Once, the island of Britain was connected to mainland Europe. This was after the last Ice Age during the Mesolithic Period when the world's sea levels were significantly lower than they are today. Between what is now the east coast of England and The Netherlands and the North Sea coasts of Germany and Denmark there were fertile plains, forests, meandering rivers, marshes and lakes.
Birds were as plentiful as the animals that roamed there for some six thousand years, until sea levels rose and a mighty tsunami caused by a huge landslip in Norway finally saw Britain cut off from the rest of the continent.
That lost land is now known as Doggerland. It lies beneath The North Sea and part of it is called The Dogger Bank which remained as a low-lying island long after the Norwegian tsunami turned Britain into an island.
Fishing trawlers from Hull, Grimsby and other east coast ports have frequently dredged up evidence of Doggerland's existence - tree stumps, animal bones, antlers, peat, seed pods and long-buried insects though of course we must remember that fishing boats are not archaeological survey vessels and so much precious evidence of the lost land bridge was simply cast back into the water, unrecorded.
In the Mesolithic Period (10,000 to 4500BC) the world's population was tiny, growing from an estimated one million in 10,000BC to around eight million by the end of the Mesolithic age. Some of these people inhabited Doggerland. They hunted and they gathered - mostly nomadic but occasionally setting up more permanent encampments where they may have even undertaken rudimentary forms of farming. I neglected to mention that the fishing trawlers also dragged up a small number of primitive stone tools - arrowheads, axe heads and even personal adornments - proof that Doggerland was indeed inhabited.
How I would love to go back to Doggerland for just one day. To walk upon its beaches, to follow its rivers and then in the hinterland to crouch upon a hillock, hidden by greenery, looking down upon a group of our ancestors, seeing the smoke rising from their fire, watching their activities at the end of the day - hearing their laughter and their singing. I cannot believe that they were grunting neanderthals with clubs in their hands. Though they couldn't see the future they were living life just like us. Food and shelter would have been the main preocupations but there would have also been time for dreams and memories, practical jokes and tears.
When I was a child, English people spoke of "visiting the continent" and by "continent" they meant Europe as if Britain somehow did not belong to Europe. But the ghosts of Doggerland confirm our belonging. Though separate we belong.