Posted by: orcaweb | August 27, 2010

Exploring the ports- alternatives to a city break

So are you going on a ms King of Scandinavia mini cruise?  Maybe you are planning to go into the cities of Newcastle or Amsterdam?  Maybe you would like to do something different when you get into port?  You could instead check out some nature sites!  During the last three months I have been exploring the places to visit at either port off The ms The King of Scandinavia.

Arriving in Tyneside Newcastle there is the North Sea cycle trail.  It is possible to cycle off road and on the cycle network  along the Durham and Northumberland coastline.  Going south this network joins up with the ferry to Denmark from Harwich and there is even a North Sea cycle trail through Scandinavian countries that boarder it.  Given I only have approx 5 hours in port I could only get so far along this trail and I was on a Dutch city bike (and am quite lazy cyclist too!).  Taking the small ferry across the river to South Shields I visited Sutra lighthouse where you can climb up to the light.  This trip took me past Marten rock, (blown up in the 1980s to make it safe) with its huge seabird breeding colonies).  Inside the cliff face stands the Grotto pub with a lift through the cliff face and a history of smugglers.  Along this coast there are some fantastic seabird nesting colonies, visiting waders and wildfowl as well as fossils to be hunted.

A recent trip by car took me to Washington Wetland Centre very close to Sunderland heading 20 minutes south from Newcastle (NE3 88LE).  This is part of a national network of nature reserves run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).  Here it is possible to see rare wildfowl (ducks, geese and swans) which are endangered and part of conservation reintroduction programmes worldwide.  The other big pullers are the Chilean Flamingos and Eurasian Cranes.  There are so many exotic birds to see at Washington that it gives an appreciation of the diversity of these fantastic wetland birds.  Wetlands are often drained and built on but as well as being an important component of the water cycle to help prevent flooding they also provide habitat for millions of waders and wildfowl.

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Cycling off the Ferry and heading along the Tyne river and out to Tynemouth I followed the coast up to St Marys Lighthouse which is another great seabird and twitching sight.  Long sandy beaches, tiny old fishing ports such as Colourcoates make this a nice coastline to visit.  A little further you can go to The North East surf capital Whitley Bay.  Further again by car there is a fantastic seasonal breeding seabird colony of Coquet Island managed by the RSPB that had a few Rosette terns breeding there.  Then further still is the Farne Islands which I have done a previous blog on.

Across the North Sea and arriving into IJmudien at the start of the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam you can see sand-dune beaches which are a 10 minute cycle from the ferry.  The beach at IJmudien has some great strandline finds which our local expert and qualified beach-guide Esther regularly records.  These include tiny sea urchins and ray  eggcases.  There are some very funky beach cafes and lots of water sports activities available there too.  Behind these are some interesting nature reserves the biggest being Zuid-Kennemerland that goes from sand dune into broadleaf woodland.  You can see the blue throats that are breeding in the dune system, and lots of wildfowl on the lakes.  An hour north by car in either direction from Imjuiden there are the Natuurmonuenten nature reserves to visit.  This includes Zwanenwater where Spoonbills breed which I visited and made a previous blog about. 

ORCA Wildlife Officers have contacts for very experienced guides available for natural history tours in the Northern England and North Holland.  For further details please contact the ORCA Wildlife Centre and maybe you can have some amazing wildlife encounters on land as well as on your trip over the North Sea.

Kathryn Driscoll Wildlfe Officer ORCA Organisation Cetacea

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