Walking Diary – Gower
Oxwich Bay, August 1st 2009
Salty wind. Razor clams on the wet sand. What name came first, the razor or the clam? The light is catching the waves – a mirror-ball shattering. People are playing rounders, happy. I find a dead gannet – thick layers of white feathers, probably to survive winter winds in the northern Atlantic. It’s wing joints are angular – bent back on itself.
At the mouth of a brook that peters out onto the sand, I turn inland onto the marshy Nicholaston Burrows. The sound of windy grasses and water. The air smells almost glossy, coming off the forested cliffs. An elegant red-brown bird is sipping water at the river’s muddy edge it jumps up and hovers over the reeds, wings vibrating. There are minnow-like shoals getting fatter in as the water deepens, I trace the trickle up into Oxwich Marsh.
Back on the beach barnacles make ragged teeth around shells, huge growths like a protective armour. I find green wine bottles and a piece of wood with spines like barracuda fins. On a log I find some sort of ocean farm – not muscles but wormy creatures attached to the wood. Their heads are enclosed in pale grey triangular shells. Collectively they make a beaded headdress – there are lines of bright orange around each shell’s mouth. Flies are taking an interest. Are they worms or weed? Shellfish or mollusc? They have elephant skin necks. There is a slight movement – they are still alive. The sea will soon take this city of creatures back into the comfort of brine, but for now the sun parches these jelly necked creatures. They spread across the whole log, some have gotten fat and fruitful, others cling onto to darker spots, stunted in their growth. They fold in on one another, one has a bulging sac of fluid in its neck. The flies are digging in now.
I walk on and find old buckets from ship decks reused as turret-makers for giant sandcastles. Shreaking swimmers skip in the waves. There are air bubbles from cockles and worms that live into the sand, they pop up bubbles in the new wash of the approaching tide.
Another crustaceous log. People like me are wondering what it is. I ask and no-one knows what this mysterious wildlife is. As I climb the hill over Tor Bay up to Penmaen Burrows the crowd is still transfixed. The tide is coming in but no-one can pull themselves away.
Nearby, a woman strides unflinching into the waves.
© Nia Davies, 2009