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Lindisfarne - Finishing St Oswald's Way

Lindisfarne - Finishing St Oswald's Way


Postby Christo1979 » Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:05 pm

Date walked: 13/06/2020

Time taken: 3.25

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 36m

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St Oswald's Way is one of those long distance walks I've been chipping away at for almost a year. Despite some moments of outstanding beauty, and perhaps because much of it is on territory quite close to home, it isn't a route that I've felt drawn to other than as occasional day walks. But much like hill bagging, there is an itch that needs to be scratched and having somehow walked all the stages of SOW as far as Beal, there was just the one glorious, closing section to do - the crossing of the sands to the holy island of Lindisfarne...

The entire north east of England seemed to be under a thick blanket of fog this particular weekend, which in part made the decision to do this walk easier - not great for hillwalking, but eerily perfect for estuary walking, Maybe I read too much Erskine Childers as a boy. We parked on the road side near Beal Sands (car parks still being closed across Northumberland) and moments later had struck out onto the causeway. We decided to cross the sands by the 'Pilgrim's Route' which is a direct line across the mud flats, following regularly spaced wooden posts. A more otherworldy atmosphere I haven't experienced in some time. The mud was at times so soft so as to feel like it could give way to quicksand, but navigation is easy, and there are a few refuge huts for stranded walkers dotted along the route. Not that we were in any danger today, the tide was scheduled to be out for a very long time, and the sands were to be safe for an unusual window of some 10 hours or so.

ImageHoly Island by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

ImageHoly Island by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

It's a very odd feeling, walking across the sands when you can't so much as see the even the road causeway nearby. The posts mean you can't get lost, but you can feel quite disorientated. Expecting wet feet, I was trying out a new pair of walking sandals, which are perfect for this type of walk. They also added to the pilgrim feels :lol:

ImageHoly Island by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

ImageHoly Island by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

Eventually the hazy outline of Holy Island appeared from the mist, and we had struck land. Time for a little break on the well-made bench, and a read of the information boards. Apparently this area was used for bombing practice during WW2, and there are signs encouraging you not to touch any objects you may come across in the sands or on the headland - they 'may explode and kill you'. What, with Murton Fell last week, and Bomber Command playground this week, I could start a line in military walking tours...

ImageHoly Island by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

We walked through the deserted village streets and took a path past the priory, crossing the beach to a small island where St Cuthbert once had a monastic cell. A large wooden cross marks the site now, and we sat a while looking out to sea, watching seals and all manner of seabirds occupy themselves.

ImageHoly Island by Christopher Watson, on Flickr

Returning to the main island, we followed the footpath to the northern edge of Holy Island, where fields of sheep meet sand dunes, and the occasional deer (looking quite out of place) pops its head above the long grass. It looked like a botanist's paradise, but I don't know the first thing about flora so just admired the colours and enjoyed the wet grasses brushing my legs. Soon we arrived back at the causeway, where, for the sake of variety, we decided to walk back on the actual road causeway rather than retrace the path across the estuary. The causeway takes you over 'The Snook', a smaller, secondary island with, apparently, some interesting buildings on it, but we stayed with the road and eventually arrived at the refuge hut designed for stranded motorists. From here, it was a short walk back to the car, with a couple of satisfied nods at having completed another long distance route.

And I must say, I felt like quite the little pilgrim.

ImageHoly Island by Christopher Watson, on Flickr
User avatar
Christo1979
Walker
 
Posts: 202
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Joined: Oct 21, 2017
Location: Gateshead

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