It is a perfect summer’s afternoon – for me at least – with bright sunshine and a stiff breeze to keep me cool. It’s thin jumper weather rather than t-shirt weather. I walk northwards out along the dyke from Burnham Overy Staithe to Gun Hill with my husband, who as a good packhorse, is carrying a rucksack with a flask of tea, an enormous flapjack from the baker (to share), sketchbook, pencils, brushes and paints.
The wind is coming from the North West so we decide to turn left inland when we get to the end of the dyke to walk the spit of land that is called Gun Hill from the inside. This way we are protected from the wind by the high dunes until we round the end, opposite Scolt Head Island, to go back along the beach when the wind will be behind us.
The tide is out. It was a big tide this morning so the Staithe and the paths around Gun Hill are puddled and wet. The exposed marsh is covered in a light purple/blue haze as the sea lavender has been out for a few weeks now. It is coming to the end of its flowering and soon the marsh will be predominantly green/brown again. We stop, facing inland across the marsh, and I paint. Looking back towards the village I can see occasional flashes of light from cars going along the coast road as the sun glances off their windscreens. There is virtually no sound apart from the song from several large flocks of small brown birds that rise up from the bushes, corner over the marsh and land further along. This happens over and over again and they make their way slowly across the edge of the marsh. I’m not sure what they are but a look through the binoculars shows that they aren’t sparrows …. They have smooth reddish brown bodies – I’ll look them up later in the bird book.
Another 10 minutes walking and something else catches my eye; a strong black line of mud with a shining flash of water in front. It’s hot sitting here out of the wind, so I do a quick pencil drawing and we’re off again.
Round the end of Gun Hill we notice that the cordoned off ternary has been dismantled for the year. In the spring, the Natural England wardens who look after this part of the coast, section off parts of the shingle beach with simple stakes and lines to allow the terns to nest and breed. Terns prefer to nest on the ground and they are well camouflaged on the sand/shell/shingle. It would be very easy to walk over a nest and it is best that the birds are allowed to lay their eggs and let the chicks hop around protected from trampling feet.
We sit and have a cup of tea and a bit of flapjack. The wind has shifted. It has come round to the north and is blowing straight onto us. I put on my sweater. To the left over in the small channel that drains into the sea between Scolt Head and Gun Hill, children and adults are sailing little boats up and down. It is a perfect place to learn to sail. At low tide there is just enough water to be useful but also safe. The freshening wind fills the sails and sailing on a fast reach the water creams round their bows and their masts tilt. Hanging onto the mainsheet the sailors have to hike right out to avoid capsizing.
I sit and write these observations and then paint the beach in front of me while my husband snoozes.
I can’t think of a better way of spending time.