Archive for the ‘Beachcombing’ Category

Odd title if you’re too young (or old) to remember the Stranglers song “Peaches”, but the walk from Oxwich to Port Eynon along the Gower coastline is great for “Strolling along, minding your own business” and of course it’s a beachcombers paradise. But on this walk it’s low tide and there is little if any ‘wreck’ for the beachcomber to salvage so come with me, if you care, on a tour of the natural flotsam.

At high tide it’s a mass of jagged rocks which makes it a rock hopping adventure from one end to the other and you never quite know what will be around the next corner.

As the tide recedes it uncovers a host of rock pools. Other than the high tideline, always the most fascinating part of a beach for me.

Then there are the wide expanses of sandy beach which appear at low tide. This is Slade beach, normally a favourite with surfers, and of which there is no sign at high tide.

Today’s tide is 10 metres, thats around 33 feet from high to low. The Bristol Channel has one of the highest tidal ranges and as it’s around the autumn equinox it’s one of the highest spring tides to boot. Though why the low tide is still 3.7m above mean sea level according to the tide table is something I can’t quite work out?Perhaps someone can explain this quirk to me?

The good news is that the beach is extremely clean, bereft of the usual host of bottles, broken containers and odds and sods, much of which has actually been carelessly thrown away by rivers, estuaries and beaches rather than being actual flotsam or jetsam lost overboard from ships. The bad news is of course, that the beach is extremely clean so on this occasion there was little for me to scavange  though there is still plenty of natural flotsam and jetsam to examine. Even seaweed has its uses, particularly as a fertiliser, as finings in your beer (yes really!) and even in your icecream.

With the help of the Shell Book of Beachcombing (every good wrecker should have a copy, available on a forgotten shelf of your local secondhand book emporium) by Tony Soper (remember him ? You will need to remember back as far as the Stranglers for this) you should be able to find plenty to keep you distracted even without the rubbish on the tideline.

The picture on the cover of the book was probably taken in the Scilly Isles in the 1970’s and staged as well. Noticeable how the wooden crates, metal and glass containers have all been replaced with plastic today which unfortunately lasts much longer without being naturally recycled. A low tide line is always much sparser and Todays walk across the beach at Port Eynon yielded almost no plastic for a rare change with fresh cuttlefish bones alongside tiny sea shells on a perfect backdrop of golden sand. Just right to take off your boots and have a natural foot massage as you stroll along.

But watch out for the jellyfish. They can range in size from a large coin, this one was only a few inches across, upto giants a couple of feet in diameter.

This one is a little weird, and I’m not sure that we recognised it. Perhaps someone can help us out with a name?

And there is always the odd crab to nip your feet if you’re not looking where you are going.

I have a feeling, which may prove to be entirely unfounded, that there is more erosion on this beach than there used to be a couple of decades ago. Sand has gone uncovering rocks, and recently a petrified forest which in turn has been quickly eroded and vanished. Perhaps this is an entirely natural cycle, but you can’t help thinking that the massive sand dredging operations taking millions of tonnes from the banks just offshore are something to do with it. Ironic that I am told much of it ends up in concrete on the Dutch coast helping to keep the sea at bay, whilst nearer to home the sand is vanishing from the beaches.

All to quickly the sea returns and covers the sand with a fresh tide so the return trip is made along the coastpath rather than along the rockpools and sand of the beach. But Who knows what the new tide will bring? It’s this addiction to looking that has made me a beachcomber from a very early age. Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will bring more Treasure!


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For those who are unacquainted with it, the Gower Peninsula is a little world of its own jutting out into the Bristol Channel from the South Wales coastline. With it’s sun (and rain) drenched sandy beaches and it’s rocky headlands it’s a perfect place for beachcombing and birdwatching. Unfortunately I was a little late for combing this wreck on the beach at Whiteford Burrows. The sands are shifting every year as I don’t remember seeing this even earlier this spring.


At the end of the point the wind pushes the dunes into eerie shapes which could be a world away from South Wales, expecially with the old iron lighthouse in the channel…..


…..and then there are the waders. Great flocks of Oyster Catchers on the beach today with their unearthly whistles and shrieks.

