Archives for the month of: January, 2014

‘The peat is at least a metre deep and consists of more than one horizon, some of it woody and fibrous, other much finer. The peat beds can be seen to run back under the shingle bank and may continue under the Penllyn marshes to the east.’

Tywyn Coastal Protection Scheme Archaeological Assessment, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, 2004

 

We reached the beach at first light, just before the dog walkers. The storms that ripped up the coast have exposed the Tywyn peat beds of which usually only a corner lie above sand. Now they are stretched down the beach like Roman ruins, bath house after bath house, haphazardly angled oblong pools of wind-rippled water.

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There are deep wolf claw gouges in the peat – no, the marks are made by modern dogs, and yet – there’s something of a cave painting about them. At the waves edge a petrified tree stump digs its roots deep like a rotten molar. Another tree; toppled, tops a pool wall. There are peat cutters spade marks in the walls and twiggy bits and corky lumps mixed in 5000 years of clotted marly-black was-bog. Level with the derelict pillbox and just by where ‘MARK 1990’ was writ deep at the last exposure, are the prints in the peat like parallel drawings of birds in flight, of a WWII tank. 

 

Arranged quietly in the distance and looking very Celtic, the Aberdyfi dunes, hills, and a lone maritime pine lie lined up like whales blowing mist. We left the beach when the sky to the south was yellow and wet.

Rain beats a rhythm on the roof. The windows are fogged up with kettle-steam, and daylight is vanishing but there’s just enough light to see the stream and the green banks. StarHit by raindrops, one leaf and then another, dips, bounces, and recovers. The ivy-twined mossy bough of an ash reaches across from the far bank, its profile enhanced by the white water, and trembling epiphytes march along it. Water-mist hangs between the trees like ghosts and curls like a breath over the hills. Rain slides into the sodden, leaking ground, where pools and runnels of cold water collect in the old leaves damming the culverts and ditches. It has been raining for days.


The rain stops. The sky becomes smoke blue, with snowy-rose clouds rushing east. It gets dark, and the hurrying clouds look whimsical, beyond the woodsmoke. Stars are brittle-bright and a sailing half moon (looked at through the clear and corrugated veranda roof) is at the centre of a bright white moon-bow.

 

In the Far East, water gleams in the ditches. It is soft and quiet and clouds move fast to the west.

 

Down by the Humber we eat mince pies and squint at a far off bird, hoping it’s an owl. A large flock of barnacle geese on the banks walk a little this way and then that way. Yellow rushes blow about in the wind and an egret flies over them. It’s not an owl we decide, its tail is too long.

 Far East

The fields are bare and brown. Skeletal trees and finger posts define the horizon, there are gulls on the ground and ditch dykes divide them.

 

Sometimes the sky is translucent blue like porcelain and the winter sun is stark enough to spot-light the ploughed soil and hedges. A billowing plastic bag bowls onto stage, fast and graceful across the field touching down just enough to kiss the earth then lifting again, escaping, airborne and racing, a beautiful thing though bound to become a ghost-bag snarled and grumbled at in a tree.

 

Water gleams in the ditches. It’s soft and quiet. Clouds move fast to the west. Huddled dark figures walk dogs over the trods, they look like people in Van Goghs early charcoal drawings.