As I walked further along the beach from Hill End to Spaniard Rocks, I realised that there were maybe four or five strandlines lying parallel to each other and to the water line. Each line of mainly organic debris was slightly different in its constituents. Similarly, there were changes in the make up and proportions of the animal and plant debris in the strandlines in a linear way as I walked from south to north along the shore. The starfish became less numerous and the numbers of bivalve molluscs and their shells increased,
Most noticeable was the way in which the darker particle component of the strandlines became separated out on the up-shore side of the lines, and formed patterns contrasting with the yellow sand on which it lay. Sometimes there were branching lines of clear spaces, like rivulets running through the black stuff. Sometimes, the black pieces followed and echoed the shallow ripple marks in the sand – either as parallel lines or cross-hatching designs full of beautiful natural abstract compositions. In other places, small obstacles such as seashells had formed little dams to impede the flow of lighter, darker, material as the water that carried it swashed and backwashed over the beach, and this had created distinctive patterns as the water flowed around the barriers.
I was curious about what made up the fine black material responsible for the patterns. I took some samples to look at under the microscope when I got home.
Diles Lake is really a stream that drains the Llangennith marshes lying behind the dunes at Rhossili in Gower. The water is frequently dammed back to resemble a lake by banks of pebbles pushed upshore by strong tides – but the water always works its way through the pebbles and sand to flow across the beach, spreading out into myriads of shallow channels as it approaches the sea. Underwater, the many colours of the pebbles are clear to see, contrasting with the dry stones stacked to the side often showing a black coating caused by earlier burial at deeper anaerobic levels of the beach.
It can be quite tricky to cross the stream but on this occasion someone had conveniently made ‘stepping stones’ from an old pallet and driftwood. I noticed that the stream exiting the dunes had long trailing clumps of unpleasant-looking brown filamentous algae of a type resembling something more typical of polluted water – but I must have been mistaken because the water sampling point for Rhossili is nearby and it has only recently been declared of excellent bathing quality.
The heaped pebbles once over the stream had brightly coloured pieces of knotted rope from fishing activities and a scrunched up newspaper (perhaps it had held bait). My eye was also caught almost immediately by a much larger piece of vivid flotsam washed up and stranded at mid shore level. It was about 1 metre in diameter and hip high and made quite a sculptural addition to the beachscape. Faint embossed lettering provided the clue I needed to do an internet search and discover it was a wrecked rigid mooring buoy style MB350 made by the Norfloat company in Exeter.
You can click on any picture to see the whole gallery in enlarged format
This is the first part of a walk I took along the beach on April 7th, 2017. It shows the images in chronological order, step-by-step as I progressed along the shore. Starting at the Hill End car park on the tip of the Gower Peninsula, I took the short path through the dunes to Rhossili beach and turned right (north) towards the Spaniard Rocks which lie near the tidal island of Burry Holms. The tide was out and the beach had been scooped into hollows by the retreating waves. The sand was covered with fine black coal particles, plants stems, and wood fragments with many seashells and dead starfish making patterns on the shore. Young gulls and crows were feasting on the strandline debris.
You can click on any picture to see the whole gallery in enlarged format.
Playing with sand on an industrial scale at Weymouth Beach in Dorset this week, earth moving machinery has been restoring the shore to pristine condition by redistributing imported sand – ensuring plenty for sun-bathing and sand castle-making before the better weather and the influx of visitors arrive in this new season.