There are a handful of places in the UK that make me feel nostalgic and that I could revisit time and time again. These are they; the places that are woven deep within my ongoing travel story: Cartmel and Coniston in the Lake District; the New Forest; Abersoch and Portmeirion in Wales and the Northumberland Coastline.
I returned to the latter this weekend — to Druridge Bay — after Alison from the Bells of Hemscott saw me raving about it on Twitter. I’ve written about this part of the world before and praised its beaches to high heaven, but I’m always keen to return.
We arrived just before dusk after roadtripping from the south while listening to every Now That’s What I call Music album released between 1998 and 2003 and eating our way through packets of fizzy sweets. Alison greeted us at Hemscott Hill Farm and loaded up the quad bike trailer with our bags. Earlier that day I’d been in the office in London, but wandering past the ponds as the sun was beginning to set and a sense of tranquillity setting in, that all felt a lifetime away.
We stayed in the top right hand corner of the camping field in a pretty little bell tent decked out in hand-sewn bunting and fairy lights. Our tent was called Daisy and we loved her. At night she kept us warm and protected us from the winds that rattled the tarpaulin and in the morning she filled with light as the birds started to sing.
Soon after our arrival we realised we needed to build a fire. We quickly realised that this was not within our joint skillsets. I’m pretty sure we were taught how to make one when I was in Brownies, but given that I can barely remember what books I studied at university, there is no chance of me being able to recall something I learned literally in the last millennium.
After a weekend of making fires, I could now tell you exactly how to make a fire, but that first night when we had no firelighters, and no paper except for receipts from various London restaurants and bars, it was quite the struggle. So much effort and consternation did it take to create, that by the time the flame did take, we may have, um, anthropomorphised our fire. Oh yes, Firenze was born.
I should probably explain that I was travelling with two of my best friends who I was at university with in Newcastle. We had a delicious dinner and then sat around Firenze until late into the night drinking wine and then whisky, cackling away like the three witches from Macbeth (a metaphor that’s nearly geographically accurate, by the way).
I had the double bed and despite it being two air mattresses on top of one another, it was gloriously comfy. It had one of those big, bulky duvets that sort of cocoons you to sleep by laying heavily on you and pressing you down into the mattress and pillows below.
The next morning we managed to rekindle Firenze and made bacon sandwiches and coffee before heading down to the beach. We were really lucky with the sunshininess of the weather, but when we were perhaps overly ambitious when we stripped down to our swimsuits and dived into the North Sea. We lasted about 30 seconds, but back on land it was warm enough that we dried off in no time and lay down to slumber in the sun. We later found out that word had got around that there were “three girls from London in bikinis on the beach”, but we were blissfully ignorant of this at the time!
I love looking out to sea from this part of the coast — it has seen mean through a lot of pensive moments. It is the same view I looked out at when I was walking with my family this Christmas as the frost clung to the sands. It is the same view I looked out at when I was revising for my finals in the sunshine. It is the same view I looked out at when I was heartbroken and at my weakest and suddenly then and there realised that everything would be okay.
Sleepy and sandy, we walked up to the local tearoom for lemon cake and lemonade before popping off to the shops to get steak to cook over the open flames. That evening was boardgames and beer in the open air, before we huddled around Firenze as the wind whipped around us.
It was rather sad in the morning when we had to pack up and leave, so we toasted muffins and made more bacon to put inside them and generally dragged it out for as long as possible.
The campsite was so pretty and peaceful and the experience of staying there was at the same time rustic and revitalising. If you’ve never been to this part of England, you will probably be surprised by how beautiful and quiet it is. Standing by our tent we could see canary yellow rape fields juxtaposed against bright green pastures in one direction and the sea in the other.
Everything Hemscott is very eco-friendly and sustainable, with compost loos that are about a million times more civilised than any portaloo I’ve ever used and really cute little solar-powered showers. I particularly enjoyed washing the dishes outside in the sunshine at the little washing up station. Eco-friendly washing up liquid and toiletries are provided and Alison asks that you only bring your own if they are organic.
We may have had a bit of a rocky start, but once we’d got Firenze going, we realised that we’re actually a pretty ace camping team. It would be a shame to put that to waste, so we’ve decided to do another trip at some point and take our other (rather envious!) friends who couldn’t make it. Where should we try next?
Thanks to Alison at the Bells of Hemscott for inviting us to stay and being a wonderful host. I did not pay for accommodation for this trip, but as always, views are entirely my own.