The beach at Brancaster has many ‘moods’. At low tide all appears calm and peaceful but the speed with which the rising tide approaches can be extremely dangerous, leaving happy paddlers cut off from safety. In stormy weather the boisterous and sometimes violent North Sea attacks the vulnerable stretches of the coast and there is a constant battle between land v sea.
Beach in October
Where land and level acres of sea merge
seamlessly, waves hypnotically lapping,
endlessly oozing over ridged flats
scattered with brittle quills,bleached shard,
skeleton shells, oceanic detritus.
Drifting awareness of keening gulls,salt on the tongue.
As life blurs into the vast movement
of an ever widening scene, this brief,
vital moment in time imprints
deeply into the palimpsest of the mind.
An unmissable feature, visible on Brancaster beach at low tide, is the wreck of the SS Vina.
Built in 1894, the Vina carried crago from England’s east coast to the Baltic States.
In 1940 the ship was requisitioned by the navy, filled with concrete and wired with explosives. It was then towed into position to protect Great Yarmouth harbour. In the event of an invasion the ship would be detonated and the harbour blocked.
It was not needed for that purpose but in 1943 it was towed to Brancaster and anchored off-shore. It was used by the RAF for target practice during the period leading up to the Normandy landing.
A strong north-west gale caused the vessel to drag anchor and, riddled with holes from the gunfire, it drifted on to a sandbank and became stranded.
In the years since World War II various salvage attempts have been made, including carving the ship into three parts. But efforts have been unsuccessful. The wreck continues to present a serious hazard to shipping and also to adventurous visitors tempted to take a closer look.
There is a distinctive atmosphere about Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve: an almost reverential hush punctuated by the evocative call of the curlew. There is even, with the isolated exception, an absence of mobile phones! Voices are mezzo piano rather than forte. Movements are unrushed and controlled to avoid disruption or distraction. There is a tacit acknowledgement that we are in the birds’ domain and it is a privilege to be admitted.
Regrettably, the quality of the photos is not good. They were taken on a grey day with a handheld compact camera and most of the birds were at least 100 yards away. But I hope they convey something of the sense of place.
Titchwell Marsh (adjacent to Thornham marshes) is a 420 acres Royal Society for the Protection of Birds nature and bird reserve. It is an area of salt marshes and freshwater lagoons and is the home to thousands of birds as well as being a stopping off point for migrating varieties.