This had seemed to be an essential visit from the very conception the holiday. It’s not quite visually unique of course, being somewhat related to “Michael’s Mount” off the coast of Cornwall, but in truth this is a grander affair in many ways. The day was less propitious but in fact turned out to be fine, and brightened somewhat as it went on.
The whole is an interesting mixture of salt marsh, modern tidal control system, newly built causeway (actually still somewhat in the building), modern consumerism and ancient spirituality, with a spattering of contemporary faith and worship.
The salt marshes and sand flats are very much part of the area and would bear some exploration in their own right. Although we caught hints of preservation and conservation work going on here, they lay outwith the plans for the day and for us will have to wait for another visit. The tidal flood control barrage and the new causeway are part of a great, multi-million Euro development which is not far from completion (as some of the photographs indicate). Plainly the ambition is to grow MSM as a tourist attraction with much increased accessibility. Mid October this was and the place was presumably relatively empty though still a tight squeeze in some of the narrow streets. The new car park is designed for over 5,000 cars, which sounds like maybe 15000 people – I don’t think I’d want to visit in high summer!
The causeway makes an interesting approach and one can walk (as we did on the way out) or ride on the free shuttle bus (which we did on the way back). One memory of that ride back was the insistent courtesy of a young Japanese couple who gave up their seats for us ancients!
Modern consumerism is there in abundance as soon as one walks through the gates. Eatery’s of all sorts, gift shops and all the rest vie for custom along a very busy 200m or so of narrow, cobbled street that begins to rise towards the Abbey, which is there as a perhaps benign, perhaps offended presence looming high above all else. There do seem to be houses there, whether “holiday lets” or actual permanent homes we couldn’t tell.
The abbey (9 Euros each with no concessions!) was well worth the visit though. I found it to be photogenic around every bend and twist and the low light levels were a good test for the camera! Its spirituality was somewhat masked by the noise of building works in the main church, not doubt very necessary at the end of a long season, but a touch incongruous just the same. Striking though was a book inviting folk to write their prayers with a conspicuous plea for democracy in Hong Kong – very much an issue at that time. There was also some evidence of work with children, presumably in some sort of holiday group, though in the process of being dismantled.
I enjoyed it, and would gladly go again in a carefully timed return visit. Again a small gallery of images offers a taste …….