We’ve just had a brilliant few days away. First of all in Norfolk, then the Baie de Somme. I’ve realised I love the sea. Not sun-kissed beaches, though. Not ‘miles and miles of golden sand….’ *. Definitely no lying around sun-bathing for me, and building sandcastles is only fun for the first ten minutes.
No, I love the kind of seaside we’ve enjoyed this week. In north Norfolk, we seemed to be on the coast whenever it was low tide, squinting at the distant sea in retreat, as it left behind belts of shingle, mud, scrubby dunes and sand. We’d get a convincing work-out crunching along a stony,pebbly beach, taking in the views across a flat but ever-changing landscape in subtle shades of mossy greens, grey and beige, and across a sea foaming white as it crashed to the shore, but with its own varied palette of bands of blue and grey from the shore to the distant horizon. The sky went in for moody tones, too, rather than clear summery blues, with feathery scudding clouds chased along by the rather challenging winds.
We weren’t there just for the landscape though. Birds come here to live and breed, and as birds of passage too. There are supposed to be as many as 420 species here. We knew that while the birds are nesting they are less visible than at some other times of the year. Though we’ve just got ourselves pairs of binoculars, we haven’t yet got the skills to identify everything we see. But we still wanted to be down on the seashore, every chance we got.
Then it was the Baie de Somme, a mere 90 minutes from Calais. We all know about the Somme and the bloody, ceaseless, pointless battle that took place some distance inland during WWI, in 1916. But the Somme estuary is a peaceful place. Like north Norfolk, it’s an area of marshland, water and sky. It offers fresh, brackish and salted water as a rich habitat for a huge variety of birds – and seals. We weren’t very successful bird watchers here either, but it didn’t stop us trying.
*’…in Whitley Bay, Northumberland’. Travel slogan, Whitley Bay, February 1964