Spring awakening – #BlossomWatch

Holywell Bay beachYesterday I posted about the heart-warming sights and sounds of nature in spring. On Monday the most severe lockdown restrictions in England were lifted slightly: Mrs TD and I took advantage of the new rules and drove to Holywell Bay, near Newquay. Apart from longing to see the sea again for the first time in three months, I also wanted to find the holy well in its cave under the cliffs. Whenever I’ve been there in the past the tide has been high and the entrance unreachable.

View out of the cave

The only picture worth sharing: the view out of the cave on to the beach

It was a fine, brisk day, and there were surprisingly few people about. The tide was far out, and I entered the first sizeable cave and took a – not very good – picture. It didn’t look much like the images I’d seen online. On reflection I think this was not the right cave.

The right cave has a natural spring deep inside it, and multicoloured stains on the rocks, caused by the minerals in the rock over which the spring water drips. The holy well itself is named after St Cuthbert.

Legend has it that Aldhun, bishop of Lindisfarne and Durham, was instructed in a vision to transport the relics of St Cuthbert, the first bishop of Lindisfarne, to Ireland. He was blown off course, and ended up at what is now Holywell. He remained there long enough to build a church a mile inland at the village now called Cubert.

This story doesn’t tally with the well-known history of Cuthbert’s relics. The monks of Lindisfarne had to remove and hide the relics several times in the early middle ages to protect them from hostile forces, but the saint’s remains eventually found a permanent shrine in what became Durham cathedral. (I posted on several Cornish holy wells in the past; posts on Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert – link HERE.)

Folk legends have great potency, however; Aldhun is said to have had another vision in which he was told to take the relics back to Durham. While the saint’s bones were being removed from the cave where they’d been stored, they touched the rock-pool’s sides, thereby infusing them with their legendary miraculous healing powers.

Local people, and many from further afield, would bring sick children to the cave on certain auspicious dates to dip them into the healing waters, or to drink the mineral-rich water. Disabled people would leave their crutches in the cave as votive offerings after taking the waters. Stories of miraculous cures, like those at so many other folk shrines, circulated widely.

It’s a nice story, and the cave has a mystical feel to it – even if I was in the wrong one. I should have taken a torch.

Wednesday was Mrs TD’s birthday, and we were able to meet her sister and brother-in-law at a beach a short drive away and go for a walk – and a picnic on the beach in front of the Carbis Bay hotel. This is where the G7 conference will take place in June. Workmen were busy sprucing the place up in readiness. What an inspiring place to gather the world’s leaders to sort out the world’s mess. They could do with a bit of St Cuthbert’s healing influence.

St Ives gullWe moved on to St Ives, eerily deserted. After a short rest on a harbour-side bench, soaking up the warm sun, we passed a small group of strangely tame sandpipers, gossiping and preening on the pavement. My picture didn’t do them justice, so I won’t include it here. Instead here’s a rather truculent gull.

A sea-mist descended with the suddenness of a stage fog machine. Very Stephen King.

It was so good to feel the restorative power of the ocean and beaches again.

White blossomNext day I visited our local park to check on the progress of the blossom. This magnificent tree took my breath away.

So did the symmetrical perfection of this camellia flower.

PS added later: today is the feast day of a saint I’ve posted on several times in the past – the subject of my postgrad research – Mary of Egypt.






14 thoughts on “Spring awakening – #BlossomWatch

      • This is one of the advantages of lockdown. (We have to keep reminding ourselves that there are some, in order to stay sane).
        The peace and quiet was wonderful when Melbourne was locked down for months. I live not far from a highway, and although we’re not in the flightpath, there’s also an aerodrome for light planes. So the hum of traffic and the occasional small plane high in the sky is a backdrop to our lives. And it was gone. We could hear birds, and the trees murmuring in the breeze, and children playing.
        And of course the air was cleaner too, so I could see more stars when I sneaked out after curfew at 8pm and illegally stood on my pavement to look upwards without interference from the lights in my house.
        Climate change has befuddled my camellia. It’s just coming into bloom now, and it’s autumn here.

        • It was the same here, Lisa, even though ours is the eighth smallest city in England (small town really, but we have a cathedral). This is the second lockdown spring when the morning birdsong is wonderful- evenings, too. Our camellia season starts around Christmas and is still going – unbefuddled so far. Magnolias sometimes decide to flower again in summer, but I put that down to exuberance rather than climate confusion.

    • They were there, Liz, but I thought they were sandpipers – but I’m sure you’re right. It’s weird to see them at the edge of the pavement, just inches away from the few passers-by – like urban pigeons.

  1. We are in autumn now and while you enjoy spring we are enjoying changing colours on the trees. We have been fortunate being on this little island of ours. Haven’t had a covid case in almost one year now. I felt for those of you in severe lockdowns but glad you are well. I lost some elderly cousins In the USA. Ones I grew up with. Your camelia photo are gorgeous as is the flower

    • Pam: you’ve done so well to keep relatively clear of the virus. Here it’s far from over. So the arrival of spring lifts the sagging spirits. The blackthorn blossom is at its peak now, just gorgeous.

    • Jane: enjoy the sea. St Mary of Egypt is one of the more obscure saints, little celebrated in Britain – she’s more popular in France and Spain. If you’re interested just put her name in the search box for my posts about her over the years.

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