Week In Focus #15
This is picture #15 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. Today’s photo is of the brilliant beach, at St Bees.
St Bees is a coastal village on the west coast of Cumbria, on the Irish sea. St Bees is a popular holiday destination due to the coastline and proximity to the Western Lake District. In the village there is the Norman era St Bees Priory, and St Bees School founded in 1583. The Wainwright Coast to Coast Walk starts from the north end of St Bees Bay. The village is served by the Cumbrian Coast Railway.
The beach at low tide offers up a vast expanse of red sand studded with rock pools. The sand is accessible at all times except for 2 or 3 hours on either side of high tide, when only the shingle is clear of the water.
The red sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head are one of the the most dramatic features of the Cumbrian coast. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has owned most of the cliffs since 1973. The cliff-top path from St Bees makes a pleasant if strenuous walk at any time of year if the weather is kind, but for the naturalist, spring and summer are the most rewarding seasons. The cliffs are composed of a red Permian and Triassic sandstone about 200 Million years old. St Bees sandstone was created by water borne sand and has a very small grain size, making it a very workable stone still much in demand for building. The mica in the stone gives it a sparkling effect. St Bees sandstone occurs as far north as Brampton, but it is named after its most prominent outcrop here at St Bees.
Here is the only colony of cliff-nesting seabirds in Northwest England, to which thousands of birds return each spring to lay their eggs and hatch their chicks before returning to the seas where they spend three-quarters of their lives. For those who know what to expect from a seabird colony, all the usual species are here, plus a few extras peculiar to the location on the edge of the Lake District. Most numerous are the guillemots, the northern equivalent of the penguin; over 5,000 crowd on to the open ledges where they jostle for the best position to lay their single egg. Their close relative the razorbill is represented by only a few hundred birds, preferring the privacy of nooks and crannies in the cliffs. This is the only place in England where black guillemots. In summer they are easily identified by the big white wing patch on the otherwise black body, and close views reveal their bright crimson legs and gapes.