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Some landscapes are unquestionably spiritual, something about them just ‘lifts’ the soul. But there’s no formula for them and like many things in life, they’re all very subjective!

lindisfarne and pottrait photograph from a photography commission

As photo briefs come and go, some you remember, some you try to forget and some stay etched in your memory, clear as day. One particular brief which will always stay with me was a portrait for an article on a couple who’s son had died of a heroin overdose. They were a lovely couple who turned a potentially tricky job, into a rewarding and encouraging experience. One of the things I picked up on during the photo shoot was how important the time they had spent on Holy Island was and how they had an undoubtedly spiritual connection to that landscape and environment. This is something I found myself reflecting on when I visited Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne.

I have to admit I didn’t find a divine connection to Lindisfarne. I found the landscape intriguing, the history captivating and the bountiful wildlife enchanting. Yet I found myself walking the perimeters almost emotionless, which actually surprised me. Maybe it was the disappointment of a cancelled boat trip to the Farne Islands or a nagging concern about the tides and getting cut off from the mainland. Whatever it was, I was missing something that many before me, profess and evangalise about when visiting Holy Island.

This shouldn’t be misinterpreted. Walking around Lindisfarne was awesome and I would recommend it to anyone. I just didn’t find it as inspiring as I thought I would. Maybe it was the curse of expectation. This kind of scenario often occurs when I watch films: I have high expectations and am disappointed, low expectations and I thoroughly enjoy it! Maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere?

After successfully evading the incoming that tide that mercilessly cuts Lindisfarne off from the mainland twice a day, we headed to our B&B in Beadnell. As we were shown to our room I felt a twinge of jealousy as I observed a hallway full of photos capturing  close up encounters with Puffins on the Farne Islands. Encounters that I seemed destined (at that time), never to experience! Ignoring their taunts, we decided to go out and explore the Beadnell coastline.

The stretch of beach we found seemed fairly standard. Nothing surprising or of outstanding interest. Yet the cluster of rock pools pulled me in to investigate. Before I knew it I had spent over an hour moving from pool to pool, barely looking up, mesmerised by these unique micro universes. On one of the occasions I did look up, I noticed a Kestrel hunting not more than ten metres away! This arguably unremarkable beach had actually become a magical and unforgettable experience. I lingered and explored until the tide forced me to abandon my newly discovered worlds.

I pondered (while tucking into a steak and ale pie in a local pub), on how an underwhelming stretch of coast (at a glance) had upstaged a location revered and celebrated by hundreds of thousands. It’s a lesson most are taught from an early age, but maybe one that takes a lifetime to learn; I scolded myself and renewed a promise to try and experience every landscape with reserved judgement and without any preconceptions!

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