Saturday, 23 October 2010

Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Lindisfarne

We caught a train at Edinburgh's Waverly Station at 8am Saturday morning. Our destination: back to England and  Berwick-Upon-Tweed. The journey took less than an hour. A visit to the Holy Island was our ultimate goal for the day. Heavy clouds prevented long shadows from being cast in Edinburgh, but by the time we arrived in Berwick dots of sun appeared in the sky. Our return ticket to Edinburgh was for 7:30. Erika reserved a long day because we didn't know when the tide would be out long enough for us to venture out to the island and then leave before the tide covered the causeway and keeping us on the island. Our first order of business, then, was to find out when we could get out to the island and what means of transportation will get us there. We found out that the causeway would be open from about 12:15 to 7:30 that day. Perfect. Next, find out how to get there. We found out that a public bus will leave for the island at 12:20 and another one will return to Berwick from the island at 5:30. Those would be the only two public buses on the island that day. Again, perfect.

Entrance through the 16th century wall to the old part of Berwick.
Berwick is England's northernmost town. It's situatued in the extreme northeast of the country just south of the border with Scotland. Originally we had hoped to stay in Berwick for the weekend, but we couldn't find any available accommodations.

It's a fair size town, witnessed by the fact that the London-Edinburgh trains stop there regularly and that several bus routes criss-cross the town. Walking from the train station towards the center of town we saw the walls of the town built, but not quite finished, in the 16th century. In the couple of hundred years before 1482 the town had changed hands between the Scots and the English about every 15 years or so. Before all this back-and-forth trading of sovereignty it had been an important sea port, part of the cause of the struggle to control it. Its importance declined as the constant struggle for dominance betrayed the confidences of the shippers. The Elizabethans, determined to settle the borders once and for all, built a large wall inside the medieval walls based on fortress technology borrowed from the latest fortification designs developed in Italy. Even then Italy was on the cutting edge of design.
The path cut right through this fairway. Fore!

Instead of going directly through the hole in the wall, we turned left and walked parallel to the wall towards the North Sea. We soon came to a links golf course with a convenient asphalt path that led us to the sea. Most of the fairways we could see had fairways with undulations that on a couple of them were so severe they looked like roller coasters for elves. The sand traps were tiny around the greens.
The North Sea. The wind blew sharply and the clouds began to clear away.

Sky continues to clear. It was windy, though not too chilly. If you look closely you can see the gentle undulations in the fairway behind the green. Golfers were on the course and people walking their dogs were on the paths. Signs warned people on the paths to beware of wayward golf balls.

We walked back towards the town by a different route, passing the east side of the town's wall. We came to the barracks and main guard. Unfortunately the barracks and the museum were closed that day. But Erika did get a photo of the coat of arms on the gate.

St. Aidan founded the monastery on Lindisfarne, more commonly known as the Holy Island.

Georgian-era buildings in Berwick.

The River Tweed. The bridge at the rear is the railroad bridge built in the 19th century. And yes, this Borders region along the river  is where Tweed wool originated.
We wandered around town not knowing exactly where we were going, but the town's size is manageable and we soon found ourselves on the river Tweed staring out the mouth of the river to the North Sea. Boats were tied up along the quay and upriver we could see these bridges. The bridge in the foreground carries auto traffic, and we got up there somehow and headed back into town. In the town center a Saturday market was in full swing. People were selling clothes, jewelry, fruit, toys out on the broad sidewalk. Of course we (well, really Erika) had to explore and find out what bargains were available.

We decided to eat a little before catching the bus for the island. We found a lovely little coffee and tea shop that seemed pretty popular. I ate a very tasty triple layer Lady Victoria sponge cake with my tea, feeling very hoity-toity. Never had one before so of course I had to try it. The three people next to us oohed and aahed
The Town Hall sits stolidly across from the coffee shop, and these old stocks next to it serve as a dire warning to miscreants, especially youthful ones, who might be tempted to misbehave in too extreme a manner.
After tea we still had some time before the bus was due, so we wandered a bit more around town. Near the barracks we came upon this old church more or less accidentally.

The wonderful thing about old churches are the great cemeteries attached to them.
I love old cemeteries. I hope you don't think this gruesome.
 This old church was built around 1650 during Cromwell's commonwealth and is built in an unadorned Cromwellian style, apparently the only one of its kind. It stands near the site of the original church that was built about 1190. I recommend reading the history of Berwick at the link. The church's current vicar wrote it. Meanwhile we can admire the stained glass windows.

