Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Just One More Piece

My closest beaches are on the Daugleddau Estuary. They're not ones you would really want to swim from, are not very scenic unless you like oil refineries, LPG terminals, jetties and so on, don't have much by way of interesting shells and shore life, and have pebbles and mud rather than sand. All the same, they are fairly clean, with very little rubbish mixed in with the heaps of seaweed. There are tugs and pilot boats going to and fro, yachts, a Ferry to Ireland, people out rowing Celtic longboats (generally not when the Ferry is due!), and a selection of birds to watch. Despite their rather muddy and industrial nature, these beaches are becoming my first choice when I want a short walk with a sea breeze.

Returning from a trip to the bank, I was seized by the urge to do a little beach combing for my usual 'shopping list' of water-worn glass and ceramic, interesting stones, driftwood and shells. I turned off my usual route home and was soon at one of the estuary beaches. There were a pair of swans and a small group of gulls, but otherwise I had the small beach to myself on an outgoing tide.

There was quite a lot of glass mixed in with the pebbles, but nine out of ten pieces were still too sharp and I soon became fed up of tossing handfuls of glass shards back into the outflow stream which had carved a stony gash down the beach. The last time I had visited this beach, I was struck by the number of rusty nails and they were still there. Definitely not a beach to walk on with bare feet, and I felt sorry for any dogs who came for a quick run.

I crossed the outflow stream and went to explore an area which had always been underwater when I'd visited before. The small rock pools had a few of the usual suspects - limpets, winkles, beadlet anenomes - but nothing much. I was still seeing a lot of sharp glass. I walked around another rock and found another little shoal of pebbles, this time with worn glass lying around, as if it had all been swept into one place by the tides. Keeping half an eye on the water, I picked up a several handfuls of glass, along with a couple of bits of clay pipe stem and a few bits of ceramic, plates and old stoneware jam or marmalade jars. I kept my eyes open for the pipe bowls too, but each time I thought I had found one, it turned out to be the curve of a worn and broken slipper limpet or cockle shell. Some of the glass had so much greeny-yellow algae covering it, that it looked green, but will probably be clear glass once it's clean. Some was the thick, blackish glass of old liquor bottles. The sailors, fishermen, shipwrights and other labourers who once worked along the waterway would have tossed their spent pipes and empty bottles into the water for the waves to deliver back, decades, or perhaps even centuries, later.

The calls of oystercatchers and a subtle change in the sound of the waves alerted me that the tide had changed. The water was indeed running the other way. I still had plenty of time before it would be high enough to cut me off, but the light was going. I headed back around the rocks and up the beach, taking a different route in the hope I might find something else interesting, but the tantalising glimmers were only slipper limpet shells and bits of wet slate in amongst the reddish stones.

With my bag of finds swinging heavily from my fingers, I was reluctant to leave the beach, wanting to find another piece. And another ... just one more piece.

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