One of my favourite things to do is walk the foreshore at low tide where I live. We are blessed with beaches on every corner of our precious island and I love exploring them all. Ever since I was a small child, I would disappear from the house, only to be found lifing rocks up on the beach, scouring the sea weed and looking with wonder at what lies beneath the amazing body of water we have that surrounds us. Salt, in the veins they say it is, with many of my forefathers being captains, lighthouse keepers, and fishermen its not too far fetched is it.
There is something special for exploring low water bays, inlets and beaches, I love exploring the coastal regions in search for all manner of treasures, driftwood, beach glass and just generally exploring the flora, fauna and wild life. Some times I will go in the water, sometimes, but thats mostly at high water where I don’t have to climb amongst the sea week and kelp!
The nature really does fascinate my I must say, and each trip to the beach, I find different things, sea weed types, colourful sea anemones, star fish, edible crab, velvet swimmer crab, lobster and much more.
Two things I like to do is when I’m on the foreshore. The first is to collect fishing tackle, weights and line that has been lost and discarded (its good for the environment and I don’t have to keep buying lots of new tackle!) the second is observe the marine life and nature. Most of my visits occur early morning and I time it with a low water if I can, preferably a spring tide. In the early hours you get to see nature in its most undisturbed state of being. Oyster catchers will line the waters edge, feeding on insects and worms, cormorants and catching fish in the shallows and there is just a amazing solitude to it all.
The location I went for a low water peruse today was the beach around Newry beach on Holy Island. It was formerly my child hood beach where I learn to crab, fish and sail. Its changed a to since I was a wee lad, but it still retains some of its charm. The Belgian style promenade is lovely place to walk along the shoreline. It sitting on the bay front at Holyhead, which was one of the most important ports un UK waters for many many years back in the 1800s.
The most prominent feature is the breakwater in the foreground (see above) which was the largest in Europe and which is a marvel of British engineering, that has stood the test of time. Created from the rock mined from nearby Holyhead mountain. It was mined and transported on a tramline, of which parts still can be seen along the grounds leading to the break water proper. It was started in 1845 and completed 28 years later in 1873. It is a grand structure and was a big vision to carry out or its time, mammoth in fact.
At the end of the breakwater is a lighthouse, which a couple of generations ago where lighthouse keepers , the daughter of one (my cousin) Roso, tells us stories, of when they as children, used to go visit their dad on the back of the train that led to the end of the break water! Amazing to think of that. I spent many hundreds of hours fishing there, I really feels at home there. It certainly takes a battering in the winter months and is quite an atmospheric place to be.
Anyhow this wonderful breakwater was built to wrap around the harbour which sheltered many wooden tall ships which delivered mail, supplies and produce to and from Ireland. It affords the harbour much shelter in strong northerly storms that batter these shores. Without its protection we would have no front promenade, thats for sure.
Anyhow, along the foreshore early mooring you get to see all the nature doing their foraging, the morning air is calm and quite and no one is generally out. God’s hour I like to call it. I peruse the water line and see whats there, from the types of seaweeds, which vary greatly depending on the time of season. In the summer months the type of kelp is way denser and taller, I’ve noticed over the winter that it thins out dramatically in relation to the amount of sunshine.
Seaweeds are a amazing source of nutrients and I’m exploring more and more opportunities with them. There are over 604 varieties, with only 20 that will give you a tummy ache. Not one thats poisonous. They contain the highest concentrate of minerals in any food that we have access to in this country, and its quite an easy way to increase our mineral intake for free. You can collect and dry them in your green house and make them into a herb salt for fish dishes if you like. I will do a blog on them again for you all, maybe with a good friend who’s the man when it comes to foraging (the coastal wanderer)
I like to lift a few rocks and see what smaller species are out and about, I guess thats the Maine biologist in me (by trade I’m supposed to be a marine Geophysics, but you can’t really compartmentalise your self) There are so many rich topics within the Oceanography sector, such as marine geology (study of sea bed and the bed rock below), physical oceanography (the tides and currents), marine biology (Animals and invertebrates) and chemical oceanography (study of the particle content of the ocean). Each is a specialism in itself really, but in real terms you have to study it all, in a real life scenario you are a bit of a master of all really, anyhow I digress.
Spring time on the foreshore, is a great time to see how nature is waking from its hibernation. Its a very therapeutic way to watch the season roll in and out, see what’s been washed up and do a plastic pick up. It’s a little bonus if you find some beach glass and driftwood which you can make some cool things from!
I like to switch it around so I get to see what beaches are changing shape over the winter months and see the natural evolution of the foreshore as the season progresses. It’s a lovely morning routine, where I get to see nature at first hand in a quite relaxing environment.
Have a nice beach walk where you may head and let us know what treasures you fund on your paths !
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