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Strands – Discovering a Beach – Part One

To help us forget the winter and escape the winter blues I will write a series about a day at a beach in North Wales. We spent the day on a lovely windswept stretch of beach near Conwy. We are big beach lovers and this has been favourite for decades. It is so different every single time we visit it. We have loved walks here on hot sunny days under bright blue skies, freezing cold days wrapped in thick coats, scarves and hats under clear thin blue winter skies, windswept days under heavy grey clouds and wet days when we walk heads down and hoods up.

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We never know what to expect, how much sand there will be, whether the sand will be smooth or deeply rippled, whether the strandline will be full of feathers, driftwood and seaweed and whether the boulders and pebbles will be exposed. We love discovering driftwood of whatever size or shape, but always of course smooth as velvet, ground down by the power of the sea. We have found tiny curly bits of heather roots, old sections of telegraph poles, bits of boats of all sizes and parts of trees from who knows where. We often find sections of buildings, clumps of bricks or stone, some locked together by twisted lengths of metal red with rust. Sea Gull feathers stick out of the strandline debris at all angles, all grey, white or black. Sadly we find lots of plastic, the worse type of the debris of man and his throw away society. On 26th September 2013 we came to our beach to celebrate Jude, aka Mrs Greenbench, aka The Undergardener’s birthday. We usually celebrate each other’s birthdays by having special days out. This special day was a cold one, so we were wrapped up well against the cold wind. It is invariably cold here, just some days it is a lot windier than others. I have recently read a book called “Strands. A Year of Discoveries on the Beach” by poet Jean Sprackland, which featured her own favourite stretch of beach. In it she describes those little clumps of artefacts, the miscellany of collected objects that the wind brings together and deposits on the strandline where an obstacle takes it from the clutches of the wind. “The sea itself makes its own strange artefacts, combining rope and wood and miscellaneous plant material into eclectic tangles known as “mare’s nests”, a name which describes their muddle and untidiness as well as their illusory and paradoxical nature.”

An artist has been at work creating pictures in the sand, the sea itself. The receding tide becomes its paintbrush leaving patterns of light and shade.

As we move along the beach the colour of the sand varies sometimes a purer silver as in the last photo in this batch but at other times it is more of a buff colour as in the first pic.

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The powerful influence of the artist tides encourages even the least creative of people to make art. They collect and sort stones, pebbles and wood and make pictures and sculptures in the sand and on the grass strip beyond.

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The seashore possesses a flora all its own. Flowers and leaves which are spotted nowhere else, with thickened stems, white backed leaves and other tactics to help withstand the attacks from the salt laden sea air. We are frequently tempted to walk up the sands over the pebbles and study the greenery.

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We soon return to our searching of the strandline, heads down eyes wide. We spot pebbles with interesting textures, with narrow white lines on as if drawn by pen or paint brush, or lines of seaweed.

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A few years back we decided to see if we could collect together a pocket full of pebbles with white lines on, with the intention of creating a circle. We managed to do this and created a circle of quartz lines, but added one black line for interest.

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You may have noticed that in several of these pictures the pebbles are actually smoothed down building materials. Look at the beach sculptures and spot the one piece made entirely of sea worn old bricks. The sea has enough power to smooth off sharp corners, remove glazed sides and gently round bricks and concrete blocks into pebbles. Similarly sea glass appears just like pebble gems.

In our second visit to our beach we will be searching these out. See you in Strands Part Two.

By greenbenchramblings

A retired primary school head teacher, I now spend much of my time gardening in our quarter acre plot in rural Shropshire south of Shrewsbury. I share my garden with Jude my wife a newly retired teacher , eight assorted chickens and a plethora of wildlife. Jude does all the heavy work as I have a damaged spine and right leg. We also garden on an allotment nearby. We are interested in all things related to gardens, green issues and wildlife.

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