Holy Island Sands, the first Pilgrim. January
When I first noticed the footprints of pilgrims on the wet mud of Holy Island sands I realised that these fragile impressions had been continually washed by the tide, obliterated, and re established by new pilgrims in a cycle repeated daily for centuries from the arrival of St Aidan in 635, the moment Christianity came to Northumbria. The prints in the tidal mud were a living connection to the first Christian mission and the story of Lindisfarne. This painting grew from a later visit, in the quiet of a January sunrise I was surprised to discover I was not the first visitor to the sands, which were still glossed by a film of sea water. The first pilgrim of the day had already passed here.
The sands themselves are not uniform; some sections are more compacted than others the softer silts impose shorter strides upon the walker. Everywhere, in the silence when the wind drops, the walker can hear the gentle trickling and gurgling water as the tide draws moisture still further. The staves, unevenly spaced on the landward side, act as markers on this journey in to the temporary and unfamiliar landscape that the sea permits one to walk. The box-like refuges are a reminder that this is a place is a temporary one, demanding that the walker keeps a wary eye on the waters which may be out of sight, for now.