Monday, 16 July 2018

St Mary's Island

When I arrived at Hartley Caravan and Motorhome Club Site on 6th June I was very pleased to see how close it was to the low cliff edge. It was a sloping site, and you would probably have a view of the sea from every part of it; but I was able to get onto a pitch that had a really excellent prospect of not only the sea, but St Mary's Island just offshore.

To some extent, the small, old-fashioned pitches on the site - laid out donkeys years ago, and too small now for many of the largest modern caravans and motorhomes - worked in my favour, as my little caravan (seen above) can get on any sized pitch. The site was in fact almost full, and only these smaller pitches were still available on the day.

The sky was a bit grey on arrival, but sun and blue sky soon broke through. Then I could appreciate the Island in all its splendour! I could see it through my door window, from the pitch, and if I sashayed down to the perimeter fence next to the cliff-edge public path, I got a particularly impressive view. 

As you can see, there is a prominent lighthouse on the Island, plus some houses. It's linked to the mainland by a short causeway, which is submerged at really high tides. I imagine that, at least in calm weather, it's possible to wade out to the Island, or wade off it, in most states of the tide.

I very much wanted to go and see St Mary's Island and stand on it. My plan that evening was to drive first into Whitley Bay, then cut back to the Island car park, walk out along the causeway, and see if I could catch the last of the sunset from next to the lighthouse.

The sun was sinking fast as I parked, just before 9.15pm. It was in fact getting tangled up with the trees overlooking the local nature reserve - and likely to quench itself in the nature reserve lake at any moment.

There was not a moment to lose. I hastened down to the causeway. The lighthouse was like a pink candle, set in a pink-blue sea.

Oh no, a hitch in my plans! The causeway was partly under water! More accurately, lazy little waves were creeping over it, not all of them going all the way across. Perhaps an agile and determined person could, with care, make their way onto the Island without necessarily getting wet shoes. I stood and watched a bit: was the tide coming in, or going out?

Now supposing I tight-roped along that raised length of concrete - and kept my balance all the way? Could I do that? I needed to make my mind up fast, because, looking sideways towards the cliff, I could see that the sun had very nearly set.

If the tide were still coming in, then the result of negotiating that narrow length of concrete and reaching the Island would most certainly be wet (and ruined) shoes on the way back, as by then the causeway would be at least ankle-deep in seawater. And the thought of wading barefoot in semi-darkness was not appealing. No, I must return another day. I gazed at the Island one last time. So near, yet so far!

Back at Fiona, I watched a scene that must unfold nightly. One by one, cars driven by young people drove in - some in a spirited manner - and parked in what seemed to be pre-arranged spots. Clearly this was where girls and boys met up. 

I felt that I might be cramping their style, so I fired up Fiona and departed in a blast, just to show them that oldies can be spirited too. 

As it turned out, I didn't get another chance on this holiday to take a low-tide look at St Mary's Island. Something for next year then.

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