But all was not lost, on the beach towards Three Cliffs Bay I spotted a fish crate in good condition and I have use for it already – more of this later.  We will be in the Gower for a few more days, so posts will be a little sporadic depending upon the links from this world to the real one – or is that the other way around – and the time I spend on the shore beachcombing?

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I can’t resist a few photos from my recent walks on the coast of the Gower Peninsula. It’s a spring cleaning of the mind as the wind and sun blow away the dark of the old winter to make way for the coming season.

These waders are Oyster Catchers and a fixture on the long sandy beach of Oxwich Bay with the rocky headlands of Three Cliffs and Oxwich Point at either end. They are often to be found having a quick snooze on one leg with their head tucked tucked in at the water’s edge.

The walk from Oxwich through to Worms Head is a succession of rocky headlands and small coves. A prehistoric landscape with the remains of old banks, ditches and forts on the tops of almost every point. This is the view from Paviland (above the famous cave) towards Worms head, the serpent like headland in the distance. I had lunch watching the fulmars flying over the cliffs but they were too far away and too quick to photograph well.

Beachcombing is in my blood. I have to check the tideline to see what has arrived. It’s a personal cargo cult! Not much rope this year.  But a stunning reminder of just how wasteful and profligate our society has become, the tide of plastic consumer packaging just thrown into the sea always amazes me.

I know that industry tells us that it’s more environmental to produce these plastic bottles than to wash glass ones – but they do tend to ignore what people do with them. We don’t need this stuff, please, please, please bring back reuseable glass bottles with a return on them. I could be rich then!

Another harvest from the tideline, seaweed. I’m sure that everyone on the beach at Oxwich thought me mad. One person even asked me whether I was going to eat it? I said no, but the answer is probably yes, just not directly. Last year we used seaweed based organic fertiliser on the allotment and this year as I had room for a bag full we decided to cut out the middleman and try digging in some seaweed ourselves. It’s a practice that’s centuries old in the southwest.


The gorse flowers are vibrant at this time of year and they must be one of the few sources of nectar for the first bees and butterflies starting to venture out.


Behind the beach at Oxwich is a system of dunes and behind that a wide marsh full of fresh water lakes and reedbeds. This variety of habitats makes the national nature reserve as Oxwich rich in diversity.  A new hide has just been put in, it’s a lovely view and I have no doubt that it will be popular.


I’d like to say that I spotted this reed warbler but actually it was a very helpful man in the hide who pointed it out and identified it for me, leaving me just to take this photo.

Having back for a few days I’m now deeply immersed in the pile of tasks I hadn’t quite finished before I left so it’s back to normal service on the woody front now.



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I’m away for a few days, on retreat, walking and beachcombing on the cliffs and beaches of Gower. As usual with the places I go there is only a very slow connection so I’ll be a little limited in the length of post I can manage for a few days (makes a pleasant change I hear you say!). I have managed to smuggle some pieces of Wild Service and Gean with me so I’ll also be doing some therapeutic whittling while I’m here.

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Time for a quick photo tour of Gower. If you haven’t been there it’s a small peninsula on the south coast of Wales to the west of Swansea. Known as Gower rather than ‘The Gower’ it was the first area to be awarded AONB status in the UK and supports a very wide range of bio-diversity and habitats, though it long sandy beaches and surf waves are amongst it’s biggest attractions.  Once known as Little England beyond Swansea, Gower remained isolated from tourist development and the industrial developments to the east in South Wales. It is still Wales though so it does rain, but with more sunshine as well so you see a lot of rainbows here.

In the summer season the beaches are packed and tiny roads very busy so we like to come down out of season. When I am here I spend a lot of time walking the cliff paths and blowing away the cobwebs – a great way to wind down from, or to prepare for a busy summer greenwood season. I never know what I will find around the next corner, a pile of driftwood or useful items of flotsam and jetsam. It’s been a bit sparse this year, not much to report with the exception of a fine bottle crate that will take a dozen cider bottles.

Looking from the cliffs the everychanging sea and sky present great views looking over towards the Devon coast and I am a great fan of the silver seas.

Lundy Island, in the middle of the Bristol Channel, is visible on a very good day and visibility has been excellent for most of the week – which means you can see the rain coming.


