Na­ture watch Lune Es­tu­ary, Lancs

The Guardian Weekly - - Diversions - Paul Evans

It was be­com­ing light, but not light yet. Wa­ter, salt marsh, sky: these were names for things that did not ex­ist in the dark be­fore dawn. Then the glim of some­thing, maybe a moon-piece, as be­fits the Lune, made its way in to where it was pos­si­ble to look but not go. There was the cold, face-wash quiet of the air and the slight rub of dry sedge on the road. There was frost, if that smells of sil­ver. A spec­tral breath re­turned in­side af­ter ex­ha­la­tion, set­ting the mind afloat. There was a slow open­ing in the east and then the nets of river fog filled with gold.

As shoals of light swam through the air, the river and the land floated in banded lay­ers of colour, none of which lasted longer than a few sec­onds. This was a weight­less land­scape, at lib­erty and so in­sub­stan­tial that any rip­ple could dis­perse any or all parts of it to drift away in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. As the sky blued into be­ing, a bow of geese flew north­ward and a jack snipe lifted from some­where in­de­fin­able be­tween marsh and wa­ter, jink­ing bat-like out of and back into the mist. Far off, some oys­ter­catch­ers piped the first bars of their call and then, as if a sig­nal that dawn had bro­ken, a curlew sum­moned sun­rise, its song a weir of keen­ing but with­out grief.

The morn­ing opened ev­ery­thing up: the reed and sedge thatch scat­tered across the road from the last high tide; hud­dles of plas­tic flot­sam in the bank; an up­turned arm­chair on the marsh; junk thrown out of the back of a van; a trick­ling spring through ash roots; smok­ing chim­neys, tow­ers, tur­bines; rooks in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mys­tery of how this was not the world they left last night.

The day was full of jour­neys that re­turned us to Wen­lock Edge, where the dusk be­gan to set­tle. Walk­ing in the woods I found a frag­ment of blue shell in my pocket that I’d picked up on the Lune Es­tu­ary that morn­ing. I put it in the fork of a hawthorn, a gift brought back from the sea. Through the sil­hou­ettes of trees, the fields pur­pled and black­birds let their last songs trail into echo as a golden light, strange and won­der­ful from be­hind the hills, swept across the woods.

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