Thursday, 5 October 2017

Bound to the Sea

There’s dampness in the air as dawn breaks, but no rain, it’s just the first sign that summer is coming to an end, and the season is changing. A robin sings a thin song as I leave the cottage and head for Worm’s Head.

In Wales the best place to find grey seals is the west coast of Pembrokeshire, but we have them off Gower as well. Late September and early October is the time to see pups, but I need to cross the causeway to find them. No matter what time of year, the crossing from the mainland to Worm’s Head is tricky. Having done it scores of times, I choose a well-known safe route. The first part is easy, as my boots crunch on thick carpets of broken mussel shells, but I then need to be more careful, as I gingerly make my way over the slippery rocks. In the thin morning sunlight, excited oystercatchers rise from their hiding places in the newly exposed rock pools, and invisible curlews, now beginning to increase in numbers as winter approaches, call evocatively from the distant shore. Amongst the blues and browns of mussel beds, perfectly camouflaged turnstones fly away noisily when I get too close. The calmer waters in the lea of the island will attract wintering divers soon, and the whole bay will be alive with common scoters.

As I scramble up the sandy ledge onto The Worm, a wheatear disappears in a flash. I head away from the main footpath, taking the more treacherous northern route, where I know the seals hang out. I’m alone on the island, large curious eyes peer at me from the rocks below, and white pups look up at what could be their first sight of a human. Hauled out on the rocks at low tide, these pups can only be few days old at most. I’m filled with a mixture wonder and privilege to be so close to such wonderful wild creatures, and realize once again my island heritage, and how bound I'm to the sea.

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