If it looks cold and windy in the photo that’s because it is! Ravenglass is a pretty exposed place in a rather wet and windy part of the UK. However the Potwell Inn is made of stern stuff and today we put on our precautionary waterproofs and set off to explore the coastal path as it winds south down the tidal estuary to the place where the Esk joins the Mite and the Irt – that’s a lot of rivers, a whole landscape of tidal mud and sand and a birder’s paradise. It’s also a very good place to discuss a divorce if you only brought one pair of binoculars. Luckily I’d decided not to wear my Breughel style peasant hat which muffles my hearing, and I put on the Tilley “Outback” which I wear without corks. It is very vulnerable to strong winds unless it’s lashed down with the chin strap, and so it spent part of the time floating away from me in a pool. Hatless, I was able to listen to the birds (which requires no expensive technology) while Madame scanned the horizon. The evidence that this is a superb feeding ground for waders is everywhere in the countless empty shells littering the shore in drifts.
Birdwise this probably isn’t the best time of year, and with such a wide area for them to range across we really needed a telescope to be sure what we were seeing. Way across the river I spotted what might have been a Common Tern, but couldn’t be sure. A juvenile black headed gull was forlornly following an oystercatcher around in a strange holiday romance, but we watched and heard a curlew, masses of oystercatchers, gulls, a little egret and many other waders we couldn’t identify, not to mention a couple of distant possible carrion crows. I’d love to have spent a couple of hours there with a decent telescope.
What was especially good for me was the highly specialised plant environment, and I found a massive stand of Samphire (Glasswort), Sea Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Purslane and Annual Seablight. The Samphire immediately brought the thought of foraging to my mind. There’s a theory – often called ‘the tragedy of the commons’ that suggests that when a valuable or saleable common resource is found it’s inevitable (human nature?) that someone will strip it out for profit and without regard to it’s survival – “If I don’t take it someone else will”. Not so long ago the authorities in charge of Epping Forest had to ban fungus foragers who were stripping the forest and selling their plunder to high-end restaurants. It’s a practice that appears to demand regulation, policing and possibly sanctions.
It seems, though that ancient and primal societies had little difficulty in maintaining their ecosystems because their cultures were non-dualistic. They didn’t regard the natural world as property to be exploited at will by the strongest, but saw themselves as being a part of the whole and responsible both for it and to it. They would have viewed our economic system as a form of madness. To the statement “If I don’t take it someone else will” they would have asked “But who would do that?” It would be as silly as stealing money from yourself. I could go on but I’d rather post some photos of the plants and habitat here.