Posts Tagged ‘beach combing’

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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