Lockdown restrictions have meant staying local, so I have chosen to walk the same route over a number of weeks. This has offered an opportunity to specifically focus on my local stretch of estuary. I live within walking distance of the seafront where the river Thames meets the North Sea.
My walk takes me east toward the North sea and the rising sun. It is interesting to see how the sand and pebbles have shifted in this short time. In places steep shelves have begun to replace the gentle sandy slopes, and slipways have accumulated ever increasing piles of shells and sand. It serves as a reminder of how quickly water can alter the shore line, encroaching ever closer to the sea wall.
The coast here consists of a wide open expanse of mudflats. When the tide recedes it disappears over a mile but when it turns, comes in very fast. For the unwary, it can easy cut you off from the shore leaving you stranded on shrinking sand banks. Essex has sometimes been seen negatively in comparison to other areas of the British coast, but I love it, and agree with Ken Walpoles's statement
"some people would call it desolate but the fact that you have got the sea and the sky in a dynamic relationship with each other makes it pretty magical"
The wide horizons, and changing skies offer a variety of views. The low light of winter is especially beautiful. The mudflats attract plenty of winter visitors. I especially love watching the Sanderlings as they scurry along the edge of the water. They are a joy to watch when they take flight. Skimming low across the water their undersides flash white as they turn in unison, like a string of lights across the surface. Another winter highlight has been watching a curlew feeding just off shore. Having heard it call for several days, it was great to finally spot it wading in a shallow channel of water.
Dotted all along the seafront are distinctive poles. They become beacons for the crows, and seagulls. Capped with green cones, they warn of obstructions below the surface. To my mind they are like arrows sometimes pointing to the heavens, while on still days, ambivalent they point both up and down as their shadows are reflected in the water. Cemented in place the water continually eats away at the base causing some to lean askew, as if the task has become too much.
It is a timeless view which has seen so many travellers arriving and departing.
"The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowed with memories of men, and ships it had borne to the rest of home or the battles of sea."
from Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad )
I am also part of Bookscapes Collective.
Bookscapes is a group of six artists that have developed a group practice specialising in site specific interventions and exhibitions.