Today is our very welcome return to Beadnell, on a chilly summer’s day, eight days before the summer solstice. As we walk the dune path to the estuary, all the not-so-subtle differences of this season are smelled, seen and heard. The dunes are lush with an incoming tide of green, flowers, flowering grasses.
At Long Nanny (for me it’s the anticipation of a much-awaited visit to see a masterpiece in a gallery), are the Arctic Terns. They are the most exquisite birds, with white forked tails translucent against the sky, impossible hanging flight as they preen mid-air, then diving for sand-eels, then rising in an alarmed mass to see off a hungry family of stoats.
The protected breeding grounds of the Arctic and even rarer Little Terns suffered a blow last week when high winds wrecked the nests they had established over the past month. It reduced the Little Tern colony to just two nests from 52: a disaster. After a week there are now 26 re-built nests, according to the National Trust environmentalists and scientists on watch there. The volunteers almost gave up on this year’s breeding season: but the birds are making a stab at survival.
After this a return walk along the bay to find uncovered treasure in exposed rocks that have emerged along the summer beach. Fossil plants formed in rock aeons in the shallows of tropical seas that used to cover this neck of the woods when it wasn’t in this neck of the woods… Here lie the solid echoes of plants that once swayed with ocean currents, leaving a kind of graffiti that is surprisingly sharp and in focus. This new season revealing a very very old season.