We watched a kestrel hovering over the cliffs at Rhossili for what seemed like ages before it pounced on it prey.


Worms Head, at the end of Rhossili is one of the best known landmarks, cut off by the tide for much of the day, it can be reached at low tide by a long clamber over the rocks and earns it’s name as it resembles a giant sea serpent snaking out to sea.

Rhossili also boasts a two mile sandy beach with plenty of surf.

Behind Oxwich bay, which has another fabulous two mile stretch of sandy beach, is a network of sand dunes and salt marshes which supports endless numbers of birds of all types from Buzzards to waders and tiny pippits and martins. Always something to watch, here looking along towards Three Cliffs Bay.


Nice to see plenty of birch scrub growing here as well. The contrast of the brown regrowth from the stools with the silver maiden stems behind was particularly marked – I thought it might be brown or downy birch (Betula Pubescens) rather than Silver birch (Betula Pendula),but could find no sign of downy hairs on the twigs though I’ve heard that there are hybrids of the two. Although the young stems are always brown to start off, in my experience they start to show signs of turning silver before getting above twelve feet or so – but there are always exceptions to proove the rule.

We have seen plenty of rainbows this week. Back to normal (whatever that may be) next week.


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Alright I admit it! There has only been one day with blue skies and sunshine, the first day and then only in the afternoon when I was out beachcombing. There is a saying round here,  ‘If you can see Somerset it will rain soon, and if you can’t then it’s already raining!’  Not surprisingly on the Somerset side of the channel we used to have the same saying about Wales.

A lifetime of wet and rainy holidays in the West Country and Wales have made me fairly immune to it and like the wildlife I come out as soon as it stops raining. After all I wouldn’t come here in March if I wasn’t prepared for the wind and rain.

The fashion concious fishermen round here travel to work in style. The tractor is a well restored MF-135 just like mine – except I have the cab – and a number plate – both of which seem to be optional extas for beach transport. I thought at first I had more competition for beachcombing but it turns out that he was off to set his night-lines on Whiteford beach.

The rain is welcome for the plants though. You can almost hear the wild garlic growing. The sunken path provides almost perfect conditions for the garlic where it grows in industrial quantities – and freshly washed in the rain as well.

Also known as Ransomes, the wild garlic is edible and unlike the cultivated variety the mild garlic flavour is contained within the leaves and stems which are easily gathered. Goes well in scrambled eggs, and in one of my favourites – Mussels gathered on Oxwich beach and steamed in wildgarlic, butter and birch wine.

A poor selection of rope, fishcrates and no fishing floats so far. So either it’s been a tough winter with the wrong sort of storms for casting up the flotsam or I have a lot more competition on the beach than I used to a couple of years ago. Does recession make beachcombing more popular I wonder?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I spent today walking (more rockhopping really) one of my favourite stretches of the Gower peninsula coastline. It is an incredibly beautiful series of rocky headlands punctuated by miles of sandy beaches and famous with surfers as it faces into the atlantic. The Gower was the first area to be declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Britain.

Unfortunately, though it can sometime be fortunately for me when its useful stuff, this stretch of coast is often thick with flotsam and jetsam but it’s not always a pretty sight. If I remember correctly jetsam is actually rubbish jettisoned at sea, whereas flotsam is rubbish which has inadvertantly been dropped into the sea. Some is the wreckage of winter gales and in this I can find a lot of useful stuff. But much of this is just rubbish thrown into rivers and the sea – and I just don’t understand how people can drop so much litter and not care.

Sometimes, especially in such a beautiful place  it is hard to believe that we are having any impact upon the environment – and then around the next corner I find a man-made sea of plastic debris.  A useful reminder, if I needed any, that the impact of our society upon the environment is tangible and shaped by the things we consume.

Sadly it seems that there is no magic switch which will return the beach to looking like this.

This collection of old wheels is somehow less intrusive than the plastic, perhaps because they will have disintegrated hundreds of years before the plastic does. I did manage to beachcomb a few useful items including a fish crate in good nick but no fishing floats which makes me think that somebody got here before me this time.

as I struggled back with my haul the sun faded into the clouds leaving a silver sea. It was a lovely day out on the rocks.

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