I posted a picture last Sunday of this fossil which I came across on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which lies in the North Sea just off the coast of Northumberland. I shot the picture during a one week stay, the week before Easter last year (2011). There are many examples, big and small, of this fossil on the island.
The island is famous of course, for the Lindisfarne Gospels and for its ruined Priory.
Twice a day, Lindisfarne is cut off from mainland Britain by the sea. My stay wasn’t just for pleasure and I had to leave the island every day bar one. It was strange and novel to have to organise my life to accord with the rhythm of the tides. I felt both safe and threatened. Safe in my holiday cottage knowing I was cut off from the madness of the world, insecure in that if I didn’t time it right, I could have lost my life (as has happened over the centuries) were I to try driving off or onto the island at the wrong time. The tide comes in fast! I also felt closer to nature, the sea, as I had no choice but to pay attention to it!
The fossil is I believe a conglomerate of crinoid stems. It’s probably about 300 million years old. They look like plant stems, but crinoids were animals. The fossils are linked in folklore to the legendary St Cuthbert, who at one time lived on Lindisfarne. The were known as St Cuthbert’s beads, or Cuddy’s Beads. Sir Walter Scott wrote about them in his 1808 poem Marmion.
The mornings of my stay, the island was surrounded in a thick mist. Walking on the beach one time, I had a feeling of being watched. Looking out to sea, I saw what looked like two buoys, then came to believe that one of the buoys might, in fact, the head of a seal. I couldn’t be certain, but I took a picture (the last one displayed here) and when I came to tweak it, I discovered that not only was I being watched by the seal in the sea, but there was a beached crowd of them behind this one, basking in the mist. You can see them quite clearly in the large version of the photo. Just click it and see! In the smaller version below, you will spot the buoy – bottom middle to right – but if you let your eyes drift more to the right, there’s a smaller sphere and this is the seal I felt watching me.
I hope to stay again on Lindisfarne, with the time to explore and absorb its atmosphere (I am after all, Northumbrian!) rather than, as I did last year, have to leave and come back every day. The island’s ambience, when the island is cut off (and the tourists have left) is a complete contrast. Maybe I should take a writing retreat on Lindisfarne. Not unsurprisingly, it’s been done before.
- Image Only Sunday: 1 (annisik51.wordpress.com)
- Walk the medieval walls of Berwick-Upon-Tweed; Visit the ruined priory at Lindisfarne (travelingwithkrushworth.wordpress.com)
- Holy Island of Lindisfarne (week 16) (melanieburton.wordpress.com)
- Photo a day – February 6, 2012, Lindisfarne Castle (travelingwithkrushworth.wordpress.com)