Blog of Justin Cheuk, home to writing on London, Hong Kong, Studying Abroad, Trains and Travels.

To Lindisfarne- Through the Sea

Justin Cheuk: When HK Meets UK

Lindisfarne (or Holy Island, but the Saxon(?) name is way cooler) is a small tidal island off the Northumberland coast, known as the cradle of Christianity in Britain. Eager to explore further the North East and also the churches, I joined the ecumenical trip to the island on Saturday.

The post-exam ‘experiences’ (read: PARTYYYY) meant that I didn’t exactly arrived on Lindisfarne in shape or understanding for any vigorous activities: indeed, it soon became obvious that all of my perceived knowledge are pretty useless.

Lindisfarne isn’t always an island. And more importantly, I haven’t exactly arrived on it either. As we departed the coach near the causeway, I finally realised that we’ll have to complete the remainder of the journey via the old-school way; the Pilgrim Path: walking across the tidal sands.

Before the modern causeway was built, the Pilgrim Path that is uncovered by receding tides for a few hours each day was the only way to access the island. Nowadays, it remained the route for the devout and the adventurous. (can I possibly lay claim to EITHER of those words?) Because of tidal dangers, despite the relatively short distance of ~4 miles (and, of course, easy gradient), it should only be attempted alongside experienced walkers.

We arrived by the ‘shores’ at about 12:30 pm, at which time it still existed. In fact, as the tide seemed to have taken much longer than expected to recede and progress delayed due to uncrossable depths, the first part of journey more reassembles a beach day out: straight dash into the sea.

(At this point: I sincerely thanked the yesterday version of myself, opting to wear a windbreaker and most importantly wellies. Although I simultaneously scolded him for only wearing a T-shirt underneath)

The tide did eventually retreated as we ploughed on- sometimes through the mud- and I began to enjoy to journey through the remoteness. Everything seems to have disappeared from the horizon but the signposts and the occasional shelters. (perfect for group photos) Many in the past have followed this route: and today I joined the elite group of people who were literally walking across the sea.

Walking through the mud for over an hour did get monotonous, and as any modern human would, I took out my phone, only to realise it has full signal in the middle of the sea. A quick search on Google Maps revealed our location. (a blue dot among the blue, of course) Interestingly, Google has included the Pilgrim’s Path into their maps, which means that not only was I shown to be in the middle of the sea, I could also plan a walking route THROUGH the sea.

(Un)fortunately, the tides continued to be higher than expected, and eventually we encountered a drop that was even higher than what my pair of wellies could cope. This could only mean one thing: I reluctantly had the pleasure of reenacting medieval crossings- barefoot- for the last mile.

Finally we actually arrived on Lindisfarne about two hours later, and after a lunch that was strangely similar to a school picnic (we even had the football), we set out to visit the sights on the islands, the castle, and churches and the priory.

That’s when it relentlessly started to rain. For the next hour or so we attempted to sightsee, with the only highlight being the appearance of a seal whilst on an ‘excursion’ to skip stones. It was not long until we retreated to the sanctuary of a cafe for a much-needed tea break.

The day concluded with a service in one of the oldest functioning churches in England (I will not comment on my state of consciousness throughout) before the rain battered group escape through the flooding causeway. It was certainly a worthwhile trip, and I hope I’ll get to see the island again in much better weather!

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