Saturday, 8 June 2013

The fret of June

June opens with a week of proper summer warmth, an immediate slap of sunshine you can feel faintly crisping you skin. Sunny days along the Northumberland coast can have a mysterious quality. Out over the sea there are low banks of grey and brown clouds that drape from horizon to horizon a bit like those curtains around beds in hospitals. The North Sea is lost behind them. These are banks of sea fret, condensing out over the cold water. Up at the Bay the fret has been advancing and retreating in probing attacks. Tongues of sea mist drift in for an hour or two, swathing a field or dune, the sun still visible if you look up through the shallow pall of mist, then pulling back to the sea. The fret brings a tingling, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck drop in temperature as the moisture drifts past. The droplets shred and catch on hawthorn and bramble, traces of mist visibly rolling and tumbling inland then retreating back to recharge out at sea. This has been a dry spring and the subsidence ponds in amongst the field drops are shrinking, some barely wet. The deluges of 2012 resulted in verdant borders of Celery Leaved Buttercup, Toad Rush and Pineapple Mayweed turning many of these pools into vivid summer circles, but 2013 threatens the opposite. This begs a question of those of us who regularly survey pond sites: is one year’s data, a snapshot, sufficient to characterise a pond? Probably not, or, at least a snap shot cannot capture the extent of change across the pondscape. Some ponds do not seem to vary much from year to year. For others the very variability is their most striking feature. One boon to the work at Druridge Bay is that we have got to know the sites well and have sense of time as a factor in the ponds’ ecology. This year I’ll be re-surveying the vegetation of the ponds at Blakemoor to compare to the summer 2012 plants. For now though I’m enchanted by the fret seeming to briefly stop summer and hide the ponds from our gaze.

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