SPRING SUMMER 2023
We joined photographer and outdoors enthusiast Cal Thompson for a Northumberland hike this month to take in the scenic views of the Northeast. Find out more about his route and top tips for a wintertime hike...
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
My name is Cal Thompson, I’m a freelance photographer from Northumberland. I grew up on my family farm and have always felt at home in the outdoors, after 14 years working in finance I took the opportunity to start my own business and now I specialise in adventure and travel photography. I’ve never looked back.
Tell us about the area you’ve chosen to explore with Barbour and why it resonated with you?
I’ve decided to bring Barbour along with me to one of my favourite sections of the North East coastline, Howick to Dunstanburgh Castle. This 5km stretch takes in some of the most dramatic, rugged parts of our coastline, a perfect place to watch the sunrise or the waves roll in on a stormy day. You also don’t need to be a seasoned hiker to enjoy this walk, as it’s made up of many smaller sections you can do as much or as little of the coastal path as you like.
"I love to travel to new places and to experience things that the majority wouldn’t even consider, leaving a place with a wealth of images and stories to share is something I find incredibly rewarding."
What is it about exploration and adventure that you enjoy so much/what draws you to it?
I love to travel to new places and to experience things that the majority wouldn’t even consider, leaving a place with a wealth of images and stories to share is something I find incredibly rewarding. I’ve always said that the more you suffer the better the stories are, so I often find myself in uncomfortable conditions, whether it be the extreme cold of the Arctic Circle in winter or getting up in the middle of the night to reach a summit for sunrise - you can’t beat the moments you look back on and think “wow”.
You’re known for your extreme expeditions and challenges. How do you prepare for an everyday outdoor adventure?
To prepare for everyday outdoor adventures I always follow a few basic steps.
Check the weather forecast as late as possible and layer up accordingly, as it changes a lot it's best to get the most up-to-date information.
Be prepared for anything. The weather will probably change so pack an extra layer or a waterproof even if the sun’s shining. Northumberland is just as notorious as Scotland when it comes to the weather being “changeable”.
Plan your route, know how far you’re planning to walk, and bring plenty of drinks and snacks along with you, you’d be surprised how much a little sugar can keep those weary legs going.
"I’d say the two most challenging parts of a coastal hike in Northumberland would be a) contending with the wind & b) navigating the rocks around the water’s edge."
Can you share any more hidden gems along the Northeast coastline for us to explore?
One of the quieter beach walks I enjoy in Northumberland is Warkworth to Alnmouth. If you make it to Alnmouth be sure to go up Church Hill for a beautiful view of the village and its harbour and check out Warkworth castle too while you’re there!
Can you give us three of your top tips/best advice for taking to the outdoors for the first time this season?
- It’ll be colder than you think, even when the sun is out, so bring that extra layer, you can always take it off.
- Footwear is so important, boots will provide support while walking on uneven surfaces, a good grip will help you keep your footing while exploring off the trail. If you don’t have anything well-worn in, blister plasters and thick hiking socks will also come in handy. Don’t wear anything you’re afraid to get dirty, it won’t be very enjoyable if you can’t take your eyes off the ground.
- Pack a head torch. Sunset is still pretty early so you could find yourself still making your way back in the dark. Rather than wasting your phone battery lighting your way, an affordable head torch allows you to navigate uneven terrain and keep your hands free and phone charged.
What do you think are the most challenging parts of a coastal hike?
England’s coastal path is well-marked and pretty straightforward underfoot. I’d say the two most challenging parts of a coastal hike in Northumberland would be a) contending with the wind & b) navigating the rocks around the water’s edge should you wish to leave the trail to explore more. The aptly named “Death Rocks” to the North of Dunstanburgh Castle are a prime example, a full bay of Basalt boulders not too dissimilar to cannonballs that have a tendency to move when stood on and be extremely slippery when wet; they’ve claimed many a camera over the years, thankfully not one of mine!
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