Cley Beach: late afternoon in winter. At the end of a bright, clear day the sun sits very low on the horizon casting a low, slanting light horizontally across the land. It lights up the feathery reed tips on the marsh edge but the slanting beach is shaded as the golden light tops the shingle bank. Down by the sea, stones and pebbles are slicked by the ebbing tide and glisten in the dim light. On the exposed beach they are smoothed and rounded by wave action and are all shades of brown, grey and white. I notice a white quartz pebble. Tiny, like a child’s milk-tooth, it sings out to me, a small glowing object that stands out in the shadowy light. I pick it up – it is evenly rounded, translucent and pure. Further up the beach I notice another. It is bigger, an uneven bean-shape but just as white. I pick that up as well. I walk eyes down; small white pebbles jump out at me and draw me across the beach in a wandering zig-zag. I repeatedly notice and pick up white pebbles, following the melody laid out beneath my feet. By the time I reach the path to take me back across the marsh my pockets are full of music.
During the holiday season there is more time to go out and walk and I have managed to visit nearly all of my favourite places around Wells in-between Christmas and the New Year.
These are familiar walks that I have visited many times before, both alone and with my family. We have connections to all of these places – a favourite tree that we have played games around, a particular sand dune that the children rolled down when they were little (and now they are bigger) and a secret place where we swim. These memories are all re-visited as I walk.
To experience a landscape over and over again is to know it properly. The routine and repetition of taking the same walk throughout the year and over many years is to really understand the place – it draws you closer to it through personal experiences and encounters.
Sometimes something memorable happens: a great change in the landscape as after the sea surge this time last year, or the time thousands of starfish were washed up on the beach after a storm at sea or the time weather and tide conspired to leave frozen traces of ebbing wavelets on the sand. However more often nothing has changed and nothing happens. An appreciation of this ordinariness only happens through familiarity and awareness – you can only notice change if you are intimately mindful of what is going on around you and what was there before.
These are photos are of a walk out along the dyke to the beach at Burnham Overy Staithe. Nothing in particular happened – it was just an ordinary walk.
Happy New Year everyone!
Another walk. This time to Golden Cap, Dorset. The last time I was here it was summer and the sky and sea were a rich, deep blue. This time it’s early morning and grey. It’s totally still and there is no wind to blow away the low cloud and early morning mist. Surprisingly there is no birdsong and the only sound is the hum of distant traffic.
The bones of the trees are highlighted against the white sky.
Small bursts of colour are dotted here and there to provide much needed relief to the brown/grey palette.
Through the trees and undergrowth the sea comes into view. In the morning haze the horizon has disappeared – sea and sky merge into one homogenous, vertical plane – a flattened wall of blue/grey that hides the distant view from the place where we stand.
On top of Golden Cap, the highest point in Dorset, there is more light. The windswept trees stand exposed,
as a break in the clouds appears above the gorse.
The thrift is motionless at the edge of the cliff,
and the curve of the shore disappears into the distance.
We walk down to the beach and as I look out across the flat water I realise that the weather is clearing and the horizon has reappeared.
I’m in Norfolk whilst some much needed work is done on a leaky conservatory roof. I spent the whole day indoors sewing and making cups of tea for workmen, but early evening I went out for a walk as I needed to stretch my legs and my eyes – to look at something that was further away than just beyond the end of my nose.
This evening there was a strong gusty wind. As I walked the wind seemed to spill over the bank next to the path and snatch at the surface of the water creating fleeting dark marks that bloomed and then dissipated. Again and again the sea’s surface was broken by these shadowy, transient marks – ‘dark, salt. clear, moving, utterly free’ – they were mesmerising. These ripples on the water are called Cat’s Paws.
I love seeing things that I don’t expect – things to remember, to store in the memory, to use in the future ….