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Portfolio > North East England 2 > Alnmouth, Northumberland                                                     Click on an image below to reveal enlarged version

Alnmouth, Northumberland, UK

Alnmouth is a coastal village in Northumberland, England, situated 4 miles (6 km) east-south-east of Alnwick. The population of the civil parish at the 2001 Census was 562, reducing to 445 at the 2011 Census. Located at the mouth of the River Aln, the village had a port supporting a small fishing industry and engaging in national and international trade. It was for a time a leading north-east centre for the export of grain and other foodstuffs, especially to London, and specialised in the import of timber and slate. These activities to some extent shaped the village, as granaries were constructed to store grain, and sawmills and a boatyard established to process wood and build ships.

Port activities declined at the end of the 19th century, in part because of the deterioration of the port due to the shifting and silting of the river estuary, in part as trade transferred to the railways. A notable change in the course of the river during a violent storm in 1806 resulted in the loss of the remains of the village's original church and disruption to the functioning of the port and industries. With the coming of the railways, Alnmouth transformed into a coastal resort complete with one of the earliest English golf courses, a holiday camp, bathing houses, beach huts and spacious sea-view villas. In contemporary times, Alnmouth is a well conserved picturesque coastal resort and tourist attraction, lying within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Geography

Alnmouth is a village on the north-east coast of England, some 29 miles (47 km) due north of Newcastle upon Tyne, 31 miles (50 km) south-south-east of Berwick Upon Tweed, and 4.1 miles (6.6 km) to the east-south-east of Alnwick. The village is built on a promontory on a spit of land bordered to the east by the North Sea and to the south and west by the estuary of the River Aln, falling from around 17.2 metres (56 ft) above Mean High Water level at the north of the village to 3.5 metres (11 ft) in the south-west.

The geology of the North East of England around Alnmouth is a superficial layer of glacial till in the form of boulder clay lying on often outcropping Whin Sill, a carboniferous limestone, with peat deposits, and, at the coast, wind-blown sand including a coastline dune system which has evolved over the last 10,000 years. The coastline of the county is a series of headlands and bays — such as at Alnmouth — with wide, sandy beaches, the result of differential erosion of ice-age deposits. Alnmouth's south-beach dune is calcerous, containing mainly marine-animal shell, and is only 2–300 years old.

Alnmouth lies at the south-east extent of low hills such run down from the Cheviot Hills to the coast. Its hinterland is an open agricultural landscape of arable land and pasture, with broadleaf woodlands in river valleys such as of the Aln, and some forestry plantations. Its history is of medieval tree-clearance and the establishment of scattered settlements and farms with complex field patterns.

 

Alnmouth's coastline has multiple protected area designations. It lies at the southern end of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the (non-statutory) Northumberland Heritage Coast, both of which seek to protect its landscape in all aspects. The saltflats of the estuary and the south beach dune are a Site of Special Scientific Interest listed in 1988 as Alnmouth Saltmarsh and Dunes for its varied plant community. As part of the Environment Agency's Northumberland 4shores Project, in 2006, flood banks protecting 20 acres (8.1 ha) of estuarine pasture were breached and shallow ponds created, to allow tidal action to recreate saltflats to provide habitats for wading birds, dissipate wave energy, and diminish the potential for flooding. The golf course area, north of the village, is registered as common land.

Most of the village was designated as a conservation area in 1972 — areas of recent building in the north are excluded. The architecture of the town is a mix of a few 17th century structures with 18th and 19th century buildings, ranging from terraced cottages to spacious Victorian villas, some flamboyant in style; 31 are Grade II listed. South of the river, a roofless 1870s mortuary chapel and the remains of a concrete cottage stand on the south-west of Church Hill. Further south, the first edition Ordnance Survey map of the area shows a bathhouse on Buston links associated with 'sandpits' — apparently bathing holes — drilled into the outcropping stone on the beach, and presumably evidence of the Victorian Spa movement.

 

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