Crystal Cliffs Beach lies a few miles from Antigonish on the north coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. It overlooks St George’s Bay close to the Northumberland Strait. It consists of a sand and pebble spit that dams back the water of Ogden’s Brook to form a large shallow lake known as Ogden’s Pond. The waters are tidal as there is a narrow inlet/outlet to the sea. In winter, the lake is more extensive as evidenced by the quantity of dead vegetation visible in marginal marshy areas. The ripples of the slowly moving water in the Pond reflected intricate patterns of blue sky and white clouds.
Boulders and pebbles dominate the upper levels of the spit, along with blanched driftwood, and sparse vegetation such as marram grass. The lower levels are mostly coarse sand. Occasional mammal bones rest on the tide line, perhaps from a seal. Cobble-size and larger beach stones of limestone, sandstone, and conglomerate are strewn across the shore – but the most noticeable and are the ones with orange and white crystals of gypsum that have come from the nearby cliffs that give the beach its name. The cliffs are composed of Early Carboniferous Limestone belonging to the Windsor Group with substantial gleaming surfaces of white gypsum. Viewed from the sea by kayak, the cliffs are said to be a marvellous sight. The only part visible from the beach at high tide, at this particular time, showed a relatively recent and massive rock fall defacing that outcrop.
The sea water lapping against the sand, on this crisp and sunny spring day, was crystal clear, revealing through a distorting lens of saline the multitudes of coloured pebbles on the seabed. The wave-textured surface made abstract patterns of sunlit reflections. It was a beautiful place to experience.
I always like to find Goose Barnacles (Lepas anatifera) on flotsam at the beach. These strange creatures live attached to items that free-float around the oceans of the world; and we only see them when they wash ashore, as they did yesterday at Ringstead Bay in Dorset, England. Thousands of these strange marine creatures were clustered onto a tree trunk and its branches that lay freshly beached on the shingle. All the pebbles here seem to have returned now – it was only a week or so ago that they had all more or less disappeared following stormy weather.
It was still very wet and windy last Sunday on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis. Waves crashed with white surf. The shore was strewn with driftwood of all sizes. People had been out cutting the larger tree trunks for free firewood or maybe something more creative. Piles of smaller branches and detached ivy vines were stacked on the strand-line by high tides; while neat piles had been gathered in other places higher up – perhaps to dry for kindling. The cliffs were even more dangerous than last summer with rock falls and mud slides apparently imminent. I saw material tumbling down the soft cliff face in clouds of dust from behind the safety of the barrier with warning signs. Some people disregarded the warnings of the potential threat to life by venturing into the danger zone to search for fossils.
Stormy seas have brought lots of driftwood ashore at Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. I liked this particular tree because of the convolutions of its twisted roots that had incorporated stones during growth. The root bark texture was interesting; and the stripped-down trunk and branches revealed intricate spiralling patterns in the woodgrain. I loved the little survivor of the storms, sitting drenched and bemused among the tangled roots.