More tales from Northumberland: From river to sea along the coquet
Published: Monday 9th Mar 2015
Written by: The Grace Darling Holidays Team
More Tales From Northumberland returned to television this week as Robson Green travelled along the famous Coquet River, continuing his journey to discover parts of the county that are often hidden under the radar.
The Coquet River holds a special place in local Robson’s heart, as the spot where the keen angler caught his very first fish aged eight, and to this day he still visits it around five to six times annually – but even he wasn’t familiar with one of the river’s lesser known sites: Warkworth Hermitage.
This ancient chapel, carved into the rocks, is where hermits lived in entire solitude in the past. But the history of the hermitage – built by the 1st Earl of Northumberland in the 1400s – was largely secretive, meaning it is still shrouded in mystery.
The hermitage has just two small rooms – a chapel and an inner chamber – all of which were carved out of just one big block of stone, which contain carvings that create a lot of controversy, with some believing they show the nativity scene, while others think the pictures depict the ill-fated story of Lady Isabel and Sir Bertram of Bothal.
Time might have blurred the distinction between fact and fiction – but perhaps this is what makes the hermitage such a magical, mystical place to visit.
Robson’s next stop – Warkworth Castle – stands in direct contrast to the hermitage, as a very focal Northumbrian spot, the centre of much activity. A dominating feature of the skyline today, in the past the imposing the castle was the site of many a bloody battle with the Scots.
It was also the castle of choice for Northumbrian hero Harry Hotspur (Henry Percy), one of the most valiant knights of medieval Britain.
After learning more about the castle’s history, including its famous, magnificent cross-shaped keep, which crowns a hilltop above the River Coquet and was inspired by Roman and Greek architecture, it was time for Robson to continue on his journey.
After braving the elements during an night in a tent, pitched right next to the River Coquet, it was time to head downstream again, as Robson rowed the two miles to Amble.
Amble was once an important harbour for shipping coal from nearby collieries, but with the shipping and mining industries now long gone its main trades are now fishing and boat trips to nearby Coquet Island.
Travellers come from all over to see the rare seabirds that live in this part of the world – but since last summer, others have been determined to spot another sea creature that gained legendary status: a friendly ‘surfing’ seal.
Last August Matty Stanley, from Amble, and Andrew Flounders, of Morpeth, were amazed when an inquisitive seal appeared next to them while they were surfing in the waters of Amble – and ended up jumping up and sitting on their boards!
The footage of the seal’s adventurous, playful activities soon went viral on the internet, and even attracted the attention of global music star Lady Gaga, who shared the footage on Twitter.
(If you fancy learning more about the famous seal, make sure to catch the third episode of More Tales From Northumberland: https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/tales-from-northumberland-with-robson-green/series-2/episode-3)
Finally it was time for the final leg of Robson’s journey this week, with the adventurer kayaking over to Coquet Island, an RSPB nature reserve which is off limits to anyone but the charity’s wardens, as the spot is home to Britain’s rarest nesting seabird, the Roseate Tern.
Despite kayaking for two hours to reach the destination, even Robson wasn’t allowed to ‘land’ on the island for fear of upsetting the birds, which congregate off the waters in Ghana before returning to Coquet Island each year.
“This is Northumberland’s best kept secret – well it was until today – and the fact you can’t land makes it really special,” RSBP warden Paul Morrison explained of the island.
“It’s the only true sanctuary in Northumberland. It’s the only place where the footprints on the beach are birds’ footprints. There are no human footprints.”
Robson’s latest explorations of Northumberland have enabled him to see genuine true hidden gems of the country that even he wasn’t aware of.
And he’ll continue on his quest to uncover more ‘hidden’ parts of this beautiful part of the world, when he returns in the fourth episode of More Tales From Northumberland to visit the Farne Islands where he goes diving for shipwrecks, learning about the fascinating Roman relics that have been unearthed in the region, like the Corbridge Hoard, and visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to learn about the Viking invasion of the island.
* Find out more about Warkworth Castle and Hermitage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/warkworth-castle-and-hermitage/
* Learn about the ‘friendliest port’ of Amble: http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/amble
* Find out all about Coquet Island: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/c/coquetisland/
* Did you miss the third episode of More Tales From Northumberland? Catch up on the ITV Player now: https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/tales-from-northumberland-with-robson-green/series-2/episode-3