Monday, 15 July 2013

14th July - St Cuthbert: Lindisfarne's first Nature Warden

Our volunteer warden and local historian John Woodhurst did the first of his three St Cuthbert walks and talks on Sunday. It was a glorious day and we certainly gained a different perspective on Lindisfarne's best loved saint.

John explaining the Anglo-Saxon roots of St. Mary's church and the inspiration for the 12th Century Lindisfarne Priory

John writes:

"I always enjoy talking to people about Cuthbert and making them realise that far from being just another saint with a halo to unpack, there's a real man behind all the miracle stories. Not only that but a genuinely likable man of many talents - at home both with kings and princesses and bishops and abbesses, AND with ordinary folk in the "mountainy villages" he might be out travelling in for weeks at a time. Dangerous places to be in those days with wild boar, wolves etc wandering about - no dragons though! Cuthbert was also a man who sailed with other monks often in severe weather and in primitive craft, not just (!) to the Farnes but as far afield as St Abbs, Coquet Island and even Pictland! When he became a hermit on the Farnes he insisted on building his own dwellings, and growing his own crops. So a very practical and strong man still best known for his love of the natural world and interaction with the animal kingdom. I gave as many examples of animal-related stories as possible - domestic animals (horses, sheep and cattle), wild animals (otters, eagles and salmon), and a range of birds (ravens, geese, the famous Cuddy's duck and cormorants) to show that in many ways Cuthbert was truly Lindisfarne's first Nature Reserve Warden. By the end of our walk I think everyone agreed I'd made a good case for this, and they went away feeling they'd got much closer to Cuthbert as a person and friend rather than a distant saint. I look forward to telling the tale again so if you missed this check our Events for other dates - hope to see you then."

Hearing about the history of St Cuthbert's Island, Cuthbert's famous bolthole just off Holy Island

John's walk was so informative, revealing a side to Cuthbert that is perhaps not as widely 'preached' as it should be! It was fascinating to hear the many stories of his encounters with wildlife, and how these stories may have originated and developed through time. It's inspiring to think that Cuthbert, not only one of the most well-known and loved saints in the area, laid down the first rules to protect Lindisfarne's beautiful landscape and wildlife, making it all the more important that we continue what Cuthbert began.

Please make sure you don't miss the next one, on Sunday 28th July - more details here (link)

Hearing about the Anglo-Saxon discoveries on the Heugh, near where the Lookout building sits today

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