Day 58

The cowslips have finally given up the ghost. Their yellow petals have faded, vibrancy lost, they wilt. Job done.

In the woodland at the foot of the heath, on the slope of the hill, bracken ferns are beginning to unfurl. Sprouting strong from below the past year’s brown litter, the firm green shoots, follow a curled fist of new leaf, punching upward. 

The broad leaves of foxgloves are also pushing through now among the thinly distributed blue bells. A foxglove’s leaf is soft and its tip curls ground-wards because the midrib is barely strong enough to hold the emerging weight. It will be a few days yet before the fox glove shoots emerge and flower from the centre of the plant.

On the last patch of rough ground before the shore, a grasshopper warbler sits on the apex of looped bramble. Its churring might pass for that of a cicada in Spain, or Greece. A small brown bird with little remarkable about it, except its calling. In the English countryside there is nothing quite like it. As with all small, brown birds it is far easier to hear them than to see them; so it is a treat to see this Little Brown Job (“LBJ”) on song and so easily identifiable.

Further along, sat on the crown of a small bush, is a linnet, with its double patch of pale red across its breast. It basks in the last of the sunshine, without making any noticeable noise.

I pace out the width of the beach, from the low water-line to the peak of the shingle. It is more than 75 paces. I notice a small starfish, its five legs closing up from dehydration, just over 30 paces from the low tide line. It will have been there since the tide began to retreat about seven hours ago, but has yet to be gathered up by a gull, or passing crow.

A crab shell, orange and brown on the outer surface is nearby. It is brilliant white within. I pick it up and although it measures the breadth of my right hand, it weighs just a few grammes. Dried out in the sun and air, the discarded shell is friable. I drop it and watch how easily shards break from the once hard carapace when it hits the stones.

From the arête of shingle bank, I look inland and my eye is caught by the white shadow of a barn owl swinging back and forward over the pasture. When a barn owl turns, it can seem to do so within its own length. It pivots on the broad inner wing of the arc and loops itself quickly into a new direction.

I watch this ghostly hunter sink toward the grass, then rise again, before it suddenly drops deep into the field. It is out of view for a few moments before it reappears. Like the kestrel, the other day near Wiverton, the sign of a successful catch, is the flat, fast, straight flight across the chase to a more sheltered spot, to somewhere captured prey can be dealt with uninterrupted.

By the main road a broad drain runs beside a lay-by which is the preferred sales pitch of an ice-cream van in summer. On the still water a family of seven mute swans trail along, disturbed by human presence. The father makes a threatening sally towards the roadside where I am walking, the mother leads away the train of ugly ducklings, (who are really very cute, grey, fluffy bundles) along the far side of the water. One of the five cygnets is distracted by some random speck floating nearby, before it realises it has to hurry up to rejoin the end of the flotilla speeding behind the imperious mother.

Where the water broadens into a duck pond, a couple of mallards are beak-down, tail-up. exploring the murky water, creating distinct circles of ripples by their dabbling. 

The sunset is spectacular. The flat sea mirrors the deepening blue of the sky. The north-west horizon is marked by a strip of deep orange, under-scored by the dark strip of a fog bank. Due north the clarity of the air gives perfect sight of the 88 wind turbines churning elegantly in the breeze.

Along the beach fishermen have made camp. Their long lines, already cast, loop languidly out into the water.

When this particular set of evening colours is displayed there is the promise of a cold night, but the night sky will be spectacular, with the third-quarter moon and the stars for decoration.

Christopher Perry

14th May, 2020

Day 53

Great Eye, a lump of clay and sand, is dissolving a little more with each storm tide. It used to be further inland, less exposed to the direct action of sea. For a while it was the site of a folly building, which then became a coast guard rocket house, before the foundations and brickwork succumbed to the tides.

Random sections of old brickwork still exist, but they lie down the beach, edging toward the sea. The mortar still holds, but is gradually thinning. The red bricks have long since become smoothed and rounded off at their extremes. The sea has a way of rounding everything off, smoothing things out with its steady soothing motions.

I picked up several pebbles on the shore this afternoon, I kept hold of four: a black, flat ellipse of granite; another egg-shaped disc, closer to ivory than stone; a tiger-striped orange and brown disc, roughly the size of a 50 pence piece; a deep red pebble the size of my thumbnail.

I dropped a fifth stone accidentally when examining a dead green crab that had acted as host to several barnacles on its shell. This pebble was almost see-through and small enough to set in a ring for a little finger.

The granite disc fits perfectly into my right palm. I can close my hand fully around it. It warms in my grasp.

The red pebble gains a shine easily.

The tiger stone and its pallid twin lose their lustre once dry, but retain their physical integrity. The tiger stone is distinct enough to become a reminder of these days, walking this coastline during unusual times.

I was going to write about the sand martins here too. They are busy at Great Eye today. I will visit them again soon.

.

Christopher Perry

9th May, 2020

Equinox – Autumn

Thickened by the tired air

Sticky with ripened fruit

Slow, pitch black, distorted, stretched

Beyond recognition

These shadows of ours

Run out

Black rivers

Bleeding the last of summer’s heat

From our veins

Onto the misted ground

Into the thin air of autumn

Warmth no longer from within

We become reptilian

Bask on the cool stones

Of an empty beach

Where the skin-deep solar glow

Drains with the ebb tide

We hold the last of harvest gold

In our joined hands

.

CLP 20/09/2019