Off down to the beach to play in the rock-pools. Bright green net at the ready. I stand, wriggling my toes, watching. Staring into the clear water. The seaweed gently drifts to and fro in the current. Or perhaps it’s something else. Slowly, gently, I lower the net into the water. Quickly scoop upwards, raising the contents up to the surface. A tiny shrimp stares up at me, paddling from side to side. Body almost translucent. I give the net a swirl and off it swims. Another scoop. A net full of seaweed and sand. Another pool, and the third try collects a small flatfish, darting around frantically. I gently tip it out and watch it hurry away. A red armed crab stares belligerently at me from under a rock, claws clacking. Maybe I’ll leave him alone. The tide starts to swirl its way in, eddying in. I head for home, fishing net over my shoulder, dripping seawater. A smile on my face.
The playing-field was mown last week. Dry grass still lies piled in rows. Yet the daisies are back again, white stars shining. By the swings and between the goalposts the earth shows through, a threadbare patch of green. Trodden down by excited feet. If you look closely, a fairy ring lies under the trees, where the little folk come and dance by moonlight. Through the gap and over the dry ditch on to the path homewards. The hedges are laden with may-blossom this year, white froth edging the track. Purple grasses wave gently in the breeze, a faint rustle at the edge of hearing. The flowers seem to smile in greeting as I pass by, buttercups gently glowing in the light. A bee bumbles past, weaving from flower to flower. Sipping the honey, drunk on summer.
Clouds sulk overhead, glowering down bad-temperedly. The sky is brooding, considering what to hurl next. Air clammy, almost tangible as I walk. The Isle of Man disappears under the mist and haze. Fishing boats are moored up in the harbour. Their registration marks speak of retreat far from home – Campbeltown, Greennock, Ullapool, distant places. Boats driven into the bay by the rolling bank of fog. After yesterday’s glorious sunshine, the weather is having a tantrum.
Tired of sewing, it’s time for a walk. The rain has stopped and the sun is playing peek-a-bo behind the clouds. Boots on. Rainproof on. The post office first, getting the jobs out the way. Car tax paid. Ouch. Letter posted. Hopefully that will bring a smile when it arrives. Then I head up the hill, towards the playing field. The sunshine has carpeted the edges of the field with wildflowers, blossoming in the heat. Through the snicket gate and along the back lane I wander. Long grass soaking the bottom of my jeans. The scent of the freshly washed green surrounds me, a moist warmth. The cow parsley is in full flower, nodding its head as I pass by. In the lea of the hedge, a few bluebells linger on. There, as I watch, a butterfly drinks deeply of the scent of spring.
Down the shore we crunch, stones rolling under our feet. Not far. A couple of steps. And there, within reach of the boat ramp, they lay. Bright yellow flowers wave in the breeze. Raggedy leaves. He stoops and picks a sprig. Sea radish. Tentatively we try it. A hot kick. Goose-grass sticks to our trousers. We sample a portion. A small patch of vetch curls up it’s tendrils – a taste of spring peas. Then on to the next plant – sea beet. A smooth oval leaf. Gingerly I tear off a portion of the leaf. Salad greens for the picking. The scurvy grass lays nestled under the shelter of the beet. Full of vitamin C. Not sure about the taste. Dandelion lies in the shingle. One tug and it comes out, roots and all. We move onwards to the stream that runs down the bay. Otter territory, this is. Usually I look for the spraint. But today we find water mint. And hemlock – much to be avoided! We slither onwards across the shingle. Orache, sea kale, nettle. Getting braver, we sample all. Onwards again. There lies a clump of sea campion, heads nodding in invitation. Try me, it seems to say. Honeyed petals, sweet to taste. Delicious. Suddenly the shore becomes a dining table.
NB this was a guided walk organised as part of world oceans day. It was led by Mark from Galloway Wild Foods. You can find out more about wild foods and foraging on his website, and you can find out about other events he runs. My morning run may never be the same again!
Low tide and the sand stretches out in front of me, rippling out to the sea. The water in the rock pools has been warmed by the sun all afternoon. I take off my shoes and paddle in, gasping slightly at the cold. Not as warm as it appears! In the depths, the sea lettuce waves gently in the current. Gentle steps I take, staring into the water. Puffs of sand rise up as the tiny flatfish and blennies swim rapidly away. A young plaice – no bigger than my thumb nail – lies camouflaged on the bottom. Sensing my approaching toes it flees rapidly away. A crab stares at me from behind a curtain of seaweed, before burying himself in the sandy floor. Slowly I wade my way up to the head of the bay, stopping to stare now and then.
Shimmering seas merging into blue skies. A fishing boat seems to almost float in the air, the line between earth and heaven barely visible. The warm breath of wind brushes past, whispering a welcome. A curlew soars above, singing greetings. Content, I sit and watch as the sky slowly turns golden, turning my face to follow the light.
The columns of stone soar upwards, reaching up to the heavens. Layer on layer of arches. Rainbows flicker upon the floor in the streams of light. I stand under the great tower and stare up. Colour and brightness pour down. The angels round the lantern seem to dance in delight at the sunshine. Tucked away in a corner lies a flight of stairs. Up and up we climb, spiraling ever round and round. Through the hobbit door and up behind the angels. Wide-eyed we look down through the tower. Tiny figures walking about down below. From here the angels look even more joyous. Onwards we climb, on to the roof. Tumble of towers and arches. The fens spread out below. The Cathedral soaring up above.