Thursday, 17 April 2014

O is for Ocean Currents, Ozone, Octopus, “Old Maid”, Ode to the Sea ...

“A Life on the Ocean Wave” ... 
Where the purple splodge is - then starts to turn
colder (blue) as the Gulf Stream spreads over us

.... is one of the poem-turned-songs that I thought of as I wrote my O post ... it is by Epes Sargent, published in 1838 and set to music by Henry Russell: a very American march, which as many of you will know is the official march of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy ...

Those Ocean Currents by the time they get to our many isled islands have evolved into the Gulf Stream to the west of Ireland continuing as the North Atlantic Current around Great Britain ...

Nimbus Ozone Brewer-Dobson
circulation ... please see Wiki!

Large-scale Ocean Currents such as the Gulf Stream can transport floating objects thousands of kilometres and dump them on some distant shore ... or as we know wreak havoc on our shoreline ...

Ozone - on the south coast here, we occasionally, in heat waves, have a ‘layer’ of ozone hanging over us ... probably due to plants absorbing less of it – which leaves the ‘chloriney’ overtones lingering for us to breathe in.

Common Octopus
Ozone can be dangerous to the not so healthy or elderly when the weather is hot and maybe partly responsible for the loss of some lives ... it is not a tonic as the Victorians supposed!

Octopus – the common octopus, which in Britain, mostly in the English Channel and south-west waters can grow up to 6 feet across its tentacles – these eight-armed molluscs are considered very intelligent ... they can creep and find their way into anything with those eight appendages!

An old maid
Old Maid ... the Mya Arenaria - Sand Gaper – is a genus of soft-shell clam and has numerous popular name: “steamers”, “Ipswich clams”, “Essex clams”, “longnecks” ... et al ... they are to be found in tidal mud flats ...

This is a card, but is also on a book on
stories from Cornwall, which I used to read
to my mother .. I love this painting:
The Cornish Riviera - part of a Great
Western Railway poster (1928) by
L Burleigh Bruhl (1861-1942)

When I went to Turner and the Sea exhibition out at the Greenwich Maritime Museum I saw a book of poems to celebrate Britain’s maritime heritage “Ode to the Sea” ... and thought what a great little “O” entry ...

It’s a National Trust book and the front cover preface introduces the contents thus:

“As an island nation, Britain’s love affair with the sea is constant. 

With this collection of poetry celebrating the nation’s coastline, you can go sailing on all seven seas, meet the magnificent creatures of the deep and discover the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean. 

In the Flotsam and Jetsam section
a rock pool illustration
Some of our best loved writers, such as John Betjeman, William Shakespeare and Alfred, Lord Tennyson explore life along the shore and below the waves.

Accompanied by wonderful atmospheric illustrations, this anthology of maritime poems is one to treasure.”

The Under the Sea illustration

The book is subdivided into five rather nice sections for the range of poems:

·        Creatures of the Deep:   eg How the Whale Got His Throat – by Rudyard Kipling

·        Sailing on the Seven Seas:  eg One Who Knows His Sea-Gulls – by Robert P Tristram Coffin

·        Stormy Weather:   eg Sea Fever – by John Masefield

·        Shiver Me Timbers!: eg  Under the Surface – by Frances Ridley Havergal

·        Flotsam and Jetsam:  eg  Stately as a Galleon – by Joyce Grenfell (she was a great British comedienne, singer-songwriter- raconteur)
For some reason this
is in the Flotsam and
Jetsam section:
"The Walrus and the

That is O for the organised chaos of the Ocean currents, the opaque gas of Ozone, the octakis octopus, muddy old maids and Old Fisher poems from the Ode to the Sea offering ... from Aspects of British Coasts ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

N is for Nature Study and Naturalists ...

Tide right out – is the best time to study the rocky shore, especially at low spring tide ...

... throughout history scientists and researchers have studied our shore lines to understand the way nature works and the way nature is changing ...

Studying our shores ... we all enjoy whichever pastimes we chose: children paddle, surfers ride the waves, naturalists study plants and animals, bird watchers watch, walkers stride or perambulate ... while anyone can appreciate the beauty ...

1929 Illustration

Tools and ideas that may help ... a bucket and spade, a net or two, a ‘heavy’ net with a wooden leading edge for sifting through wet sand, various water-proof items: a torch, pens and ‘paper’, a camera, perhaps an artist’s kit ... tide tables could be a sensible idea ...

Low tide

... another suggestion to keep many amused: stretch a piece of string from low-tide to high-tide marks ... and moving up the string from low-tide ... records the commonest types of sea-weeds and creatures at each stage ... but waaaaatch out ... that tide comes tumbling back in ...

Claude Monet (1865)
France: "La Pointe de la Heve at low tide"
Sift through the wet sand to see ... shrimps, cockles and other edible shore creatures – sadly we may have over-shrimped many shores ...

Draw and record your findings ... write them up when you get home ...

We should be amazingly grateful to those N for Naturalists, who so meticulously recorded life at the shore, on the land and in the air ...

Gosse's illustrated plate;
British sea anemones
and corals (1860)
In my Aspects of the British Countryside, N was also for Naturalist ... and I wrote about four of our British early nature lovers, who recorded so much for posterity ... and set the standards ...

... today I add two more: Philip Gosse (1810 – 1888) studied shore life in Devon – his son, Edmund, described how his father would “wade breast-high into one of the huge pools and examine the worm-eaten surface of a rock ... there used often to lurk a marvellous profusion of animal and vegetable forms” ....  

