Warkworth Castle was built to impress and it works for me.
Age – funny thing, isn’t it? Chatting with my son, I started with, “I was talking to some of the old boys at the allotments…’ He stopped me with, “Dad, you are one of the old boys.” Doh! A few days later, I was pitching a tent on a campsite when a woman passing by commented, “You’re a bit old for this, aren’t you?”
Both situations could have been food for thought. Fortunately, nobody has said – yet – “Those new walking boots should see you out.” Whilst it makes sense to be aware of physical limitations, that’s no reason to settle down in front of daytime TV when there are places to explore, landscapes to savour and new people to meet.
It’s not about being in denial about getting older but in making the most of each day – whatever age you are. In fact, the arrival of my bus pass was cause for celebration. The freedom of travelling around without cost, to hop on buses without knowing where they’re going and hop off anywhere that takes my fancy is truly liberating.
No need to worry about driving when buspacking!
I call it ‘buspacking’ and the arrival of my first pension payment felt like a lottery win. Forget all the years of paying in – this felt like unfettered sponsorship. Tempered, of course, by the feeling of ‘Wow, I made it!’ So far, my buspacking has been limited to Northumberland and Cumbria. Limited, that is, geographically, but not in terms of adventure and social interaction.
Take a typical adventure. Heading up the coast from Newcastle on the top deck of the bus opened my eyes to views not seen on foot or wheels. Pausing to ‘splore the harbour at Amble, a small child in a pram offered me sweets. Her Mum said, “She’ll talk to anybody”. I prefer to think she had the unspoilt insight of youth when it came to judging strangers. Moving on, Warkworth Castle was well worth stopping for and unveils more of itself each time it’s visited.
Alnmouth beach is a joy to explore and offers true outdoor inspiration.
Further on, in Alnmouth, the deli/store beckoned to stock up with beach picnic supplies. It was a delight to be invited to sample a free mozzarella-stuffed pepper. There’s something about wandering into and around places with a rucksack and a smile that invites people to be generous.
Chatting in Carters the Bamburgh Butcher, (Butcher, Baker, Sausage Roll Maker), a fellow shopper offered me a lift to Wooler. He kindly took me on to Powburn where I planned to camp for the night with sausages for supper. We enjoyed a pot of tea and bacon roll in the café and I was delighted to be given a Tunnock’s teacake as we left – “To help me on my travels”.
Bamburgh Castle looms large over the road to the village and its Bamburgh Banger sausage salvation at Carters.
A theme had emerged on this trip – not for the first time. I don’t look in any way look like I need feeding up – au contraire. It must be something to do with looking needy. The theme continued the following day in Alnwick.
Browsing the stalls in the market square, it wasn’t difficult to wax lyrical over the samples of sausage laid out to tempt passers-by. The kind lady poured the contents of one paper plate into a serviette and handed them to me – “To keep you going ‘til you get hame”.
Best-known as a unique second-hand bookshop, Barter Books sells the best bacon roll in Northumberland in its Station Buffet.
My most interesting outdoor-oriented trips over the years have involved both detailed and minimal planning. All have involved chatting with strangers and hearing their stories. From Iceland to South Africa and Canada to China, the best were the trips that went pear-shaped, apparently, but revealed fresh horizons and fun encounters.
The Northumberland Coast Path runs for 100 kilometres (62 Miles) from Cresswell in the south to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north, offering plenty of opportunities to link bus and boot.
The point is, travel and life outdoors are both about attitude. About seeking out people with tales to tell and savouring the scenery whether it’s bathed in sunshine or cloaked in rain. It’s easier to make the most of such experiences on your own but not essential if your partner also looks outwards and you both avoid the ‘couple bubble’ that excludes others.
And the best time to go buspacking? Any time of year but, mostly, now!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
This is my first Senior Moments piece for The Outdoor Guide. TOG is a great resource for planning adventures and I hope mine will roll on here for some considerable time. All comments appreciated and ‘nowt refused but blows.’