Waves have always fascinated people.

Watching waves breaking on the beach is something we do a lot – sometimes with anxiety during winter storms and sometimes, in the summer, with a sense of calm wonderment as the wavelets break almost imperceptibly on the shoreline.

For years, scientists and engineers who study the shoreline have wondered at the apparent fickleness of waves breaking on the shore. Of course studies have shown that the action is not random and is determined, apparently, by the physics of the nearshore  – the area of shallow water beyond the low tide mark – and the dynamics of waves in the surf and swash zones. The surf and swash zone is that region where waves crest and ends where the foamy white water barely covers our feet.

Perhaps, at times, our lives are subject to random events and actions and we’re being thrown through the surf and swash zone. Hopefully, we’ll all end in the gentle foam that leaves us resting on the sand.

Wealth, Beauty and Rank

Our beach seems to specialise in pink cowrie shells.

They’re small but perfectly formed – and they crop up all along the beach in quite large numbers. Each tide seems to bring a new supply and we have great fun spotting them and trying to find the ‘perfect’ example. They’re smooth and shiny and beautifully coloured – in shades of pale pink blended with white – and more or less egg-shaped.

There are lots of interesting facts to discover about cowries. An old Italian name for the shell is porcellana which gives us our word porcelain. In the past, in certain parts of the world, the shells have been used as currency and worn as jewellery. They often had ceremonial significance and were worn around the necks of chieftains as a badge of rank.

We always knew our beach was special but now we understand why – it’s adorned with shells that signify wealth, beauty and rank!

Beach Sitooteries

Our township of Balemartine has a string of small beaches laid out in a line of shimmering sand which separates the lush green of the land from the turquoise blue of the sea. These small coves are punctuated by a tumble and jumble of ancient rocks which form interesting sitooteries. Sitooteries – it’s a Scottish word – are places where you can have a breather or short respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. In these times of enforced isolation they are places to think and ponder.

The ones along the shore are just natural resting paces – nothing grand or fancy made of timber, stone or slate – somewhere sheltered to sit comfortably. A place of retreat or for private reflection – a hidden place to admire the view, the sound of bird call or the movement of water against land.

These simple sights and sounds persist despite all the storms of the world.


Blustery Day

Big change this morning on the beach. Bright and sunny since dawn but high winds gusting up to 45mph have churned the sea up and we’ve got waves pounding the shore. Something we haven’t seen for over three weeks!

These conditions bring back childhood memories of being on the coast as a child in Northumberland and the sand swirling in moving streams over the surface of the beach and stinging legs and feet like needles being poked into tender flesh. Like a fakir or a pin cushion!

Ideal kite flying conditions – memories of giving the Peter Powell stunt model a good airing on the beach at Budle Bay.

Regular Beach Visitors

We’ve enjoyed seeing Oystercatchers on the beach this week. They are an iconic bird on the island. With their bold black and white plumage, bright orange-red bills and strident piping calls, they are one of the most instantly familiar birds. We’ve seen them probing for worms on the beach in the dry, warm sand. Large, noisy flocks of Oystercatchers gathered on the sandy beaches are one of the first signs of spring on the island.

Although declining elsewhere, populations of most breeding wader species remain strong on the island and, if anything, numbers of breeding Oystercatchers have increased here in the last thirty years.

A couple of swallows have been visiting the beach in the last few days. It’s been lovely to see them swooping across the beach displaying amazing aerial acrobatics.

All signs that the year is moving on and we’re close to the heart of spring.

Sort Yourself Out

There are many wonderful aspects about living so close to a beach. Apart from the pure delight of having spectacular views and the reassuring and calming sounds of the sea there is the flotsam, jetsam and wrack. The daily delivery and dispersal of a random range of mundane, ordinary, intriguing, spectacular and strange objects laid out along the shore for inspection, appraisal and sorting.

With a shared experience of primary school education we all know that sorting is a big deal. Separating objects according to their similarities and differences always seemed to be a major classroom activity – along with learning the times tables and the weights and measures of every substance in the known world.

Amazingly, beaches sort naturally! It’s not something they have to be taught. Over the course of the daily tidal action this sorting takes place on each beach – and, incredibly, along a stretch of beaches – with each beach attracting its own particular tidal debris.

Our beach seems to specialise in small cowrie shells and flat periwinkles.