A philosophy no doubt shared with many regular readers is that you should experience things in life and make the most of it. Part of this approach means getting out there and immersing yourself in the natural world, rather than living within the narrow confines of your home and work environment. So what if it is raining outside – it is only water after all! This was something that came up in conversation as three of us battled our way out to Blakeney Point the other morning, with a full North Sea gale battering our senses and threatening to hurl us from the shingle ridge. This was experiencing the full power of the natural world and, at the same time, sharing its inherent beauty.
Towering fronts of dark cloud dominated the sky, as crashing white crests of sea were hurled landward. The combination of wind and water worked to produce handful-sized balloons of foam that were carried inland by the wind. At one point the shingle was so thickly covered with this foam that it was as if we were trudging through snow. While the larger seabirds laboured against the wind, the smaller waders were flung with rapier speed in sweeping arcs that carried them along the narrow ridge.
Further ahead we could see bands of rain, bands that were moving so quickly that each shower was brief but intense. In between these squalls, there were brief moments when the sun pushed through, shafts of warmth and brilliant light piercing Payne’s Grey tones that would delight a painter of seascapes. The squalls also delivered migrant birds, with little falls of thrushes, chats and finches forced down to take shelter in the low vegetation. No doubt there would be some rare birds in with these but whether we’d see them or not was a very different question – while the cover on the point is limited it is amazing how birds will tuck themselves in as they seek to recover from their exertions.
After several hours out on the Point, and with memorable encounters with juvenile Redstarts and a recently arrived Short-eared Owl, we began the long journey back to the car at Cley. The pattern of squally showers continued but this time they were no longer ahead of us but right on top, unshifting. The heavy rain was, at times, quite literally horizontal and so fierce that visibility was reduced to perhaps a dozen metres. We were glad of our waterproofs which, for the most part, kept us dry. Even so, once back at the car we decided that we too needed to tuck ourselves away in order to recover from our exertions; the chip shop at Wells-next-the-Sea providing just the right place!