We walked in this area of reclaimed marshland near Braunton, North Devon, breathing the fresh air, enjoying exhilarating views across the Taw estuary, and fascinating glimpses of wildlife and local history.
I was struck by the fact that the system of drainage ditches, sluices and embankments was still working perfectly after nearly 200 years -creating fertile grazing land and a range of dry and watery habitats ideal for an abundant diversity of wildlife. I admired the skill and the understanding of those 19th century engineers, and their care for future life.
Phragmites reed beds
You can find out more about the natural history of Horsey Island on this pdf on the Explore Braunton site… Meanwhile this post is just a short personal record of yesterday’s Essential Nature art walk. And what an enjoyable and inspiring time we had, in crisp sunny November weather, with a slight breeze ruffling the surface of the estuary, wide expanses of sky, and flat green pasture, laced with ribbons of shining water.
Here are the ponds where Tarka the Otter romped and fought and feasted.
Walking along the embankment. Gorse in bloom, smelling of coconut. Later on we found wild carrot which smelled of… mmmm, carrots!
Anne found a bird’s leg bone. It had a numbered ring on it, so she noted it down, to report to the local branch of the RSPB.
So flat, and such an infinite expanse of sky. Sand dunes of Braunton Burrows in the distance.
Our walks are run very much on the “go with the flow” principle. Whatever happens seems to be just right for all of us. I love how, as we go along, we come together and then separate out into little groups of one, two or three, and how the conversation ebbs and flows, and how we move and pause, then move again as if at an unspoken signal.
We paused here, gazing across the wide water expanse of the Taw estuary towards Chivenor and Fremington.
It was a little cold for sitting around sketching or writing, so we opened ourselves to the sky and the land, the rippling water and gentle sounds all around. I took loads of quick photos, most of which, as always, got deleted when I arrived home.
As we moved around, here and there, we came across little stone shelters, known as linhays, built for cattle in the early 1800’s . They seem to fit so well in the surrounding landscape.
Below is part of the great sluice. Apparently the doors open and close according to water pressure – either draining off the fields or from the rising tide. (I am a bit vague about all this)…
Here are some sheep who crossed our path, being rounded up and driven to an enclosure to get wormed. When we passed them again later, they were all extremely quiet – maybe a little shocked!
Early on Michelle went off alone to find the sea. She is a movement artist and teacher, and was profoundly thrilled by her solitary experience of moving, clambering and jumping between rocks and across sand – exploring in her body the nature of being ‘in between’.
Here is one of her photos encapsulating the vibrant experience of ‘in between’.
CROW ISLAND photo Michelle Wilkinson
I run these walks once a month in North Devon, so if you would like to come along, just let me know. They are not workshops as such, so there is no charge. Basically we are a bunch of people interested in the arts of all descriptions, and in getting out into nature, exploring our local landscape and sharing our ideas and impressions.