The Pilgrammage Path along the British Coasts
A virtual creation by Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell CIC
Along the Camino Santiago de Compostela in Spain, bells have been heard by pilgrims since medieval times. The Camino Britannia is a new British way, a pilgrim route for personal reflection and discovery about humanity's future as the planet heats and sea levels rise. Within sight and sound of the sea, the path combines the English Coast Path, the Wales Coast Path and the Scottish Coastal Way, a total of over 6,000 miles of path with a further 3,000 miles in Scotland, undefined but open access along the coast. The Time and Tide Bells provide significant way-stations along the route. The Camino de Santiago is marked by scallop shell symbols. The Camino Britannia adopts the shell of the Icelandic Cyprine, a clam that grows slowly over hundreds of years making it the oldest living animal. Its significance lies in the record of environmental change it lays down in its shell, from which the history of past ocean temperature and chemistry can be constructed.
Is the Camino Britannia a work of art? As a conceptual piece it adds a layer of meaning and purpose to an existing object. At thousands of miles long it is quite a large object, too big to fit in an art gallery, but it is available and open to all, to experience and engage with, bit by bit, in whatever way one chooses. The artist asks that the engagement involves an act of pilgrimage into the future of the Anthropocene.
The photograph at the top of this page is of an Icelandic Cyprine, Arctica islandica, found on the Theddlethorpe beach on the day the Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell was installed.
This bivalve is widespread in coastal waters and on the ocean shelves of the North Atlantic. In North America it is usually called the Ocean Quahog (pronounced ko-hog). Arctica islandica dates back to at least the early Cretaceous, about 135 million years ago. Individual Icelandic Cyprines live for hundreds of years, the oldest living non-colonial animal known. One specimen was 507 years old when it died. Their shells have growth lines rather like trees, which record the years and the environmental conditions. They are being studied to help reconstruct a sequence of climate changes in the past. Further reading.
Our greenhouse gas emissions not only cause global heating and sea level rise, the increased carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans' waters leads to acidification, a lowering of the sea water's pH. This will have devastating effects on ocean biodiversity, making a major contribution to the Sixth Mass Extinction, the beginnings of which we are now witnessing. The Icelandic Cyprine, however, can survive high levels of CO2 in the water, having survived the end-Cretaceous mass extinction and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 55 million years ago. Even if we manage to drive our own species to extinction, this little clam is likely to survive us.
Look out for Arctica islandica on the beach. You might walk over a thousand cockles, mussels, oysters, razor clams, piddocks, tellins and gapers before spotting an Icelandic Cyprine, but when you do, it may be the shell of the oldest creature you've ever seen. And its descendants may have a longer future than humanity, outliving the Anthropocene.
The English Coast Path
The Wales Coast Path
The Scottish Coastal Way
The British Pilgrimage Trust is a charity dedicated to bringing pilgrimage back to Britain. Formed in 2014, the BPT's core goal is to advance British pilgrimage as a form of cultural heritage that promotes holistic wellbeing, for the public benefit.
There are currently seven bells in place and it is hoped that eventually there will be a dozen or fifteen.
Trinity Buoy Wharf, London
Appledore, North Devon
Cemaes Bay, Anglesey
Bosta Beach, Great Bernera, Isle of Lewis
Three further sites are in planning
Brixham, South Devon
We are looking for further sites.
Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is a not-for profit organisation, registered at Companies House. Company Number 10934941