One rainy morning I walked the coastal path along the terrace at the foot of Rhossili Down in Gower. Clouds shrouded the slopes of the Down above me. Ahead of me, Burry Holms and Llangennith Burrows were part concealed by mist. Below me, the tide was going out – far out. The sand on the beach was still wet from the waves and the rain. Slowly the cloud cover thinned and allowed a filtered light to penetrate. The pale light was reflected by the shore, high-lighting the sea-sculpted rows of ridges and ripples in gentle gleaming silver. A stream cascading from the height of the Down worked its way down to the beach, where it spread out in a fan of interweaving channels that cut across the parallel ridges on its way to the water’s edge. Coloured sediments carried by the stream tinted the silvery patterns and made them seem opalescent.
Dark streaks drawn into abstract designs by the swash and back-swash of waves sometimes decorate the succession of driftlines on the sandy beach at Rhossili Bay as the sea recedes. The blue tinge of the darker areas makes me wonder whether they are composed of comminuted fragments of blue-black mussel shells.
I never cease to be amazed by the new variations of natural patterns in the sand revealed with each ebbing tide on the vast sandy shore at Rhossili Bay in Gower, South Wales. These photographs were taken in March 2015 and add to the continuing documentation of the array of topographical changes that affect this wonderful beach.
It was a dull clouded sky after a morning of rain on Rhossili beach with an outgoing tide. Wide shallow tide pools on the sand at the base of the cliffs were luminous with reflected light. Where the breeze ruffled the surface of the water, the crests of the ripples appeared sharply green against the pale background, creating natural moving patterns that looked as if they had been painted on the surface with a fine brush.
On the eastern flank of the great pebble bank of Chesil Beach in Dorset, on that part adjacent to the Fleet Lagoon where fishermen’s huts are strewn along the water’s edge, the pebbles were sufficiently undisturbed in the spring of 2011 for vegetation to get a grip. A few scattered plants had established themselves amongst the rounded stones; and many pebbles in the same area were coated with slow-growing black or bright orange lichens.
This type of colonisation of beach shingle is a fairly uncommon phenomenon because, in general, the constant movement and abrasion of the pebbles does not allow plants to establish a root system or lichens to encrust the surface of the pebbles themselves. However, in this particular location on the leeward sheltered side of the pebble bank, there had been a period of years of relative stability that enabled vegetation to start growing.
During the winter of 2013 to 2014 the Chesil Bank sustained enormous damage from the storms. The wave action resulted in massive movements of the pebbles. I haven’t revisited the site since the storms but I strongly suspect that the plants and lichens will have suffered and may no longer exist. I must go and check it out. Whatever the outcome of last winter’s weather and subsequent maintenance work on the pebble bank, the slow colonisation process will surely begin again but will take time to restore the habitat to its former situation.