"recollections of escaping as a teenager ...", my love affair with St Bees......
it began in 1983 when, as an angst filled teenager needing to run away from the big city and the stresses of coming to terms with life, I had allowed fate to draw me to St Bees. I had randomly placed a pin in a map one day and there it was, my unknown destination beckoned. After a long journey which began early that day at Liverpool Lime Street station, I emerged from the little train at St Bees and watched it disappear into the distance towards Whitehaven.
Suddenly there was silence and an overwhelming feeling of calm. At the station I was greeted by several small Orange Tip butterflies which seemed like a good omen. Nobody else had left the train and there was nobody to be seen. It was summer but the afternoon air was cool and fresh.
Clutching a bag with a change of clothes, I set off towards the sea. And what a sight as I reached the shore. The silence was broken only by the rhythmic sound of waves on shingle and I knew then and there that I'd found my spiritual home. Chance alone had brought me to this place and I was thankful indeed.
Aside from the butterflies and a few scattered sheep in the fields, I hadn't seen a single soul since I'd been here.
This was more than thirty years ago and there was little development at the seafront apart from the yellowing Seacote hotel which had seen better days back then. Time slipped by as I gazed at the sea and I realized I had nowhere to stay for the night. Queenie Atkinson came to the rescue. She and her husband had retired here from Blackpool and now ran a humble guesthouse as close to the shore as you could want and for the princely sum of £7 for the night including breakfast. Queenie was warm and welcoming and I was to get to know her well over the next few years but for now I just spent a few days wandering the cliffs and shore seeking inner peace, which was very easy to find in this atmospheric and ancient place. It was on the cliffs just below Hannah Moor on the gorse clad slopes of St Bees head that I began to write it all down, in poetry and songs, the story of my still young life. St Bees helped to distil my thoughts and emotions and was a place where it was possible to gain perspective again far away from the stresses of the big city and life with a capital 'L'.
For St Bees was then, for me at least, otherworldly, a place somehow detached from the troubles of the real world.
My room at Queenie's guesthouse was a comfortable retreat and my breakfast table was in the bay window from where I watched the clouds sweeping across the horizon casting shadows on the beach when the tide was out or on other days the angry endless waves crashing on the shore speaking to me of distant lands across the sea.
These photos were taken on that first visit. I had to return home soon after this but St Bees drew me back again before very long and the affair continued......
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