A week on the Scottish Coast. Each day filled with sea air, beach combing and woodland walks. We were lucky enough to find some plant fossils in the shale rocks.
Much needed time for writing and creativity after a busy couple of months. Looking forward to delivering more nature based creative writing courses over the next few weeks including a nature writing poetry master class and a woodland inspired four week writing course which I am planning for June / July.
I always love returning to the home comforts of Base Camp and my gorgeous cats! I think they enjoyed having the house to themselves for a week, although we have been getting lots of cuddles .
‘For when the sea is calm [says Camden], the waters at Skengrave being spread as it were into a plain, a hideous groaning is often heard in these parts, on a sudden, and then the fishermen are afraid of the sea. They believe the ocean to be a huge monster which is then hungry and eager to glut itself with the bodies of men.’
Folklore attached to Skinningrove – taken from The Iron Coast by Jane Gardam
Bright skies greeted us driving over the North York Moors to go to the coast today. I met with my best friend on the beach at Skinningrove. A little known place with a huge stretch of sand. Steeped in history Skinningrove is a Viking name – which meant Skinners grove or pit.
At one time Skinningrove was home to a large iron works which opened in 1848. Today you can find remnants of the iron industry along the coast line.
I love the raw beauty of this coastline. The Cleveland Way coastal path runs through Skinningrove which is situated between Saltburn and Staithes, the cliffs above Skinningrove are breathtaking and pass by abandoned Alum Works where huge pits of land have been carved from the cliff. Now filled with bracken and heather they are both eery and beautiful at the same time.
I would take this coastline over any other, any day. For anyone interested in the North East Coast I highly recommend The Iron Coast by Jane Gardam which captures the visceral essence and history of the area, illustrated with black and white photographs taken by Peter Burton and Harland Waltham.
I can not encourage you enough to visit the gorgeous Dyls Cafe in York. Saturated in beautiful colours and a range of art work and graphics it’s a visual feast.
Based in a small tower that held the motor for moving Skeldergate Bridge in York, the cafe now has a fairy tale quality. Plants trail from windows, you follow a tight winding staircase to each floor, the top floor is a tiny round room at the top of the tower, it feels like you have been transported to another time.
I love the quirky style and humour of the decor. It’s a little adventure just spending time soaking up the atmosphere. I don’t get to go that often, but I have to say it’s my favourite cafe in York based on the interior and setting – great coffee and food too!!
We welcomed the New Year with a walk along Hunmanby Gap beach today. A few brave folks were having a New Year’s day dip in the Sea. Strolling along the sand, listening to the waves rolling in and feeling the wind on my face was enough for me.
I would love to claim credit for making pebble pictures of 2022 and a spiral, but we found these along our walk. Today’s adventure was a treat for our Dachshund who doesn’t care for walking much, but does adore the beach. It’s so cute to see her giddy with excitement on the sand.
I was thinking about New Years Resolutions as we walked. Mine this year is to keep on keeping on. Writing is a lengthy process, it’s too easy to give up. I’m going to press on with writing daily and forging ahead with my PhD. The process is as important as the end product. Over the last 7 years I have gradually phased more art and creative writing into my life, I’m looking forward to devoting more time and attention to writing and creativity during 2022.
Last summer, completely by accident, I stumbled upon the breath taking nature reserve of St Cyrus. I only found it because we were looking for somewhere to let the dog stretch her (very short sausage dog legs) and to break up our journey travelling through Scotland.
We followed a track that took us from the road across a wooden footbridge and sand dunes to the beautiful wind swept beach of St Cyrus. We weren’t expecting the vast stretch of sand before us, but there was also another surprise that was one of the strangest things I have ever seen in my life.
We walked for a mile along the beach and found an inlet of rocks and granite stone. In one of the inlets thousands and thousands of sprats had been trapped by the tide. Maybe chased in by birds? The whole pool was glittering with fish as they jumped to get air. Another young group of walkers was trying to dig them a trench to reach the sea. It was an eery sight as the pool glittered and fizzed with fish, many that hadn’t made it lined the edges of the shore line.
Further around the inlet the rock pools were deep and round with perfect clarity, lined with shells and fronds of jewel coloured seaweed.
The whole bay was stunning, there was hardly another person for miles. A few tiny bothies were visible set back in the dunes. Someone had used driftwood to create some fabulous shelters, some of the wood was so weathered it looked like rivulets of water in the sand.
I woke up this morning dreaming of the beach, of the crunch and dig of sand under foot, the sound of the wind sweeping the bay and the pull of the tide.
At the end of the walk, we found the visitor Center with a poem carved into stone marking the placement of a time capsule. If I could bottle St Cyrus and take a lung full of sea air whenever I felt like it, I would have done so!
Marram Whispers Secrets over time Blown Sands. Colour dusted wings Dance over Flowers of memory Lark silvery notes Soar above the sea Rhythmic sighs: Wind woven sounds Singing the song of St Cyrus
I completed my second set of courses for the Field Studies Council this evening. I’ve hugely enjoyed creating the courses and teaching. Visiting the allotment was the perfect wind down after a lovely online session.
The pond is teaming with tiny frogs, everything is lush and full of life.
Linden blossom and honey suckle scent marked our path. Roses trailed over the plot borders.
I think I will sleep well tonight 🙂
I’m looking forward to running the two courses again in the Autumn term. If you are interested in joining, you can find more out about them here:
Both courses are run virtually. Students download and complete course tasks which are followed up by a 40 minute zoom at the end of each week. They will be running again during September and October 2021.
This weeks adventure from Base Camp was to The River Nidd Gorge. Shallow enough for river swimming and quiet enough to hear nothing but bird song and rushing water.
We like to go in the early evening when the day walkers are returning home. I love the way the evening light filters through the trees. This week it was misty when we arrived adding an ethereal feel to the valley.
This week I was delighted when my daughter found a baby toad under a patch of grass on the allotment. A beautiful little creature, satisfyingly compact and full of character. (Don’t worry he was safely returned to his hiding place a few moments later).
I was doubly delighted to discover the poem Toad by Norman MacCaig via a Twitter feed. The last verse of the poem reads:
A jewel in your head? Toad, you've put one in mine, a tiny radiance in a dark place.
I love a poem that raises questions. ‘A jewel in the head?’ had me intrigued. A quick google later I discovered there is such a thing as a ‘toadstone’ a highly polished stone which was thought in medieval times to hold magical powers and act as an amulet. They are in fact fossilised fish teeth! There is a great article here if you want the technical fossil info.
A toad stone was thought to sweat if venom or poison was detected and protect the wearer from the effects. My favourite part of the information on the ‘Wartski’ web page is that in ‘1658 the English cleric Edward Topsell suggested a method of harvesting toadstones by placing a toad on a red cloth and waiting for it to cough up the stone.’
I once read of a toad that lived in an enclosed courtyard in France for 50 years, quite happily, it sounds like an urban myth, if only I could find the article again! Ah well 🙂 I will satisfy myself with the thought of magical toadstone amulets instead.