I must go down to the sea again….

I grew up living by the coast in the north east of England and, now that I live in the Midlands, probably couldn’t be further from the sea if I tried. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in the countryside but do miss the sea and the spectacular beaches of our Northumbrian coast. So it was a real treat this weekend to go walking with girlfriends in Northumberland.

On Saturday we went over to Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. This magical place used to be very difficult to reach. In her book ‘Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans’, Gladys Thompson describes her unusual trip to Holy Island:

Next morning at 10.30 I met my car, at least 30 years old and covered with rust and sand, and driven by a boy of about sixteen. I got in and off we went, up a hill past the church, and then I saw the sea and Holy Island. A vast stretch of water lay between us and the island, and as we drew up on the water’s edge the boy said we must wait a few minutes for the tide. Tall stakes marked a way across, and after about five minutes we plunged into the sea and chugged through the water with a sort of tidal wave at each side.

He suddenly called out, ‘There’s a bit of a ditch in a minute – look out’. ‘But the water’s through the floorboards’ I said. ‘Well put yer feet on the seat’ – which I did, and I’m sure we were swimming for some time! Then it got shallower and we approached the low sandy shore, and drove at breakneck speed along the sands for about a mile, finally reaching the little grey stone village.

Another brother fetched me later, and we went back along the shore, all sand now between the island and the mainland except for large pools of water that we rushed through, and I had to pull the windows up to keep dry. I asked if the stakes marked a road, and he said, yes, but no one bothered with it, and they used to climb up if the tide came in too quickly.

I read not long ago that a causeway is to be made across the island – I wish it could be left as it was; and the boy with the car will be sorry, as he made a fairly stiff charge for my swim, as he said I wasn’t a ‘party’ and he usually took five.

The book was first published in 1955 and the causeway now exists so my journey across was much less eventful than hers. The island is still cut off at high tide and safe crossing times are well publicised. Despite this, vehicles regularly get caught by the tides and have to be rescued.

The next day we walked along the coast past Dunstanburgh Castle to Craster, a fishing village famous for kippers. L Robson and Sons is a family business that still smokes herring in the original smokehouses to produce kippers. Even the entrance to the shop is nautical!

On my last day I took a boat trip from Seahouses over to the Farne Islands, a sea bird sanctuary just a couple of miles off the coast. There I was lucky enough to see puffins and grey seals. Dolphins had also been seen the previous day but, sadly, not on my trip. Still, I was delighted with the whole experience and very fortunate with the weather, as can be seen by the blue sky.

In memory of my trip I plan to knit something using one of the Seahouses patterns in Gladys Thompson’s book. I don’t think it will be a sweater this time but a cushion would be good. I’ll post more details, including the pattern, when it’s done.

Coincidently, the project I took with me to knit on my weekend away also has a bit of a nautical theme – largely due to the blue and cream stripes. ‘Angelica’ by Adrifial is a low backed-striped sweater, knitted in aran-weight Nature cotton. This Egyptian cotton is beautifully soft and knits like a dream. It knits up quickly too – I’ve now only got to knit the neckband and sew up the sweater so expect some pics soon. If you’d like to knit your own Angelica sweater you can buy the kit here.

I had such a great time, I’m already planning by next trip north. Wherever you go on your holidays, I hope you have a good time too.