Whitstable Woodgrain

Whitstable Woodgrain 1 – 9: Rust-stained woodgrain in old railway sleepers recycled as fencing at Whitstable Harbour, Kent, England.

Information boards in the harbour area at Whitstable say that in the late 1820’s a company was set up to build a railway line linking Canterbury and Whitstable and to construct a new harbour there. The railway opened in 1830 and was the first to carry passengers in trains drawn by steam power. At that time, on the hilly sections of the route, the trains were pulled on ropes reeled in by stationary steam-driven winding machines. Stephenson’s Invicta locomotive hauled trains along the flatter section of the line near Whitstable. Because of its seaside connections the railway was popularly known as the Crab and Winkle Line. The harbour was built two years later in 1832.

Eventually trade declined in the harbour and the railway closed in 1952. It is interesting to speculate whether the old timbers shown in these photographs with all their wear, rust stains, and drilled holes are the actual wooden sleepers from that old Crab and Winkle Line.

Beetle burrows on driftwood at Osmington Bay

Patterns in nature: Patterns made by beetle larvae on driftwood at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK (1)

I saw these curious patterns on a large piece of driftwood washed onto the beach at Osmington Bay. It was partly charred but most noticeable on it were these stripey markings. I thought they had a certain abstract and graphic quality – artistic even.

A closer examination revealed that they were the remains of tunnels created by beetle larvae eating their way along under the bark of the dead tree. Where some bark survived, there were neat bore-holes showing the place that the newly adult insects had emerged.

I am not sure what sort of beetle was responsible for these particular burrows but I’ve read that certain terrestrial Staphylinid Rove Beetles of the Bledus genus rely on sea-soaked timber on the seashore for laying their eggs.

Patterns of beetle larvae tunnels beneath the bark of some driftwood, and emergence holes in the bark, at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK, part of the Jurassic Coast (2) 

Patterns of beetle larvae tunnels beneath the bark of driftwood at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK (3)

Pattern of beetle larvae tunnels beneath the bark of driftwood at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK, part of the Jurassic Coast (4)
 
Pattern of beetle larvae tunnels beneath the bark of driftwood at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK, part of the Jurassic Coast (5)
 
Driftwood with beetle burrows on the beach at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK, part of the Jurassic Coast (6) 

Revision of a post first published 19 June 2009

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Wood grain patterns on ship wreck timbers (1)

This sodden and weathered wood is from the keel and ribs of a shipwreck that lies hidden beneath the sand for most of the time. Just occasionally, when strong seas shift vast quantities of sediment and redistribute it across the shore, do you get a glimpse of these fantastic timbers. In some places, the wood is slowly rotting and separating down the grain into thin leaves or layers. In other parts, the edges have been broken down to stumps and the surfaces smoothed by the abrasive action of the sand and the pebbles that grind against them. 

When wet, the colours of the timbers are rich oranges and browns. These hues are enhanced by staining from rusty nails that are corroding where they were hammered in. The more exposed pieces of wood dry to grey and show signs of shrinkage so that wooden pegs, that once joined major elements of the structure, can now lie loose in their sockets.

I fear for the wreck’s survival each time it is revealed. People kick against the wood and even cut off pieces. Much as I love to rediscover it each time it puts in a rare appearance, I am relieved when is slips from view under the sand once more.

This post was originally published on 16th February 2010 and is republished now because the wreck timbers that it features have re- appeared again after years of burial and are the subject of a new post dated 16th May 2014.

 

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Submerged forest at Broughton Bay

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (1) - Remains of trees from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.

The ragged tree stumps and roots, strewn over the seashore at Broughton Bay on the north coast of the Gower Peninsula, are the remains of a birch tundra woodland that once covered the ancient land surface. They lie in position, just as they were growing before they were inundated. Ten thousand years ago in the Pleistocene Period, a large river, fed by tributaries such as the Loughor, occupied what is now the Bristol Channel with its Atlantic waters. The last extension of the ice sheets in this area, during the late Devensian Period, had been about 8,500 years earlier. As the ice receded up into the valleys of South Wales, the climate had warmed up and allowed vegetation to flourish. The sea level at that time was about 22.5 metres lower than it is at the present.

By the beginning of the Neolithic Period 5,700 years ago, however, the sea level began to rise because of the increasing volume of global meltwater and  its accompanying land subsidence. The forests and peat bogs of the coastal margins were submerged and buried in sediment…..until the 1980s when the remains began to reappear on Gower shores as the surface sediments began to erode away. Now, large expanses of Broughton beach have been stripped of sand showing the strata and entrapped woodland beneath.

Wood from these ancient forests is visible on the seashores of  Swansea Bay and Port Eynon on the south Gower coast as well. Large blocks of peat dating from this time also wash up on the sand at Whiteford – the next bay to Broughton. The plant species already recorded include silver birch, hazel, alder, elder, deergrass, rushes, irises and spurges. As I understand it, no full investigation of this palaeo-environment has yet been conducted. I hope that full attention can soon be given to this valuable evidence before the rapid rate of erosion destroys all that is readily accessible between tides. 

ncient buried forest at Broughton Bay (2) - Remains of a tree (in clay) from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales. The stump of the tree trunk and the radiating roots indicate that the tree is still in situ as it was growing around 10,000 years ago.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (3) - Remains of trees from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (4) - Remains of a tree (in clay) from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales. The stump of the tree trunk and the radiating roots indicate that the tree is still in situ as it was growing around 10,000 years ago.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (5) - Remains of a tree (in clay) from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales. The stump of the tree trunk and the radiating roots indicate that the tree is still in situ as it was growing around 10,000 years ago.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (6) - Remains of a tree from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales. The stump of the tree trunk and the radiating roots indicate that the tree is still in situ as it was growing around 10,000 years ago.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (7) - Remains of a tree, still in situ, from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (8) - Remains of a tree from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.

Ancient buried forest at Broughton Bay (9) - Common winkles grazing on the remains of a tree from an ancient submerged forest eroding out of the beach at Broughton Bay, Gower, South Wales.  

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Ship’s ribs on Rhossili shore

Wooden ribs of an old wrecked ship on Rhossili seashore (1), Gower, South Wales.

Once in a while, an old and un-named shipwreck mysteriously appears and disappears on the shore at Rhossili Bay. Its outline can be traced by the stumpy wooden ribs projecting from the sand. If the sediments shift enough, you can see where the ribs attach to the keel, and just make out some planking nailed to the outer surface of the ribs.

Wooden pegs from the original construction still remain in places, fixing one grainy timber to another. In other parts, orange stains in the slowly rotting wood show where iron nails were later used in repairs. Smooth rounded pebbles in subtle shades of blue, grey, green and pink, rest on this skeleton or are firmly wedged between the ribs.

The whole structure creates an intriguing design of contrasts: with timbers sometimes parallel and sometimes at different angles to each other; the linear ribs, planks and keel against the rounded stones; rough wood against smooth rock and sand; and the tans, browns and beiges of the ship against the yellow sand and multi-coloured pastel pebbles.   

This post was originally published 30th September 2009 and is re-blogged now because the wreck has reappeared again after many years of burial as shown in the post of 16th May 2014.

Wooden ribs of an old wrecked ship on Rhossili seashore (2), Gower, South Wales.

 

Wooden ribs rising from the keel of an old wrecked ship on Rhossili seashore (3), Gower, South Wales.

 

Rotting timber of an old wrecked ship on Rhossili seashore (4), Gower, South Wales.

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