25 May 2010

A seal-less visit to Tentsmuir Point

Do you ever have adventures that at the time seem like a terrible punishment but somehow, days or weeks later, your mind romanticizes your memories and causes you to smile and sigh while looking through your photographs?

I know with certainty that my beloved will mock me, but suddenly I’m feeling all dreamy about Tentsmuir Nature Reserve. Of course, he is right to mock me. After all, all the material we had read before visiting Tentsmuir Point had waxed lyrical about the Tay estuary’s “year-round” seal population.

We walked and walked, taking the forest path and entertaining ourselves with banter of outlandish fictions about evil happenings in the woods, before launching into a contest to see who could find the biggest pine cone (I won).

Finally we turned and saw the sign that signalled we would soon be emerging onto the beach. The information board advised us to be aware of the possibility of Highland Cows grazing near the dunes (we didn’t see any).

Also, to illustrate a message about how dog poo poses disease risks for local wildlife, the sign boasts a charming cartoon of a squirrel being sick into a paper bag.
We crested a small dune and stepped onto the beach. And what a beach it was. It was vast and almost vacant, the beige sand stretching out to a blue-grey skyline of high cloud. The view was like a film that had been leached of colour, an eerie apocalyptic scene that made me think of The Waste Land:

The river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
Of course, this place is not lifeless. The Tay is a valuable habitat for waterfowl, including the UK’s largest winter gathering of eider ducks. But this was not winter, and we were not here to see ducks. We wanted to see seals.

On and on we walked, our shoes sinking into the soft sand while the grass danced on the dunes beside us. We thought that after the next curve…the next one…that perhaps we would see the tell-tale black tube of a seal on the beach. But there was nothing.

Eventually we gave up, turned inland again and past the long rows of 1941 anti-tank blocks, which stand like massive forgotten dominos along what used to be the high tide line (the sands here are always moving, carved out by the sea on the south side and dumped on the ever growing north beaches).
Perhaps it is because my work is becoming busier as we head towards the festival season. Everyday when I walk to the office I can feel Edinburgh shifting gears, preparing. Whatever the reason, now when I look at these photos I find myself longing for the wild unbroken vista of beach, sea and sky. The landscape stretches in a way that I cannot.

In conclusion, I shall let Tentsmuir Point be a lesson in expectation. If you rely too heavily on one idea, you risk not being able to fully appreciate the beautiful alternatives that await you should that initial desire not unfold.
Thanks for visiting this wee patch of Scotland-loving Internet. This blog is an expression of my relentless curiosity and love for this country, and I am so grateful for all the kindness and enthusiasm my readers have shown to me.

Another thank you to those who have been joining in my tea giveaway. I love reading all your comments and stories about the part tea plays in your lives. The door for entries will remain open until Saturday and I’ll draw names on Sunday. Please visit the May 23 Scottish Breakfast Tea post to enter.

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