Northey Island, Essex
It’s been a while since I’ve been on an adventure. Since I got back from Happisburgh I’ve struggled with my mental health and although I can’t say I’m tickety-boo, at least I feel hopeful again. This is all part of grief, I’ve been told. There’s no rhyme nor reason to it. You’re swimming along and think everything’s fine, and then something grabs you by the ankle and pulls you under.
Anyway, Jesamine’s poorly (an electrical problem) and it’s nearly a year since I went to Shetland, and I thought it’s about time I took some time out and spent a few hours invoking some of the spirit I found at my November home. I’m calling it: be more Shetland.
So yesterday I made some tattie bread and boiled some eggs. And today I headed for Northey Island – just seven miles down the road. I’ve been before, a long time ago, and it’s the inspiration for the book I’m writing, although I’ve given it a fictional name and taken huge liberties with its location, size and layout. The island’s owned by the National Trust and you need a permit to visit which sounds very important but it’s just a case of dropping them an email with your request. I was lucky to get in, visits are stopped from 1st November till spring because of the number of overwintering birds that use Northey Island as their home, the short days and the weather.
And speaking of weather – it was Shetlandic, shall I say? The cold, wind and rain took me right back to last November, and having boiled eggs and tattie bread for lunch was perfect. There are no facilities on the island: just a farm, a house that’s used for holiday rentals, and a bird-hide. And that’s the beauty of it. As the wind buffeted me I felt miles away from home. The only sounds were the birds calling, the wind in the trees and occasionally the tap-tapping of rigging from boats across the water.
The farmer’s field was filled with Canada geese, dunlins toddled around on the mud picking for food, I watched an egret spread its wings and take flight. The plants that make up the saltmarsh were in glorious colour, and I spotted a path through the reed grass down to the water, which surely must be a sign of water voles. The air was salty with seaweed, the clouds were low and grey, and my face was wet with rain. Trudging along with Molly by my side, I realised that my heart wasn’t racing, my hands weren’t shaking and my brain-fog had gone.
On an island, just seven miles from home, I found peace.