Then spree

poetry & diary by Nia Davies

Tag: summer

Woodhall Loch, Dumfries and Galloway, August

Swimming amongst lily pads, the water a peaty black. My submerged limbs look orange. Rushes, reeds and trees crowd the edges of the water: alder, birch and oak.  The run-off from yesterday’s storm cradles me coldly, so that when I churn my legs and arms to generate inner heat I still sting with chill.

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Sands of Forvie, Aberdeenshire. July

Forvie SandsEvery 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 directihigh brown butterflies on thistlesons, that northern clean-air light.Forvie Kirk

Dyce, July

BP headquarters in Dyce are shiny clean. There are instructions for visitors on how to be safe in the office. The days since the last injury at work are recorded on the wall. It’s a gulf away from the gulf of Mexico. It’s the oiless immaculate conception of a very messy industry.

So is this deliberate posturing? Or do these things always work in binary? BP would have to take safety seriously here. In July 1988 the Piper Alpha rig on the north sea Piper  oil field suffered a tectonic gas explosion. 167 people died. Aberdeen remembers this, BP should do too.

And what the Gulf of Mexico leak had happened here? I am sat by the river Don in Dyce, all rushes and grasses and shades of green. What if these crooked herons and delicate terns were coated in the sludge and slurry of the earth’s underground stores?  What if that particular slick, that forever changes our climate when burnt, was spilt here and came up this river? Queeny’s swans would turn into thick cartoons of slimy soup. (At least Donald Trump would leave this coast alone).

Baby martins, swallows and swifts snatch at the wind and the river is in a state of hushaby. The mewing from the buzzards never ceases in this peaceful place, a million miles away from American waters.

The big birds chop over too now and then: helicopters flying bodies out to the oil fields. At Glastonbury festival I saw an RAF chopper refashioned into a comical monster – all tooth and crooked legs, it’s skin blistered. That was the work of the Mutoid Waste Company; sculptors of the huge, remakers of the machine. BP headquarters could do with one of those creations in their sterile, squeak-clean foyer.

I see a water vole crossing my path, just ambling contentedly along sniffing the river bank. On the radio they tell me that these voles could become victims of spending cuts when conservation budgets are ripped up. The interviewee is one of those never-angry scientists that they get on the Today programme: ‘Once the vole is extinct here, it’s gone forever. We can never get it back.’

‘But can we really afford to save this creature?’ asks the reporter repeatedly. ‘A million pounds is quite a lot of money.’ The here and now and immediate is more important to this economics-obsessed journalist. For the one-day-turnover media, saving a million for the humans today seems more pressing  than saving a precious part of our wild world forever. I want the conservationist to shout and rage agianst this. To scream and be passionate. But I don’t get my wish.

www.watervolescotland.org

http://mutatebritain.wordpress.com

www.trippinguptrump.com

New Forest, Midsummer

Night in the oak and beech, camped amongst the leaf litter. Merry England plays at the ancient edge of forest and heath. That golden green, that quiet of quiets. Of crested birds and insects buried, bums poking out of purple foxgloves.

Through the crooked root and tangled coppice:  think warbling deciduous and tall firs. Cyclists power through unaware of deer and buzzard. That breezy Solstice air, that wakeful dapple of forest light. Surround-sound bird song.

Those shouts of children: the ones you heard as a child when you were put to bed whilst it was still light. You longingly fixated on the glowing curtains or canvas and heard shrieks. Wishing, wishing you could shriek outside too.

A charcoal-edged breeze in the thickening trees. Dusky light, it’s a barcode of green bark and white silver birch.

Rye Harbour, June

There is a fenced-in bird sanctuary to our left. The beach to our right. Over our heads fly terns with the silvery slivers of fish in their beaks. They still manage a squawk as they hop from sea to nests behind the fence.

Oystercatchers squat tense over their eggs. Behind a hump of pastel and beige shingle the hazy sea pulses. The terns dive in with enhanced gravity to shock those little fish.

We walk through the bunches of waxy seakale. Today you can only smell the sea once you are over the shingle ridge on Winchelsea Beach. This land is a gathering of stones, building a flat promenade stretching out to sea year on year. Towers and bastions mark old wars and old shorelines. But these flats hide nooks of nature and graceful migratory patterns must be protect behind barbed wire.

A rusty headland rises out of a beige haze to the west. I wade into the water and that late afternoon sheen runs with the waves over the pebbles. A gentle blast of green wave pumps back and forth making licks and dips in the stones.

It smells like mornings after the breakfast shift at the hotel Pelirocco in Brighton. I would rinse the smell of bacon from my skin in the sea, picking my way back to my clothes before the crowds came. There’s a cleaner kind of dirt on me now and that same South Coast smell clinging to the flinty shingles.