Life’s a beach when you’re in Spittal

Spittal beach, Berwick
Spittal beach, Berwick

As I write this I am sitting by the seaside and the blazing sun is almost blinding me as I struggle to see the screen of my computer.

I can see trains as they trundle past a caravan park, taking commuters hither and tither. There is bustle nearby and the occasional two-tone horn that indicates that all is not well somewhere with someone. I am supping a coffee.

But I am at work, and not on a sun-kissed foreign beach. I am in England. I am in Berwick.

The Southern’s staff are currently dispersed to various points of the Border compass as the workers of the mystical world of informational technology (that’s IT, by the way) prepare our new home by the banks of the Ettrick Water in Selkirk.

Today I sit in the offices of our sister papers – The Berwickshire News and The Berwick Advertiser – gazing across that marvellous seemingly-never-ending road bridge that crosses the Tweed and would take me to the true seaside that is Spittal. Berwick is bustling and bonny – but Spittal is pure splendour.

Or at least it used to be, and when I return tomorrow (that’s now today) I’m going to pay it a visit, because I can recall some magical and wonderful holidays at this haven. And I know it is not just myself, but thousands of Borderers who have enjoyed a week or fortnight here during the summer holidays.

It was close enough to the central Borders and reasonably cheap for large families such as the Burgess clan.

You could go into digs or you could hire a caravan. The digs were sometimes deemed a bit iffy, depending on the landlady. But the caravans were great.

Up on the edge of a hill close to the railway line, you could stand and watch those massive steam engines ploughing their way north and south.

You came down a flight of stairs from the caravan site into Spittal proper and halfway there you could smell the aroma of fish and chips. It was here, I think, I was introduced to the tasty delicacy that is mushy peas.

Along the front there seemed to be miles of bright orange sands and waves rolling in to meet the Tweed that would snake its way through the Borderland to empty itself into the North Sea.

There were sandcastles to be built, a crazy golf course to be conquered and there was the magic of the wee amusement centre where ice cream was purchased through a hole in the wall.

And, of course, the blue and white, kidney-shaped paddling pool with its bridge that carried you from one side to the other. Somewhere there’s a family picture of me fishing from it with a toy rod.

You could watch in wonder as the fishermen came ashore in their rowing boats, hauling nets full of salmon that should really have been left to move up the Tweed and into its estuaries for Border poachers. Great days.

Berwick itself has seen generations of Borderers enjoy the twice-weekly market.

The sun has dipped behind the rail line now, but I look forward to it shining as I return for a stroll down memory lane.