15 July 2012

peninsula walk

13th July - notes taken as I'm walking:

I decide to walk the peninsula today.  The weather is good and the forecast for tomorrow not great.  I don’t have other pressing things I want to achieve this weekend, so this is the day for it.

I set off from Warren Cottage and walk along the estuary side first.  The tide is high but falling.

The waters of the Humber glitters in the sunshine.  Water and sky with clouds are a similar mix of silvers, light grey with hints of blue.  The tide is well up still.  Groups of birds sit on the mud with its shallow water, near the shore and further out.  Scattered groups form dots but larger dots than the worm casts visible nearer the shore. Occasionally a group moves then settles again a little further along.

A layer of tiny cloudlets sits over the estuary mud, held in the curve of the peninsula.

Salt marsh plants form low humps (sea purslane I think).  Bobbly flowers give hints of pinks, oranges and purples all set against glaucous greens.  The grass along the dunes gives way to the humps of the salt marsh plants, each in its own zone, clearly defined.  Beyond, the weird mud lumps with their special grass are a different green again.

Walking through the grass is difficult.  A couple of months ago there was a defined path here.  Now it is hidden and you have to push through, sometimes guessing where it goes.

Then a band of sand takes over from the grass. Clear bands of marram, sand, then salt marsh.

A pair of oystercatchers ‘peep’ as they fly past.

Some bands of texture in the water and shore are very subtle, almost imperceptible shifts in tone and density of marks.  Others are very strongly defined: strong, dark, intense change.

Further on the sand changes to stones, or rather has stones on it.  White stones then black further down the beach.

The low dune is now a sort of cliff with buckthorn scattered in amongst the marram.  The salt marsh has largely stopped now.

I can see the point where the mud turns to moving water; the same tone and texture but with movement.

I’m about half way round the inside of the curve now.  The calls of the waders are clear on the gentle breeze with the sound of the waves from the other side of the spit giving a background rumble.  There are bird footprints in the sand, blurred by the drying of the grains.  Occasionally there are human prints, similarly blurred.  I wonder if anyone else has walked along here today.

There are huge amounts of large debris: massive concrete slabs and sections of broken brick wall, tumbling down the steep dune bank and spilling onto the beach.

Now I’m walking on stones all the time, mixed with smaller lumps of concrete and broken brick.

There are waders busy in the freshly exposed mud, oblivious to my passing.

Dark sea weed blackens the lower part of the beach and green weed clings to some of the rocks.  I reach the high tide wader roost and move on to the road so as not to disturb birds or annoy anyone in the Chalk Bank hides.

The road verges are littered with a colourful mix of flowers: bind weed, hawk bit, ragwort, birds foot trefoil, tiny plantains in flower, perennial wall rocket, various umbellifers…

I leave the road by a freshly mown path onto chalk bank.  There is a prominent head of a white umbellifer swaying in the breeze behind the first hide.  One head of white flowers has 9 red/orange flies on it, some in couples, presumably mating.  They don’t seem to mind my close inspection.

Rose and bramble clamber over and between the buckthorn and elder.  High grasses sway gracefully.

Over the stile into the meadow, sweet smelling clover and other flowers in abundance.  The scent is heady.  There are yellows, whites and occasional pink.  Pyramidal orchids are dotted around, magnificent in their bright pink.  Small puffballs are dotted about the path.  I walk along to the Heligoland trap and on through the gate, leaving the meadow.  My hay fever reacts badly to the meadow!

I was just thinking this must be the kind of place the deer hang out, amongst the buckthorn and other shrubs, and there is a pair; mum and young.  She jumps over the fence to join the little one then spots me and we stand looking at one another for a minute or so.  Her large ears swivel to catch the tiniest noise and she sniffs the air.  She jumps back over the fence but the little one can’t or doesn’t know to try so they hang about a bit, not knowing quite what to do, until I decide to leave them in peace and walk on.

I pass Steve’s gabion installation, walking between the two concrete blocks.  It looks good in the sunshine.  I re-join the road.  On to the beach just a little further on.  I’m near the lighthouse now and on a familiar patch of beach, having walked this stretch a number of times before.

It is clouding over.  Light grey cloud sits over light grey water with hints of green and brown.  The water is noisier than sometimes: a rush of movement.  The tide is going out.

A faded metallic ‘1st birthday princess’ balloon crinkles on the beach, caught on the stones.  Thoughts of some disappointed toddler letting go of this helium filled delight, lost on the wind, disappointment and tears.

I find a tiny fossilised sea urchin, beautifully rounded and complete with a small patch of mottled blue showing through white calcification. 

Crossing lines of footprints on the damp sand.

There are people walking the other way.  I realise I’ve not seen anyone since leaving the Warren.  Cars have gone up and down the road but no people are walking my route today.  We nod in distant acknowledgement.

Different patches of sand are very different to walk on.  I hit a hard patch and suddenly it is much less hard work.

A lone jellyfish, stranded.

The point is unnervingly calm.  There are no crashing waves, no fight of water against water.  There are just lapping waves and a steady movement of water out of the channel: the river and tide quietly working together.  Then round the corner the waves are crashing on the sand bar that is exposed when the tide is low.  Still not fierce but more like the waves that are usually here.

I walk round the point and into the wind.  I now have 3 ½ miles of this.  My legs ache.  I’m walking in the wind now and with the sand it is really hard work.  I’m now wishing I’d gone the other way round.  On the estuary side it seemed that the wind was coming from the south.  Round here it is coming off the sea. 

There are lots of shoes on the beach today.  Canute’s chair is still here but broken up by the waves now.  Fascinatingly marked pebbles beckon a closer look with almost every step.  I ignore and march on.  Bic razor case… chip fork… stone with giraffe-like markings…

On past the lighthouse and into the forest of groynes.  A sand castle, beautifully decorated with pebbles.

On the estuary side I could see what I was aiming for.  On this side it feels relentless as the spit disappears round the curve and out of sight, with no clue as to how much further there is to go.  I can’t shelter from the wind.  There is nowhere to hide.  I sit on a concrete lump but a rest isn’t very restful.

The beach is unusually empty.  There are no sea-fishermen and there were no bait diggers on the other side.  A family of silohetted figures cross the beach and mingle with a row of groynes.  Their irregular shapes adding to the strong row of marks that join beach and waves.

Occasionally a small wader appears and seems to be alarmed by my presence.  I wonder if I’m about to stumble upon some camouflaged eggs amongst the pebbles and hope that if I do I will spot them before crushing them.

I find that I‘m talking to myself – out loud!  I’m having imaginary conversations intermingled with planning my talk for next week. 

I pass through a very dramatic part of the beach.  There are large concrete cubes tumbling from the dunes onto the beach in a messy jumble with worn groynes.  A cliff that is actively being eroded has exposed concrete supports with a thin layer of roots and marram grass perched on top.

Soon I can see the hide above the Warren and am relieved that my walk is nearly over.  It feels good to have done it and good to have exerted myself.  A good blow of wind and a few hours thinking time are valuable.  Tired limbs mean I can go to bed feeling I’ve really done something today.

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