Of all the tropical beaches in the world, Long Short Beach, as it is affectionately known, is certainly the most unique. The beach is located on Britain’s southern coast, which benefits from the Mexican warmth of the Gulf Stream.
For three weeks a year the beach at St. Colin and Stephen’s Town, near Falmouth, extends from sixty yards to two miles in one of nature’s most dramatic marine-esque events. From the first week in July the sea begins its great rollback revealing two hidden miles of golden beaches. By the first week of August and for the next two weeks the beach is flooded by thousands, flocking to take advantage of the fresh golden sands.
August 8 has been determined in the British calendar as St. Colin and Stephen’s day. The traditional Morris dancers weave in and out of the crowds hitting random people with sheep bladders, knocking sticks together and trying to steal wallets. The latter of course is all in jest although it has led to several arguments and the occasional punch-up. In fact St. Colin and Stephen day in 1621 is fondly remembered for the great Morris dancer riot after a Morris dancer stole the mayor’s wallet and law enforcement was detailed to search and retrieve the dancer and the wallet. Sadly the wrong dancer was accosted and the family attacked, leading to a riot. The 1621 Club routinely stage a mock riot much to the merriment of passers by.
The sun shines bright, children play in the sea, parents relax with cold beers and teenagers spear fish and other marine animals with wooden skewers and throw them at one another before sneaking off for a smoke beyond the rock pools.
St. Colin or Colinus Glutemasmaximus was a Roman soldier and master architect who travelled to England to join Hadrian in 120AD in an effort to realize Hadrian’s dream of building a two-foot defensive wall between England and the Picts. Among the builders assigned to St. Colin was a young Nazarene, Stephen, who told him of the miracles of the carpenter of Nazareth. St. Colin used these carpentry techniques in constructing low-level scaffolding and roof joints. St. Colin and Stephen became good friends. In 124AD Stephen moved into to St. Colin’s house where their relationship flourished passing long summer evening talking of dovetail joints and uses for reclaimed driftwood.
The Roman governor, suspicious of St. Colin’s friendship with a slave and Nazarene, approached Hadrian with a vastly exaggerated story of illicit whittling and carving.
St. Colin refused to renounce his friendship with Stephen and both were executed, nailed to two large extravagant carvings they had created together as a birthday present for Hadrian. These carvings, the oldest known wood carvings found in Britain, can be seen in The National Archaeological Museum, Athens. St. Colin and Stephen’s entwined bodies were taken to the furthest points in Britain most distant from Hadrian’s wall, which was named after the saint and his friend, St. Colin and Stephen’s Town.
As we sat on our deck chairs, soaking up the great British sun and looking into the deep blue-green English Channel, we couldn’t help but feel the historic significance of the place and the fact that St. Colin and Stephen’s Town Long Short Beach is only revealed once a year, for a brief, fleeting moment, and if you miss it’s gone, but then such is love.