Shorediving Howick.

Updated 24-8-05

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Shoredive entry point photos.

The areas covered in this article are;

The reefs off the Doctor's House
The reefs off Rumbling Kern (Churn)

Getting there.

Follow the B1339 Coastal Route after leaving the A1 just north of Alnwick. Once through Longhoughton follow the signposts towards Howick. When past Howick Gardens keep heading east towards the sea - don't turn into Howick village. About 200m from the sea the road veers sharply left (north) whilst a farm road leads off to the right and a track passes straight on through a gate towards the sea. Park on the verge of the farm road taking care not to block the gate. Access to the sites is through the gate and along the track, but don't venture into the farm or the fields. At the seaward end of the track is another gate; public vehicles are not permitted through the gates, only those renting the holiday home known as "The Doctor's House" or "Bathing House" have a key.
"The House", featured in the T.V. program "Distant Shores" as the home of a doctor played by Peter Davidson, was known as "The Doctor's House" long before the television series was penned.

General view of the area at H.W.

An alternative parking area can be found about 250m north of the previously mentioned road junction - on the seaward side of the road towards Craster, however there is only space for about fours cars and these are usually claimed by anglers. This is a more convenient start point for diving the area of the Gll submarine.

General information.

The seashore here is rock; in places it lies at the bottom of small cliffs and a small sandy beach lies at the foot of the cliff near the footpath, ideal for non-diving family members although there aren't any toilet facilities. A narrow gully separates the beach from the sea. This is a good, quiet area sometimes used for evening/night dives followed by a beach barbecue.

Arch on outer reef

The seabed is fine sand with several reefs paralleling the shore. The closest is sometimes indistinguishable from the shoreline, however it is ideal for messing around at the end of a dive with little air remaining. The reefs are about 30-50m apart and the third and fourth out are usually the biggest (up to 2.5m high) and most interesting, smaller less interesting reefs lie beyond these - sometimes obscured by sand. All the reefs have a vertical west-facing wall with the kelp covered tops sloping eastwards into the sand.

In front of "The Doctor's House" are some large blowholes and the rocks are undercut, this makes an interesting snorkelling/training area, as at certain states of the tide it's possible to step from the rocks into one blowhole and swim through it into the sea - immediately into about 2.5m depth.

The last few times I dived here the visibility didn't seem to be as good as I remembered from my much earlier forays in the late seventies and early eighties; the fine sand and run-off from a stream south of the farm can still cause problems after a spell of bad weather, nevertheless it's an interesting site and the reefs are home to a vast number of creatures.

Currents run parallel to the shore and aren't really a problem. The nearest compressor is at Beadnell, 10 miles further north.

The sites.

Doctor's House.Map of Howick

Max. depth: 9 mtrs
Minimum grade: Novice
Currents: Not a problem if you don't try to swim against them!

At the end of the footpath turn left and walk beyond "The House". You can enter the water anywhere along here although there's not much point going more than 150 metres from the gate as the reefs become very small as you enter the next cove.
If using a small cylinder, to conserve air it's best to snorkel out to the first or second reef. A typical plan would be to swim the length of one reef, turn ninety degrees, swim seawards across the sand to the next reef and follow this in the opposite direction.

The remains of a submarine (G11, ran aground in 1918) are sometimes uncovered close inshore near a cleft north of "The House". To find the general area, walk north until the path curves left, carry on for a few more metres until, when looking backwards, "The House" just starts to be hidden by the embankment. If you now look to your right there's a smooth, sloping area of sandstone and on the north side is the cleft; in it, above the h.w. mark are some girders and a hatch from the wreck. Underwater, the wreckage is somewhat elusive depending on the sand levels between the reefs which, depending upon previous weather can vary more than 0.5m. Some h.p. air storage vessels, and unrecognisable debris along with the odd tantalising chunk of brass are all that remain (or that I've seen).

Rumbling Kern.

Max. depth: 10 mtrs
Minimum grade: Novice
Currents: As above

Turn right at the end of the footpath and descend towards the beach. If you've decided to enter at the north end of the site, either cross the beach and climb up onto the rocks between the plateaus or, at high-water you can wade out towards the gully and descend through it. If I remember correctly, the reefs near the gulley exit are quite small so you'll need to fin quite a way southeast to locate better area. The fourth reef out is the bigger and better, with lots of crevices and an unusual arch near the southern end. At the end of the dive, unless you want a difficult struggle across the rocks it's best to return to the entry point, the aternatives are to exit at the southern extremity of the site (see below) or surface, locate the gully and snorkel back through it (it's almost impossible to find without surfacing).

On the ebb tide (current runs south to north), a less strenuous dive can be had by continuing to walk about 150 metres south through two more gates and entering across the small beach and rocks south of the plateaus. Snorkel out to the biggest reef, dive and follow its full length to exit near the gully. The effort of the extra walk is rewarded by a most relaxing drift dive back to the exit point near the gully.

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