It’s a liminal place, this promontory.
Existing at the point where the sky meets the land, the bay meets the open sea and — with the outline of the tiny 12th Century chapel walls still just visible under the soft turf — the past meets the present.
Halfway along the spit, where the grasses meet the stones, it’s possible to see the two castles. To the north, Bamburgh: squat, solid, postcard-friendly but – whisper it if within earshot of the tourist board – much of it a Victorian replica; to the south, Dunstanburgh: leggy, wind-gnarled, broken, authentic.
It was at this exact spot, some twelve years ago, that I proposed to my wife. (A point also then, perhaps, between youth and adulthood, between the single life and the married.)
The sea here is ferocious, honing the knife blade-shaped rock more and more each year. From time to time, the erosion charms ancient objects up from the ground – in recent years, the 400 year old bones of children.
The way to access the Nook is not obvious. Perhaps deliberately so. Unless you are approaching by sea — as it is said St Cuthbert himself did from the Farnes: a formidable journey by rowing boat— there are only two ways in: one through an opening next to a permanently locked wooden gate, the other, by way of a narrow twisting alleyway behind the lime kilns at Beadnell harbour. The kilns draw far more attention from visitors.
By climbing up on the rises you can see long stretches in all directions, but I recommend rather you step down into the small hollow where the chapel once stood, and sit or lie on the soft, springy grass. Here, the wind drops away instantly and in the soporific warmth of a summer’s day, you can almost forget your proximity to the wild North Sea, just feet away.
I have been here in all seasons, in all weathers. I nod to the occasional fisherman who stands heron-like at the water’s edge and greet the walker whose spaniel goes scurrying in and out of the tussocks in search of dog treasure.
My wife is no longer able to come with me here. But sometimes when I stand halfway along, at the point where everything converges — even life and death — I meet her once again.
Originally from Manchester, Tim Craig now lives in Hackney in east London. In 2018 he won The Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction and placed third in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. His story, ‘Northern Lights’ was recently selected for inclusion in the Best Microfictions Anthology 2019 and also the BIFFY50.
Steven John – Features & Fiction Editor