The Saint and his Seabirds

More from my trip to Northumberland back in the spring, AKA another respite from this burning summer in the south.

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About 1,300 years ago, a middle-aged man moved to Inner Farne, seeking hermitage in the buildings where Aidan – Apostle to England – had dwelt not long before. So great was Cuthbert’s need for solitude that he grew his own food rather than accept supplies, but he accepted the friendship of the island’s wildlife, and sheltered eider ducks when the weather turned raw.

Eider duck2

Cuthbert passed some of the world’s first conservation laws to protect these exquisite sea ducks on the Farne Islands. When he died, his body was moved to Holy Island (Lindisfarne), and after the Vikings invaded, monks faithfully carried it inland. His eventual burial place by the River Wear is now Durham Cathedral.

Cuthburt statue

That is the drama of many lifetimes ago. But Cuthbert’s ducks – still nicknamed Cuddy ducks in his honour – continue to grace Northumberland, and they are far from alone.

Grey heron, eating a brown trout

Grey heron trout

Grey wagtail

Grey wagtail

Oystercatcher bathing on the shoreline

Oystercatcher

And resting.

Oystercatcher2

Dipper

Dipper Cragside

Sedge warbler

Sedge warbler

Rock pipit, perched on the whin sill

Sea pipit

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Back in Norfolk, it is 32c and the fields are sandy-brown. Roll on autumn.

20 thoughts on “The Saint and his Seabirds

    1. Cuthbert certainly travelled a lot in both life and death, but modern Britain has given him a long distance hiking trail – the St Cuthbert’s Way is 62 miles from southern Scotland to Lindisfarne. Might be fun to walk sometime.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oystercatchers are such strange birds, bathing or not! I’ve occasionally seen them fly over my garden in Norfolk even though I’m a fair way from the sea. I’ve also seen them wandering around an athletics field in a Northumberland town.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, history and nature, my favorite topics 🙂
        We are going to Haida Gwaii soon, hope to see some of history and I know there will be a lot of nature there.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I love the sculpture of the monks carrying Cuthbert’s body, and was unaware of his connection with the conservation of Eider ducks. They are very handsome birds, and I can see why they appealed to him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Inner Farne must have been dauntingly remote in Cuthbert’s day. I wasn’t able to leave the boat and visit his chapel but would like to on my next visit, avian flu issues permitting of course.

      Liked by 1 person

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