Every tread seems to disturb a bird, Sand Martin, Sky Lark or Tern, though I stick to the path and am careful in my step. I head through the dunes, past the beheaded Kirk which once stood over a village now lost to the sands. The joggers of Peterhead are the only other humans here today, charging through, pounding through this butterfly-strewn, grassy, flowery expanse.
Some dunes are so big and bare that if you blinker your eyes and cut out the smell of the sea and ignore the terns returning to their nests and the eider ducks splashing in the mouth of the estuary, you could be in the Sahara. Well almost.
An iron-red stream has caught fishing nets in its mouth on the beach. Once there was fishing, now there is petroleum. It’s that same peaty North Sea as I found in Rye, still unfamiliar to me. I lived on the western shores of this island for two years and I miss the rocky drama of the Welsh coast. The sea here seems muddier, but the land is lovely, full of sky and cloud and wind. It’s a place where you sense that the earth’s tilt and rotation. The flatness of the land makes for a certain quality of light: brightness from all directions, that northern clean-air light.