Friday, 24 October 2014



I've spent a lot of time over at South Walney, sometimes wandering the beaches on West Shore, sometimes North Walney, but mostly I'm at the Nature Reserve, at the south end of the island.

Each time I drive there from Ulverston, along the Coast Road, watching out for different sea birds, oystercatchers, cormorants (occasionally) dunlins, curlews overwintering, resisting the urge to turn off at the roundabout and go to Foulney island - another blog post to be written! - as I say, each time I go there it feels fresh. Like a pilgrimage to another place.

The coast road, then into Barrow over two bridges onto Barrow Island with its memories of working there at Vickers, over the Jubilee bridge to Walney turn left down Carr Lane. Simultaneously listening to memories in my inscape as much as watching out for starlings gathering and swooping on telephone lines near Biggar. The movement of the outer landscape mimicking my inner landscape of memories, swooping and arcing, fluttering.

Stories told me by parents, grandparents as i drive from one place to the next: "that's Myerscough Street where we were bombed out in the war" "The Queen's at Biggar's haunted you know, and smugglers would go there" To my own memories of walking to Walney beaches, Earnse Bay in particular, in our teens. Walking from Hawcoat, bag of jam sarnies and a bottle of pop...

I digress, back to this blog! The road from Biggar to the caravan park at the south end of Walney narrows. One side alpacas, sheep, goats, the other the mud flats and Walney Channel, mudflats and marsh, gullies and views across to Black Combe, Piel island, Roa island, the gas works, Lifeboat station, BAE systems (once Vickers Shipyard) Town Hall clock puncturing the skyline dwarfed now by the covered sub dock.

If the tide's in you'll see a variety of birds, bobbing on the calmer seas on the sheltered side of the island. If it's out you'll see egrets poking and prodding the mud. If you have binocs you'll see their feet are a lively colour, lime green yellow, contrasting with their snowy white plumage.

I tend to walk alongside the Walney Channel side of the reserve first, towards Seal Bay, where you can seal watch when the tide fills the Bay, when it's high. An incoming tide brings with grey seals, swimming in with the tide as it fills the small bay, swimming in following fish, sea bass and others, I watch them cavorting, twisting turning, swimming playing. The other week I watch six of them twining and diving, lying on their backs, plainly enjoying the warm autumn sunshine.

Little egret on the channel side of the reserve:

You see them swimming on the outgoing tide at the Groyne Hide end of the reserve where the Irish Sea rushes out, emptying Morecambe Bay's wide flat sands as if someone had pulled the plug and the bath empties in a great swish and suck, a rush and foam back into the sea.

grey seal, i wish i was you, when i watched you today, on the south end of walney, your diving for fish your nose diving for pleasure, your instinctive surfacing splashing dowsing your diving. i wish i was you o grey seal. diving and snuffling your snorting your whiskers your curiosity in watching us daft land locked humans i wish i was you. i can only mimic your snuffle your surfacing from sea, let me try it... smnnmufff snuff smuuffff smuuffff, then down you go, under your water. playing with me standing watching you from this dune of marram.

(from Burning Water, Hooking Clouds, new collection I'm working on)

Cormorants at the tideline:

But as well as the constant fascination of seals, sea birds, clouds, sky, Piel and watery reflections of silver gold mud and sand I look at the small: heart's ease lying so fragile yet hardy at my feet, harebells,


and the amazement of what seems miniature forests of viper's buglosss.

Horned poppies growing among flat stones and shingle

My last trip to the reserve was yesterday, 23rd October 2014. Unlike most of the visits this year it wasn't in warm sunshine and blue skies, no, it was dry enough at first but then soon closed in as I walked from Groyne Hide to Seal Bay Hide in increasing misty drizzle, blowing in from the west. It wasn't cold tho' and I enjoyed sitting in the hide looking at a cobweb on one side of the window that I'd opened, to take photos of Piel Castle in mist. Hoping to capture the blowing water beaded cobweb in the foreground (I didn't) but Piel Castle looked suitably Gothic and ghostly

So, yesterday wasn't a day of blue and yellow, of horned poppies and gold, of bugloss blowing pink and purple or harebells nodding. It was a day of wind and  mist, of seals fishing off the Groyne, of mergansers on the old gravel ponds and curlews always curlews calling overhead and around me. It was a day of parasol mushrooms, some as big as soup plates, their textures and elegance hypnotic:

From the sea Hide you can walk on to Pho Hill Hide (I didn't yesterday) or swing  round to the Bank Hide, overlooking the pond you see on your right as you drive in to the reserve. I love the reeds here between one hide and the path back to the car park. I posted a note on my Facebook page, yesterday, saying I like to pretend I'm a non human when I take photos, a beetle, mole, rabbit, dragonfly, so as to get a different perspective on my photos. Here's one of reeds I squatted down to take

Sometimes it can be a day of wall to wall blue and hot sun, marram grass spiking the wind, waves doing their cliched sparkling thing. Sometimes you can't even get to the reserve, because of high tides, floods over the causeway. October 9th was just such a day

one man and the waves

watched the storm heading in

and sometimes...

and always the song of freedom hung in the air 
above skylarks and bracken,. Always migrating curlews 
passing through, landing briefly, to overwinter 
from moorland to coast and back again. Always 
the movement of quicksilvered sand. Always 
the changing seasons

shapeshifting from black to white to red to brown 
to yellow to August, September, April. Always 
the movement of gulls swift acting. Nose diving. 
Always the patterning of possibilities, changing shape and skin. 
Autumn to winter skin. Spring to summer and 
back again.

Always the shrill call of terns,
 defending their territory,. Flying of red kites over fell and estuary. Puncturing of clouds, thundering tides. Always 
the movement of birds and humans. Red 
to white, black and gold, silver and red, tawny skinned, wrinkled, smooth. Flesh of old. Flesh of 
young. Bright and dying"

(Geraldine Green 7.9.2014 - taken from Burning Water, Hooking Clouds, new collection I'm working on)

Dr. Geraldine Green is a freelance creative writing tutor, published poet, poetry editor and mentor. Currently writer-in-residence at Swarthmoor Hall Ulverston, home of Quakerism, Geraldine gets inspiration for her poems from the Furness Peninsula. She's available for workshops and readings throughout the UK and North America.
You can contact Geraldine here

All photos by Geraldine Green (copyright)

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