Tuesday, 24 July 2012

July 24th - Trouble at the Peace Camp and Royal footsteps on the beach

Dear Nigel,

The summer holidays are upon us and its time to catch up with friends and family. We head north to Northumberland in search of a little warm beach weather. I'm so not optimistic that i barely pack any Summer clothes at all, just plenty of coats and jumpers. So, naturally the sun decides to make its entrance at last. I'm not disappointed, though - we've had quite enough winter weather lately. There is a simple delight in English bucket-and-spade holidays that other holidays simply cannot match. The less-is-more principle that egalitates us all and which will be eternally remembered as sunny, whatever the weather.

Evening draws in and i decide to visit the Peace Camp which has taken over at Dunstanburgh Castle. This is part of an artwork commissioned by the London 2012 Festival taking place simultaneously at eight of 'the most beautiful and remote locations around the UK', and just round the corner from here so it seems a pity to miss it. 2000 glowing dome tents are pitched for four days only at the eight sites and people are invited to visit during the night to eavesdrop on  conversations within about love and recitations of love poems by both famous poets and ordinary folk.

 The night i choose is Sunday, the last night, and as i pull into the car park in the tiny village of Craster a large flashing motorway sign declares the car park full and that high winds may cause the display to close. I am half-way to the castle, torch in hand, when we are turned back by men in fluorescent jackets. The Peace Camp has had to close because of the danger of having lots of people on the cliffs in the dark in high winds. There are grim faces around me. Some have come a long way for this. I will soon be back to my hot chocolate and bed: it is a mild disappointment. There is, i think, a kind of irony in a greater force defeating the Peace Camp. And the greatest force of all is not man-made  (although i suppose we could argue forever and a day as to whether the recent weather is a spin off of man-caused global warming).

Today we are back on the beach at my favourite little pub at Low Newton, but it is closed. Prince Charles is visiting the area and has come to see the tiny micro-brewery on site next to the pub. Shame, I'm feeling quite parched. One of us will be imbibing a long cool drink anyway. The kids and i head off to the beach away from the throng of people. The sea is incredibly calm today, the waves barely lapping at the shoreline. Amid the castle building all heads turn as Prince Charles heads our way and walks along the beach to view the classic picture of Dunstanburgh Castle against a fading sky. As Head of the National Trust i'm sure he's seen THAT picture representing the Trust a  hundred times so it was good to see him taking the effort to see it for himself. The Peace Camp has been dismantled and calm has returned. He doesn't come back and it's a fair way across the sands whichever way he goes: there'll be no getting the Royal car down there.

 Sophie insists on telling everyone she has seen Prince Charming as we watch the fisherman row out to check his crab pots.I'm pleased to see that much of his visit has been based around the artisan food producers in this sparsely-populated area: Swallows smokery at Sea Houses, the Butcher at Bamburgh who makes the infamous Bamburgh Banger, the Microbrewery and a woman near Alnwick whose company 'Proof of the Pudding' has taken off with much acclaim lately.

 The pub reopens for business and the crowds drift away. A few rowing boats and a couple of sailing boats dot the bay. The sea and sky are almost irridescent and the tones so similar it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The gentle lapping is hypnotic, appearing to come from the inside of a seashell or a distant dream. There are golden footprints in the sand.


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