Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Down Below the Dunes

   Last Sunday we went a little way up the coast with friends to walk by the feet of the dunes at the mouth of the River Ythan.  The night before, after some guests went home, we'd slipped out for a walk in the haar, a heavy and cold sea fog that comes ashore on the east coast of Scotland.  The fog was so thick that the city and lighthouses all disappeared and our hair grew wet.  We walked far out on the spring tide sea floor, and took off our shoes to wade through icy tidal streams.  And then to warm up, at home we built a roaring fire, wrapped ourselves in blankets and drank the hottest tea.  So it was a surprise that the following day the weather was warm enough to wear the summer clothes that have been hiding at the back of the wardrobe since we moved here.  The whole day was a hazy blue dream.


Coming down to the estuary, there were seals basking just across the river and eider ducks everywhere.  We stood looking at the few little families of seals clustered by the water's edge, rolling onto their backs and watching little light-grey cubs break away from the others to bump along up the beach.  And then we looked further, out towards the sea...

I'd never heard it before, but grey seals, at least when they are in a large group, make an eerie howling cry which sounds like a lonesome wind blowing.  Somehow we hadn't noticed them at all at first, and I suppose we really did think all that wailing was just the wind whistling past.

Every now and then there would be another sound, a great rustling and splashing as a huge number of the colony would inexplicably all start shifting down the beach and out to sea, all at once. Though, there were always many who lingered behind, too.

And so we strolled on, drank tea from a flask and ate scones from a bag.

It is so hard to stay indoors these days.  There is always the temptation of beaches, light in the sky until eight in the evening, fresh air on bare legs, and the flowers in the branches overhead, with little breezes to make the petals flutter down like snowflakes.

  Just now it seems it would be so lovely to stop time for a little while, at least.


  1. No wonder you're easily tempted to step outside Jodie, the light, colours, and calls of the wildlife around that estuary have worked their magic upon you, you lucky girl, it looks softly beautiful in its wildness.

    I like how the face of the man-made bunker appears to be waking up from the sands of winter.

  2. When I was small and we travelled to Sutherland for our holidays, my Dad would stop at the edge of Loch Linnhe and sing to the seals. Nearly every time, one or two would pop up their heads out of the water and look at us. I've thought them magical creatures ever since.

  3. Wonderful. How I'd love to experience that one day.

  4. What a perfect day! Those seals look a bit like beached angels : ) It was lovely to see the photo of them moving off into the water together like that. I'm not surprised you can't bring yourself to stay inside with all that going on nearby, and why should you? That's what Spring is for, to enjoy yourself!

  5. Annie,
    I hadn't looked at the bunker that way before. Thanks for passing that along!

    That sounds lovely, maybe your Dad was a bit magic himself! Anyway, they are sure fascinating creatures. Have you ever heard recordings of the songs they sing under water?

    I hope you do too. Now you know at least one place to look for them, I have heard they are there a lot!

    It's true, spring is wonderful, full of perfect days!

  6. had you not posted this photos, i may never have seen the mystery and beauty. thank you.

  7. This wonderful place reminds me so much of where I grew up, though there were no seals or gorse ...