Summertime Sussex (Part 3) – Low tide; Early morning
The power of the English coastal tides to so drastically change the shape and feel of the beach has always astounded me. At lunchtime, the sea can be hungrily lapping at the top of the beach, taking pebbles and seaweed in its stride, covering seaweed-cloaked groynes almost to their tips and pushing the pebbles steeply uphill. Yet only a few hours before and after, that same sea will be hundreds of metres further out, calm and flat like a mirror, and revealing in its wake a huge swathe of rippled sand, rock pools, sea weed and all sorts of little sea creatures.
Returning to the Sussex coast is a route straight back to my childhood, where remembrances of walking out to find the water’s edge across huge sandy planes at low tide remain strong. I always used to think that the worm shapes in the sand were actual worms, consequently avoiding them with my bare feat like the plague. Only today as an adult can I see that they are the mere shadows of worms that were once in the sand, leaving a visible shell of their journey to the sand’s surface behind. It’s strange that one never gets to see the actual worm. I adore the fact that as the sea retreats, it leaves beautiful glistening ripples in the sand, and I love staring into the little rock pools, so innocuous at first glance, but full of tiny fish and even the occasional crab at a second glimpse.
On the morning after the night before, it was to the beach that my partner and I headed in the early hours following my pre-birthday garden party. At around 8am, the sun was already warm, but the wide beach at low tide was blissfully clear of the hoards who had been, and would later reoccupy the beach in their swathes. At this time, with a morning sea mist still clearing, one could barely make out the horizon as the waters, as still as I had ever seen them, reflected the milky grey sky like a mirror. Meanwhile the occasional dog walker and horse riders ambling by provided the only signs of life along this vast deserted stretch, with nothing else but the wide expanse of sea ahead to be seen.
The result is a stunning landscape, and one which is really quite unique, almost like a deserted battlefield or a ghost town, full of the signs of the water that had once ravaged over its surface, turning every element of the beach to its will, yet now strangely retreated, distant, with only the shadows of what had once been here remaining. Yet this transient beauty is all the more beautiful in the knowledge that only a few hours later that sea would return, back up the beach, and the shape of this marine landscape would change all over again.
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