I’ve been in the studio everyday recently making new work. I normally have several things on the go at a time and between all the stitching, painting and general making there are quiet times where I’m waiting for things to dry or when I just need to think.
Last week during one of these quiet periods I sat down at the window and with Radio 3 playing and a cup of coffee in my hand it was an opportunity just to look, to sit still and to be.
The tide was almost at its lowest point and water was still draining slowly out towards the sea. At low tide the main waterway in the channel is on the side furthest away from the studio, towards the northern bank, and tidal action has recently moved mud and sand so that it slopes down towards the bank on which the studio sits.
The water was falling away from the channel in small rivulets that rippled around and about sculpted sand and mud. Twisting and turning they merged and parted before finally coming together again in a smaller secondary channel to continue their gentle journey out to sea.
I drew this movement.
And then drew again.
Trying to capture the gently flowing lines of water moving.
And then on the radio I heard the Dolorosa from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (you can listen to it here). This is the most beautiful of pieces and one I listen to often. Hearing its beautiful contrapuntal lines I couldn’t but connect the movement of the music to the movement of the water in front of me.
So often I perceive music to be a visual art and I see its rhythms and spaces and melodies in my mind’s eye. But it is rare to make such a direct connection between what I can hear and what I see in front of me. I wouldn’t have thought of Pergolesi unless it had come on to the radio at that time, nor would I have associated it with the diurnal ebb and flow of the tide. I very much enjoy these infrequent moments of understanding.
A sunny day. A walk at Cley starting at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust visitor centre and then out across the marsh, along the beach and back along the East bank.
There are hundreds of geese on the marsh which for some reason suddenly take off and fill the air with their chattering.
On the beach the tide is out. It is probably as far out as I have ever seen it go – the tidal range on this part of the coast is quite small and often it is hard to tell the state of the tide.
Half way along the section of beach we are walking I see regularly spaced posts sticking up out of the sand. I haven’t seen them before – I don’t know why not.
I love the way that some of the larger posts have pebbles caught in the cracks. I wonder how often the force of the tide wrenches them out and replaces them in a different order?
This must have been a man-made structure, possibly a jetty or some sort of sea defence. There are the remains of brick buildings buried in the sand and they could be connected to these …. I’ll have to find out.
Walking back along the dyke the sun is dazzling and it lights up the frothy tops of the reeds. They whisper as they move gently in the wind.
Back at the visitor centre we have an excellent cup of coffee …. perfect!
Over the past couple of days there have been some very high tides and the water has reached places that are not normally reached. I love to see Wells in a slightly different guise so I went to have a look.
The ducks were paddling on top of The Quay
and the former Dutch cargo vessel, The Albatros, which is moored there permanently looked as if it could have floated right on top to be stranded high and dry.
The sun sparkled off gently rippling water that had totally covered the marsh
and the boats rocked up and down.
It was a very non-threatening scene.
I wanted to see where the water had got to on the beach so jumped in the car and in 5 minutes was looking at a normally sandy beach totally immersed in rippling water – wavelets by the sea edge but bigger rolling waves further out. These may not look big, but for Wells, where the water normally creeps slowly in and out, waves this far in are relatively rare.
The dune opposite the beach huts was completely circled by water. This only happens on a few tides during the year. The water rises from the back. Simultaneously, the channel at the front (that normally only half fills) becomes so swollen, that water is pushed onwards to join up with the encroaching tide at the far end of the dune.
A few years ago with a tide like this the water would have gone right under the beach huts. But recently sand has been blown up the beach and the edge where the huts are has risen quite dramatically. All the huts have been raised because they were becoming submerged by the encroaching sand. Ours was raised three years ago because the stilt-like legs had disappeared and the deck was constantly washed by sand; even repeated sweepings couldn’t stem the tide. Already the bottom two steps of the ladder have gone and in a few years we’ll have to raise it again as the height of this part of the beach continues to rise. This is another example of change on this mutable coastline and the water won’t reach here in the foreseeable future.
The highest point of the tide doesn’t last long. Almost as soon as high-water was reached the sea started to drain out of the channel between the dune and the beach huts and in half an hour the sand had reappeared.