|Midsummer report: part two
||[Aug. 2nd, 2015|03:49 pm]
The summer continues as grey as it was during our week on Lindisfarne: on the last day of July we dined on mutton strw, mashed potatoes and dried fruit compote, and didn't feel that this autumnal meal was in any way inappropriate; I lay snug in bed this morning and thought that the heather must be in bloom on the hills, and perhaps... and then rose, put on a warm jumper, and thought, perhaps not. I'd like to claim to be a hardy northerner, undeterred by weather, but the truth is that although I still have fun when the skies are grey, there are things that I don't do, that I would have done if the sun had been smiling. That applies today, it applies to much of our trip to the Western Isles, and it applies to our week on Lindisfarne.
Fun under grey skies, then:
Monday's fixed point was a visit to Berwick to collect the outstanding portion of durham_rambler's prescription. GirlBear suggested that in that case we might as well press on into Scotland, and we did, crossing the border at the Union Chain Bridge:
because it is a very fine bridge, and worth the detour, even if on this occasion we huddled in the shelter of the arch and admired the perspective, rather than plunging into the wet undergrowth to find the signposted footpath.
We spent the morning at Eyemouth's Maritime Centre, on the basis that durham_rambler and I had already visited the town's museum. The Maritime Centre is great fun, in a disconcerting mixture of ways. On the one hand, there is a serious collection, a world of boats (discarded on the closure of the Exeter Maritime Museum) and associated books and models. Interwoven with the fishing boats from around the world is the new Smuggling Exhibition: an interesting collection of old prints, a set of tableaux representing smuggling scenes (photography was not allowed inside the museum, but their website shows some of these, without necessarily conveying how very bizarre I found them) and - because the children must at all times be entertained - the odd chest of sparkly treasure and a skeleton or so. On entry we were given a card, one side of which reproduced a season ticket to Leith Harbour Cinema (I'm sure this was in connection to something - possibly a film - but can't be more precise). If the sun had been shining, we might have gone for a walk at St Abb's Head instead, but we'd have been missing something. A late lunch, a brief stroll round Eyemouth, a visit to the baker's shop where they sell interesting bread, down to the harbour (where there are booths which will sell you scraps of fish to feed the seals, probably at more than tuppence a bag, though they were closed so we never found out): I like Eyemouth.
Thereafter, we didn't stray far from the island. On Tuesday a party of us walked the pilgrim route across the sands to the mainland:
We set off as soon as the tide had fallen far enough to make the way passable. I went barefoot from the first, because I'm comfortable with that, but everyone - even D. - removed their boots at one point or another, to cross one of the watercourses which, a hour or so later, would be barely noticeable. It's a good walk for a grey day: the sun can beat quite fiercely on the flat open sands, but the softer light gives a silver sheen to the water. In the past, we have made the final stretch of the walk more difficult than it needed to be, clambering onto the roadway in order to cross the final chanel on the bridge; this time, since I was wet to the knees anyway, I simply walked through the flowing water, and found that it was nowhere near as deep, and the current nowhere near as strong, as I had feared. It helped, too, that we had cunningly positioned a car at the landward end of the causeway, enabling D. to ferry us to the Barn at Beal, and then go back to the island and pick up valydiarosada so that we could all lunch together.
Another day, we visited the Castle. There's always something new that catches my eye. I hadn't previously noticed the artful / casual arrangements of documents on tables and desks, as if left there by some of the castle's many guests:
These couldn't be originals, surely? But they didn't look like copies, either.
In Miss Jeckyll's garden, the chive flowers matched the purple veins of the leaves behind; even the vegetables are decorative.
Thursday was the Bears' last day with us; we all spent the morning doing our own thing, which in my case was wandering around the priory, and visiting, for the first time in several years, the parish church. There's a fine modern stained glass window showing the beauties of Lindisfarne:
- and beyond, of course, since you have to go to the Farne islands to see puffins. The church flower arrangers had been creative, and a nearby chapel had been draped in netting to echo the 'fishers of men' theme of its window. After we had delivered the Bears to Berwick (which must be akin to taking coals to Newcastle), we walked briefly on the ramparts, visited the bookshop and that was really the end of our stay.
There's so much more I would have liked to do, if the sun had shone and if we had had more time: I wanted to show the Bears Duddo Stones, and St Abb's Head and Dunstanburgh; I wanted to walk along the shore of the mainland to the two needles, the navigation markers which are so very visible from the island; I wanted to walk out to the stony beach on the far side of the island, and to spend more time in the dunes where the orchids grow -
- we might have done this last on the Friday morning. Just as, on the day we arrived, the safe crossing times meant that we had to be on the island an hour or so before we could get into the cottage, on the day we left we had a choice between leaving early after breakfast, or a more leisurely morning and staying on the island until midday. We were minded to linger, and take one last walk, but the morning was overcast and showery, and we were up in good time, so we set off early and took the scenic route home. Looking for a coastal road, we stumbled across this abandoned farm:
We stopped in Craster for coffee, to visit the gallery and buy kipper products at the smokehouse, then shopped some more at the faem shop at Blagdon: more of an outlet mall than an individual farm shop, and La Cookshop which has closed down in Durham seems to have taken refuge there. And so home, and back to work.
It will be strange not to be on Lindisfarne for midsummer next year - exciting to be somewhere new, and it looks like a good somewhere - but strange.