The bus ride took longer than I expected, about 20 minutes. The causeway between the mainland and the island was narrow in places, and we passed a car park near the entrance of the island that was already filling up quickly. Only a half-dozen people took the bus to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, most people able to drive there. The bus driver was careful to tell us that if we didn't catch the next bus at 5:30 to take us back to Berwick we would be stuck on the island until the next day. Not a good idea. Tourists who attempted to make the crossing too late found their cars under water.

Shortly after alighting the shuttle bus to the castle stopped by. We hopped on for a nominal fee and, after picking up people at the car park, went off to the castle. The shuttle driver, as part of his patter, told us that there is a school on the island for the six children living there. Lucky kids.

View from the castle. The castle seems pretty comfortable. Nice place for a sheep ranch. Too bad it's not for sale.

It had turned into a stunningly beautiful day. Benedict on the ramparts.

People must have been shorter in the 16th century.

The dot on the horizon is Bamburgh Castle, once the capitol of the Kingdom of Northumbria and also where St. Aidan died in 651.
Rather than tell you the details of the castle's history, you can look at this web site.

This structure on the beach was a massive kiln for burning lime. Coal for the fire was brought up from Newcastle by sea. The lime was used as fertilizer.

Relaxing in the Gertrude Jekyll Garden.

You may be able to tell that the castle is built in the shape if a ship's keel.

Statue of St. Aidan facing the Lindisfarne Priory.

Lindisfarne Castle in the background.
St. Aidan and Benedict. St. Aidan's feast day and Benedict's birthday are the same, 31 August. King Oswald of Northumbria invited the Irish monk Aidan to preach to and convert his pagan Saxon subjects to Christianity in 635. Aidan founded a monastery on Lindisfarne soon after his arrival from Iona. The monastery consisted of wooden buildings as in Ireland. He invited a dozen local boys from the mainland to attend school at the monastery, and they too eventually became missionaries. Because of his success as a missionary St. Aidan is known as the Apostle of England. He died on 31 August 651 at Bamburgh Castle a few miles north of Lindisfarne on the coast. The Lindisfarne Gospels, which I saw at the British Library the previous week, were created about 50 years later at the monastery. The Vikings made their first attack on England at Lindisfarne in 793, and because of their frequent forays on this coast the monks abandoned the island in the 9th century, and monastic life on the island lay dormant for a couple of centuries.

Benedict dressed as St. Aidan last year as part a school project.

The monastery was re-established in the early 12th century, which is when
construction began on a Norman church and priory, the ruins which we still
have with us today.

A drawing of one of the walls of the priory before it collapsed.

Celtic cross. Some preservation work was being done on the front of the church.

The Rainbow Arch

Lindisfarne Castle in the background.

Statue of St. Cuthbert, the most important abbot of the monastery after Aidan.

The priory was originally a large complex, although after a time only 3-4 monks lived there. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the priory's stones were used to build Lindisfarne Castle.
Celtic crosses in various forms are all over the island.
Celtic Christianity differed from Roman Christianity.

The recently built, and small, Catholic church on the island.
We spent a sublime afternoon at Lindisfarne with glorious sunshine illuminating the island like the aura around a saint. We had the sense in the priory ruins that we truly stepped on sacred ground amid the silent presence of holy men and women who lived and prayed here more than a thousand years ago. We were fortunate to be able to experience some of their splendid isolation, though we certainly weren't alone. I can imagine remaining on the island for an extended stay and imitating the practices of the monks in blissful peace.

Ploughshare made from different kinds of weapons. In the Reformed Church yard next to St. Aidan's Catholic Church.
There are few shops on the island, but most of them closed around 4pm, including the shop that distributed free samples of Lindisfarne Mead, a drink made on the island for more than half a millennia. Drat.

Getting on the last bus before the tide traps us on the island.
When we got off the bus in Berwick we walked across the street to the Leaping Salmon Pub for dinner. It was dark by the time we finished and walked the mile or so to the railway station.

The ruins of Berwick Castle are next to the railway station, but it was too dark see them. I saw them from the train when we passed through Berwick on the way back to London Monday afternoon.
The Cross of St. George and the  lion and red rose of England.

The Cross of St. Andrew and the unicorn and thistle of Scotland.
A truly lovely, special, and perfect day.

No comments:

Post a Comment