Posted by: Ross Gardner | January 3, 2016

Winter Light and the Coast

Crouch Estuary, North Fambridge

Crouch Estuary, North Fambridge

A New Year upon us and an image from just before Christmas to see it in.

Coastal Essex is justly noted for huge skies and the often intricately textured vistas of winding coastline of saltmarsh-fringed inlets and sheltered estuaries.  There is a quality of the winter sunshine that uniquely washings over the silvery mudflats and shadowy, winding creeks.  A light that picks out the fine detail and physical subtleties of a landscape so seemingly featureless to the first, casual glance.

The River Crouch is actually one of Essex’s least convoluted estuaries, thrusting inland with a narrow spear and little of the secret by way of the backwaters so often written of, like Paul Gallicos’s stretch of the coast in ‘The Snow Goose’, which he describes as “desolate, utterly lonely, and made lonelier by the calls and cries of wildfowl“.  It does though, still have its areas of saltmarsh and fringing mud to draw much in the way of that winter birdlife so typical of this coast and also – such as at Blue House Farm, North Fambridge – swathes of old grazing-marsh, so widely lost to arable monoculture.  Thus the Brent Geese settle to graze the fields by the hundreds.  Golden Plover and Lapwing wheel in flocks between river and marsh.  Godwits and Curlew alternate their feeding – landward or seaward – with the tide.

Here we may find a vibrancy that belies the season.

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