The last rays of this evening’s sun, shining through the translucent new leaves on the copper beech tree that I see from my window, reveal transitioning shades of red and green with intricate networks of veins. In close-up, it seems that you can almost see the individual cells.
The Cerne Valley is becoming lush. April has seen prolonged periods of sun and warmth spurring on plant growth. The catkins have fallen and all trees are starting to flower and come into leaf. Along the river banks, the low-growing Butterbur that had been clustered on bare dredged-out chalk heaps are now concealed by dock, stinging nettle, and flowering Comfrey. Iris and Sweet Flag stand flowerless with their roots in the water. An isolated leaf curves downwards to trail its point in the river flow, creating fantastical patterns of reflected light, while the birds sing their hearts out and bees buzz lazily by.
The place where I took these photographs is marked on the map as an island but it is actually just a tiny promontory near to the village of Fermoyle, along the Dingle Way, on the north coast of the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. I am sure that most people visit the location for its wonderful long unsullied sandy beach. However, I was drawn to this particular part, at the extreme western end of the beach, because of its fascinating geomorphology. The rocks are sandstones and conglomerates (mostly but not exclusively red) of the Glengarriff Harbour Group from the Devonian Period. The bright olive, lime, yellow and orange colours of the seaweeds, and the black, yellow and white of encrusting lichens, clash garishly with the red rocks. The rock strata are clearly defined: sometimes on-end, sometimes as flat bedding planes, and in one place a dome of strata lies cut-away and exposed. Beach stones rather than pebbles cover a portion of this area; and there are also occasional huge boulders composed of conglomerate scattered along the shore nearest the inlet from Brandon Bay.
At Eype, blue clay cliffs slip, and subsequently unsupported rock strata above it collapse. Large boulders then roll down to the shingle shore. The variety of rock types, and sometimes the fossils within them (like belemnites), can be observed at close quarters. The newly surf-washed rocks, part-embedded in the bright orange pea-gravel and pebbles, make striking compositions with the wet surfaces revealing a greater intensity of colour, and finer detail of texture and structure.
Click here for earlier posts about EYPE.
Peering into the rock pools on the Worms Head Causeway in Gower reveals colourful kaleidoscopic patterns of common British seaweeds beneath the rippled clear water.
The Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland produced by Francis StP. D. Bunker, Christine A. Maggs, Juliet A. Bridie, and Anne R. Bunker, published by the Marine Conservation Society in 2010, ISBN 978-0-948150-51-7, is a really good book jam-packed with wonderful photographs and clear descriptions of seaweeds to aid identifications.