Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Point of it all

2nd June

I woke today to a bright sky and my first freedom in a fortnight. In a trice I was close to the coast, in a patch of squelchy grassland dotted with rare and wonderful plants. Here were Pugsley's marsh orchids, twisted, lopsided and mildly magenta. Here too were marsh valerian (basal pairs of leaves checked); the tiny origami flowers of common milkwort in every shade of purple and pink; fat blue trumpets of common butterwort (if you churn a milkwort for long enough do you get a butterwort?); common twayblades just two sunny days shy of bursting into bloom; the little leaves of grass of Parnassus (note to self: come back in late summer); and clumps of cherry-red carnivory: round-leaved sundew.

Overhead a female sparrowhawk pumped her long wings in display and from the willows a blackbird sang, his last two liquid notes quite clearly borrowed from a nightingale. A male common blue - my first of the year - fluttered by in the first of the morning's warmth and a small orange butterfly darted from a patch of rush at my approach. I studiously stalked this tiny spark of life and saw my prize: a very rare butterfly indeed. Long since extinct in Norfolk, these few have no doubt been released here, but they are no less exquisite for it. Ochre-red and dusky yellow framed in smart black lines. My day was made.

Yet better was still to come. As a small boy, each summer my mother, my aunt and my uncle would scoop my cousins, brothers and me, plus hampers of food, into a blue boat and we'd cross the harbour to Blakeney Point where my great-uncle had one of the last of the Edwardian beach huts. Here we'd spend a day of high adventure, romping through the dunes, and scratching our little legs with marram.

The hut's still there, though my great-uncle left for the sand-dune in the sky a year ago in his nineties. Today I have a different, happy reason to visit the Point each year. The warden and his girlfriend, Eddie and B, are my friends and had invited me to stay this weekend. I wasn't sure I could as the past few days have been a jumble of worry, of changed plans and of dog-sitting. Today with the sky its unexpected blue, and the fickle wind in the east, I walked the Point to say hello at least to B and Eddie and their colleagues Paul, Ajay and Joe.

Along the shingle ridge the Point's particular flora flowered: masses of sea campion in blousy bloom, mats of sea pea just coming into startling flower, sea sandwort with tiny greeny blossoms, a single stand of sea kale by the Watch House. Over the sea were Sandwich terns, hundreds of them carrying food to their chicks, and little terns, muttering loudly and and winging back to the beach in toy buoyancy. Here too were a tight posse of common scoter and a line of persil-white gannets slicing into the wind.

I spent a beautiful day with B and Eddie, learning from their love and knowledge of this wild, majestic place. While I ping around the world in search of novelty and superficial learning, Eddie sits in one spot and watches the seasons change, the birds come, the insects emerge, the tides ebb and the people flow. His is the wiser life. I followed him on his nest checks and he shared with me the nests of meadow pipits, a linnet, Sandwich terns, oystercatchers, ringed plovers and arctic terns. Teen Mediterranean gulls strode round the edges of the black-head colony and on the sand stood several kittiwakes in the icy perfection of their breeding plumage.

Nearby a great mound of seals loafed on the yellow sand: granite-dark grey seals with powerful faces and golden, kind-eyed commons. Outside the Lifeboat House, in Eddie's garden, a rare musk carder bee fed from a happy yellow tree lupin and in the dunes I found my first grasshoppers of the year: early instars of mottled and lesser marsh. Why grasshoppers excite me quite so much I've no idea. But they do.

This was the day I needed to recover from a fortnight of worries and shelved plans. Thank you.

New today


grey seal
Halichoerus gryphus
common (harbour) seal
Phoca vitulina


common scoter
Melanitta nigra
northern gannet
Morus bassanus
black-legged kittiwake
Rissa tridactyla
arctic tern
Sterna paradisaea

2012 Totals
Mammals: 61
Birds: 468
Reptiles: 14
Amphibians: 6
Fish: 4

No comments:

Post a Comment