Friday, February 05, 2010

'Micro' at Holy Island, part 2

Day Two

Plan for the day

It had been a fitful night as heavy rain lashed the tent, but not a drop entered the living area. Intermittently between sleeping I woke and heard the sound of waves breaking on a nearby jetty. A bright sunrise heralded the start of Friday morning, but I couldn’t see another DCA boat. Had I got it right? Was the Rally due to start? How best could I spend the day?

An examination of the tidal data revealed that low water would be about 1320 - ideal for discovering the whereabouts of sand banks, rocks and other hazards. Between two hours before low water and two hours after low water I would be able to see the dangers; therefore I decided to walk around the perimeter of the Island to reconnoitre a route for a circumnavigation aboard ‘Micro’.

My Home

Starting the Trek

The forecast was for a windy, but sunny day, and so it turned out to be. I packed a lunch in my knapsack, and at 0915 I set off for the trek. On the horizon I could see the dark shape of the Farne Islands. The Longstone lighthouse and Inner Farne lighthouse marked the northern and southern extremities of the Islands respectively. Well, at least, I had seen them, albeit at a distance. Ahead of me, at the end of a path and silhouetted before the blazing sun, there was the ancient castle upon its mound. A National Trust sign indicated it was closed to the public that day.

Bypassing the mount I followed a meandering footpath that hugged the beach. Far out at sea I could discern the grey shape of a freighter lumbering to the north-east. Emmanuel Head was about a mile to the north, where I could see its white pyramidal day mark. To reach this concrete structure I had to pass through a large flock of grazing sheep with their lambs, one of which had sadly died and had been abandoned by its mother.

The strong west wind malevolently tried to snatch away my Nike cap with the intention of taking it out sea, but I adjusted the peak, in Norman Wisdom style, so that it lay over my right ear, thus streamlining the cap to frustrate the wind's desire. The fiendish foe was more successful in causing havoc with some tiny mauve butterflies by mercilessly sweeping them beyond the cliff's edge. That was not the case with several longhaired, black and orange caterpillars that clung to short grasses by my feet. Nor were thousands of light brown snails the least interested in the wind's evil design; instead, they were intent on lovemaking in the sun, oblivious to the fact that a giant might crush them by misjudging his step.

Tending the boat

More to see

I rested at the day mark on a seat conveniently placed there in memory of some dear soul who departed this life after 63 years. A swig of cool Sprite revived me, along with a crunchy Toffee Crisp bar. With renewed energy I set off to explore the northern border of the Island. It was mainly composed of enormous craggy sand dunes. In between them were small valleys lined with various coloured flowers. This really was a Garden of Paradise. Song thrushes, blackbirds, wrens, jackdaws, skylarks and many unidentified sea birds populated the area. Open grass, shortened by munching rabbits, small bushes and undergrowth made an ideal habitat for the birds.
To seaward, rocks jutting into the waves gave protection to boulder-strewn bays, where there were wonderful pools containing myriad crustaceans and weeds. I could hear the sound of a man singing, but could I have been mistaken? Indeed I was, because, on close inspection of the water near a peninsular of rocks, there were many seals bobbing their heads in and out of the waves. They were the origin of these human-like, sonorous voices.

A bit further along the dunes I discovered a vehicle resembling a motorbike with four wheels. It had a shepherd's crook which was housed in a purpose-built cylinder. At first I could not find the owner; then I saw him way out on the rocks, searching for winkles. Cherishing my privacy, I quietly continued my walk. Clouds passed overhead at what seemed a colossal rate, like those speeded-up sequences sometimes seen on TV nature programmes. Way to the north and west, I could clearly see the coast by Berwick-upon-Tweed.

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