “surmountable” problems and has embarked on teaching me the basics of sailing.
I can now tell my jib from the main and mizzen sails – and I’m being taught the terminology of sailing which means that I can talk like a salty sea dog captain. “Ahoy, me hearties – release the jib boom and shiver my timbers” is one fine example.
Looking at the boats at Beadnell harbour, Tony was keen to show me the ropes – and rigging – in intricate detail.
Needless to say, I’m now learning sailing lingo like someone doing a crash course in driving (an unfortunate parallel, perhaps?).
But will I be ready for a watery adventure when the boat arrives in two weeks’ time? The yawl – called Tripos – is being brought up north from Wales – and its maiden voyage will be a big challenge.
In the meantime, I’ve been told to get knotted – not literally – by learning from a ‘step to step’ book explaining over 100 different knots.
Whether my granny knot will be useful isn’t clear so I’m practising my bowline, stevedore knot, sailmaker’s whipping (not the Madonna variety) and rolling hitch.
As I gazed at the boats on Beadnell beach, I wondered how I’d cope and why this sailing malarkey is so complex. After all, when the yachts are moored, they look so peaceful and uncomplicated.
That evening I was asked to watch Robert Redford in the sailing disaster movie ‘All Is Lost’ to help our understanding of what to do in a storm.
Tony provided a running commentary on Redford’s survival strategies – the good, the bad and the disastrous.
The film is excellent and makes for compelling viewing but I’m not sure if it made me feel any better.
Perhaps it was the sequence with the circling sharks or the moment when the yacht sank, leaving our hero battling against the elements in a lifeboat, which fuelled my unease.
I kept telling myself that the Indian Ocean and Sumatra is a thousand miles from Beadnell Bay. Tony reassured me that we’d have life jackets, GPS, ‘waterproof’ flares and an anti-capsize device on board our boat.
Skipper or beach bum?
So how will I adapt to life on the ocean waves? Perhaps I’m more of a beach bum than a sailing skipper or seaman?
But I’m prepared to give this sailing adventure a decent shot in the full knowledge that I may have to launch the boat from the beach at Beadnell and tie a few knots.
And on those choppy days, perhaps I can stay on the beach in my ‘tent’ as Tony glides along the harbour doing his best Robert Redford impersonation?
When it comes down to it, I enjoy hanging out like a beach bum at Beadnell. This place has no pretensions to be anything other than a fun spot where you can set up a deck chair in the dunes, watch the world go by or build a sand castle.
Or you can sail a boat along one of Britain’s most attractive coastlines from this picturesque spot, if the passion takes you seaward.
On dry land
Back on dry land, you can explore Beadnell harbour with its authentic fishing boats and crab pots which line the quayside.
At low tide, it’s a treat to take a walk along the beach to look at the fleet of small yachts and boats waiting for their next sea excursion. Look out for special events and regattas at the sailing club and along the coast.
Perhaps I can learn a few sailing tips from the experts?
Beadnell has another claim to fame – it’s the only west facing harbour on the east coast. It’s a colourful place where you’ll see traditional Northumberland cobles, a type of fishing boat, heading out to fish for wild salmon, crabs and sea trout.
Further along the quayside, take a walk along to the impressive and distinctive lime kilns. These 18th Century stone structures were used for burning limestone to make lime until the late 1820s.
Although in need of a makeover, the lime kilns are interesting remnants of Beadnell’s traditional industries.
Just beyond the kilns there are great views up the coast where, I’m told, you can watch the sunset in its full glory. Tony tells me that this experience would, of course, be better from the deck of a yacht.
Beadnell is a great, little place to come for a summer stroll or a sailing adventure. The sailing experience is growing on me but I’ll need to work on getting my sea legs.
I’ll be back soon but whether it’s on sea or land, I’m not quite sure yet. But Tony has just told me that it’ll take a while before we’re experienced enough to attempt the North Sea.
Look out for our first venture onto the water at Ullswater where (hopefully) it’ll be a bit flatter.
So what’s the next step? No surprise here – I’m off to the chandlers to select a buoyancy aid right now!
Tammy’s travel tips – Beadnell Bay
Beadnell Bay is located a couple of miles from Bamburgh off the A1 in Northumberland in the North East of England.
Visit Northumberland has more information about travel and accommodation. There are B ‘n ‘Bs and self catering apartments in the village as well as a camping & caravan site.
Beadnell Bay is very much a family orientated beach during the summer holidays. The sailing club is located close to the lime kilns and beach.
Look out for training courses in sailing at Northumbria Sailing before attempting a yacht trip.
Other tourism attractions worth visiting in the area include Bamburgh Castle, the Farne Islands and Lindisfarne (Holy Island).