Prepare to be amazed in Amble
PUBLISHED: 09:46 15 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:10 05 April 2013
Often overlooked or even avoided in the past, the Northumberland coastal town of Amble has ambitions to place itself firmly on the tourist map in 2013. Andrew Smith paid a visit
Many adjectives can be employed to describe Amble, a small fishing port on the coast of Northumberland. Friendly, pretty, tranquil, historic, welcoming and resilient all apply.
Well, be prepared to hear a lot about Amazing Amble in the months to come, for this is the slogan adopted by the former coal exporting town to market its qualities and attract new visitors in 2013.
Go to the website amblenorthumberland.co.uk and you will be greeted by a video showing Ambles attractions above the words: Introducing.. Amazing Amble. Our objective for 2013 is to develop the Amazing Amble campaign and show the world what great little town Amble is!
Its a credible ambition. Amble, originally called Warkworth Harbour, is sometimes overlooked even avoided by visitors to the plentiful tourist honeypots that surround it, notably Druridge Bay just to the south, its former namesake of Warkworth a mile or so upstream along the River Coquet (pronounced Co-ket, not Coquay, as the French would have it) and the more celebrated locations of Seahouses, Bamburgh and Holy Island to the north.
Several decades ago the visitors could have been excused for bypassing Amble on their way to other places for it was a gritty, working town that exported coal brought in by rail from many of the collieries in the neighbouring villages. There was also a shipbuilding yard, brickworks and a thriving fishing industry, remnants of which exist today with seine net vessels and cobles working out of the natural harbour and landing their catches at a fish dock opened in 1988.
Coal shipments peaked in the 1930s but following the Second World War, when the pits began to close, the industry declined and the staithes that brought the coal trains into the harbour area were finally demolished in 1971.
Amble, like many towns built on coal, had to reinvent itself and over the past 40 years the town has taken significant strides to becoming what it now feels confident in declaring as a visitor location.
The town lies on two important tourist thoroughfares through the county the Northumberland Coastal Route, a road which passes through most of the 39-mile stretch of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the Northumberland Coastal Path, a 64-mile trail that extends from Cresswell, at the southern end of Druridge Bay, to Berwick.
Both the road and footpath bring many more visitors to Amble and invariably they are assured of a warm welcome. This friendliness, embraced by most residents and businesspeople, comes from a message transmitted to Amble by the officers of the RMS Mauretania, no less.
The story goes that the Mauretania was making her final voyage, to the breakers yard at Rosyth, and received a telegram from Amble Town Council proclaiming her to be still the finest ship on the seas. The Mauritania replied with greetings to the last and friendliest port in England. The accolade stuck and remains one of Ambles proudest boasts.
The number of seasonal residents of Amble bears testimony to the welcome afforded by the townsfolk. With a resident population of just over 6,000, Ambles population is swollen substantially during the summer months by the near 800 pitches in two large holiday caravan parks close to the town and the 250-berth Amble Marina.
The Silver Carrs Holiday Park stands beside the Wildlife Trusts Hauxley nature reserve, about a mile to the south of the town, and is home to 165 owner-occupied static caravans. Almost within the town itself, the five-star Amble Links Coastal Retreat and Holiday Park has almost 650 pitches and offers visitors the facilities of The Granary Leisure Complex, which includes an indoor swimming pool, gym, sauna, steam room, coffee bar, fish and chip restaurant, lounge bar and bistro.
The Hauxley nature reserve, home to a vast variety of bird and wildlife, is part of the former Radcliffe open cast coal mine, which was landscaped to produce a lake with islands. The reception hide was burned down in 2010 but a new hide is due to open this springtime.
In addition to the commercial port activities and the marina, Amble harbour is also base to pleasure boat operators who offer sea fishing trips to anglers and excursions around Coquet Island, an RSPB-managed bird sanctuary owned by the Duke of Northumberland, situated less than a mile off the coast.
The island is not open to the general public to protect the thousands of seabirds that nest there, including the endangered Roseate Tern, but boat tours offer a close-up glimpse of the seabird colonies. The substantial lighthouse, built in 1841, continues to offer a warning to shipping, although it was automated some years ago and no resident keeper now lives there.
Shopping in Amble is unlikely to be affected by the draught of closures sweeping through the high streets of many large town centres. Most shops along the main thoroughfare of Queen Street, named after Queen Victoria, are independently owned and offer bespoke services including grocery stores, meat