In 1865 – Philip Gosse’s Year at the Shore was published ... he was also a talented artist and had illustrated and drawn the specimens he collected during his trips.

Mary Anning with her dog 'Tray'
who was killed in a mudslide from
the Black Ven cliff
Mary Anning (1799 – 1847), is a lady, who deserves mention; her unusual life story attracted increasing interest ... Charles Dickens wrote of her in 1865 that “the carpenter’s daughter has won a name for herself, and has deserved to win it”.

In 2010, one hundred and sixty-three years after her death, the Royal Societyincluded Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.

The Jurassic coast of Dorset, where Mary Anning found
her large reptiles in the shales of the Black Ven, with
Golden Cap in the background.

Anning was a British fossil collector, dealer and palaeontologist who became known around the world for a number of important finds she came across in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis, Dorset.

Anning’s gender and social class prevented her from fully participating in the scientific community of 19th C Britain ... she struggled financially for much of her life.  Her family were poor, and as religious dissenters, were subject to legal discrimination ... yet look at the recognition now: it takes its time!

Charmouth is found between Black Ven and Golden Cap ... Golden Cap is the highest point along the south coast of Britain at 191m (627 feet).  Golden Cap is so called for the distinctive outcropping of golden greensand rock present at the very top of the cliff.

That is N for Nature Study and Naturalists ... a natural subject for Aspects of British Coasts ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

M is for Marshes, Marsh Mallow, Marsh Samphire, Mudflats ...

Marshes differ depending mainly on their location and salinity.  

Salt Marsh, Scotland
Both of these factors greatly influence the range and scope of animal and plant life that can survive and reproduce in these environments. 

South West Coastal Path;
Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve:
here you can see a Spit, tidal
marshes and muddy mudflats
The three main types of Marsh:

a (fresh water) water-logged area round a pond or lake;

     Salt Marsh ... these are located close enough to the shoreline that the motion of tides affects them, and sporadically, they are covered with sea-water. 

Marsh Mallow

 Fresh Water Tidal Marshes ... need the stresses of salinity, which give tidal marshes a greater diversity of plant and animal life that live and use this type of environment.

M is for Marsh Mallow, related to the Mallow.  Marsh-Mallow confectionery was once made from its dried, powdered roots, found in the salt-marshes of the Thames Estuary, then taken to London for sale.

M is for Marsh Samphire ... many species of which grow on bare mud in salt marshes ... it used to be burnt, like salt-wort, to produce soda ... used in the production of soap and glass. 

As we now know it is a favourite of chefs ... Rock Samphire is another genus ... and they may be muddled ... see Wiki for some interesting snippets ... literary, herbal, culinary ...

Conurbations are in red, Essex county is at the north,
the Thames Estuary and large blue River Thames,
the Hoo Peninsula, Kent - 'the green proboscis';
the Medway 'square estuary' with its
many islands - now quite silted up

M is for Muddy Medway ... I’m not really mentioning specific places in these coastal posts ... but Jo on Food, My Travels and a Scent of Chocolate spent her early years here ... so M for muddy Medway fits nicely!

Pod Razors
live in
and mud flats

Mudflats provide protection and essential nutrients to many species of algae, shellfish, worms, crustaceans and plenty of birds, who come to feed ...

Upnor Lower Medway

Yet the Medway area was the major centre and through-route into London and beyond, Henry VIII’s warship dockyards ... the less silted up not so muddy coastline essential in those early days of occupation ...

Red Knot one of the many
marsh/muddy shoreline birds
Culturally there are many authors, artists, travellers, entrepreneurs who have been influenced by their time near the mudflats of the Medway:  Dickens, Darwin, Joseph Conrad describes the view up the Medway from the Thames Estuary in The Mirror on the Sea ...

... while the Medway’s ‘marriage’ to the Thames is given extensive treatment by Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene ...

That is M for Marshes - mulchy Marshes, marine, sweet mellow Marsh Mallow, aromatic Marsh Samphire, Muddy squelchy Medway with its Mudflats ... from Aspects of British Coasts ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 14 April 2014

L is for Lighthouses, Life on a Ledge, Lichen ...

Lighthouses – had been around for centuries – but once commerce boomed in the 1600s – lighthouse construction rapidly followed.

Winstanley's Lighthouse

Winstanley’s lighthouse – believe it or not – was an octagonal wooden structure, started in 1696 – to protect the very dangerous rocky reef running from Plymouth towards the Lizard Peninsula.

A French privateer took Winstanley prisoner, causing LouisXIV to order his release with the words “France is at war with England, not with humanity” ... what a great quote ...

Building Beachy Head
Lighthouse (1902)
Before Beachy Head lighthouse was built in 1902, shoremen would wave lanterns from the cliff tops doing what they could to warn shipping away from the Sussex coast.

I love this photo of men at work ... but dread to think of their ‘hold’ if the weather had been like it has been this winter ... all the erosion: cracks, fissures, and chalk collapses ...

Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire - is a nature
reserve run by the RSPB
Life on a Ledge – a seabird breeding colony is one of the most spectacular sights on a rocky coastline ... 

... but anywhere we go that is only accessible by flight gives ‘Life on a Ledge’ birds a place to rest and nest ...

Puffins nest in burrows, razorbills, relatives of the southern penguins – but can fly, breed on cliff edges ... 

Northern Gannets living life
on the ledge ... 

... Black-legged Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Northern Gannets, Cormorants, