St. Cuthbert's Way, Day Six, Beal to Lindisfarne, 6 miles.
4am and my bladder was bursting after a fine evening's dining the night before at The Barn At Beal restaurant. I grabbed the toilet block key and made a brisk walk, trying not to look desperate, up to the toilets. Not that anyone was awake at this hour. Duly relieved I went back to the tarp and lay for another half hour watching the sky lighten then thought, what the hell, let's do it. So at 5am I was up and away. I tip toed past the other tents, past the car campers' party tent, a mess of extra large Cobra beer bottles (empty of course), fag packets (again, empty) and other shit lying around. I was sure they had a telly in there too. Those bloody awful foil BBQ things seemed to be popular as the ground was covered with perfectly square burned patches, where grass would no longer grow. It's a shame really. The restaurant is superb and they've gone out of their way to accommodate tents, which in this area means a lot. Camp spots here are like hens' teeth but these party campers just don't give a shit. I hope it all settles down and they make a successful go of the camping. It's perfectly sited for Lindisfarne and makes a wonderful place to celbrate the end of the walk, almost. Still another six miles to go.
I followed the path down to the causeway and started walking. The sun was just rising over the vast sand flats of the bay. The tide had gone only an hour or so before so the flats glistened brightly in the early morning. With the road edges flush with what was technically the sea bed and vast distances of shining sand on either side it was like walking on the surface of another planet. I reached the start of the pilgrims' path, marked by numerous poles, stretching into the far distance. It was a dilemna. Should I follow the poles? Should I just stick to the road? The tide times were for the road and not the 'path' which could be under water for up to two hours either side of the safe crossing times for the road and I wanted to get across and not hang around until it was absolutely safe to cross via the path. So the road it was. Just then I met two walkers coming in from the sand flats to the north and exchanged 'good mornings' and they proceeded to pull two whisky bottles from their packs. One full, the other half full, or half empty depending on your life view. The amber liquid glowed in the light of the rising sun and the wee Irish chap in the broad hat was very pleased indeed. A real character and I wished them good luck on their crossing. They were clearly about to have their breakfast. A liquid one for one of them I guessed.
It was a long haul along the road but at least it was deserted and I only encountered a couple of cars heading across and a motorbike heading off the island. He gave me a wide berth and we nodded to each other. There was a curious sound filling the air all the way across that I assumed was seals singing from the bay. It was very loud and I could hear it over the growing traffic and train noise on the mainland. When I eventually reached the village, the streets were full of the singing but I forgot to ask what it was. But I'm pretty sure it was seals.
7:30am and everything was shut and quiet. Best time to be there in fact. It must have been at least that time as I went into the church for a look and there was a service on, which, according to the notice, started at 7:30. I kept quiet up the back as the handful of worshippers did what they do then I silently left and had a bite to eat in the shade of the ancient building.
Earlier I'd stopped to ask if the cafe was open(!). No was the answer (obviously!) but the lady who was cleaning it offered to make me a coffee anyway. I thanked her but declined and went on my way and a while later I spotted another cafe. Again, it was shut and again I was offered a coffee to keep me going. What a pleasant place!
Eventually the Oasis Cafe opened and I ordered two bacon rolls and a large mug of coffee and sat in the grub garden with my bare feet attracting the birds and ate my fill and suddenly realised I'd finished not only my bacon rolls but also the walk!
I reflected on the wonderful journey I'd had. Across fields, over wind swept hills and moors. The people I'd met, the animals I'd helped, or not. It wasn't just sheep you know. Back in the B&B in Kirk Yetholm, when I'd been packing up the tarp I spotted a wee spindly long legged spider lying flattened in a pool of water on the bath edge. He must have been trapped in the tarp and ended up in the water when I'd put it in the bath but they're tough wee buggers. So I picked him up by one leg and he instantly came to life and wrapped his other legs round my finger and began to sort himself out. Once he was a bit more presentable I put my finger on the floor and he wobbled off it and scurried under the bed. Good luck to you little fellow I thought! There was also the fly buzzing around helplessly in a pool of shower water at Beal. So I picked him up by his wing (carefully now) and he jumped onto my finger, again sorted himself out then he jumped off and walked out under the door! So I was two sheep, a spider and a fly up. One sheep down sadly.
There will no doubt be lots of people who will cry 'but let nature take its course. You shouldn't interfere.' and therein lies the problem. We ARE nature. We're not divorced from the natural world, we're part of it. It just so happens we have something called compassion. It's an enormously powerful faculty, largely denied to other creatures (if you believe the 'experts') although try watching a lamb sit next to its dead mother for days, or elephants mourning the loss of one of the group and you'll scoff at these 'experts'. I truly believe that if we're passing by and something is in distress, distress that's in our power to end, then we should end it, if at all possible. We should help a fellow denizen of nature for we are all part of the natural world. Use that extra faculty to give something a helping hand.
I drained the last of my coffee, strapped my sandals on to my happy feet and made for the bus stop. I was headed home, back to Skye. Island to island after one of the best journey's I've ever made.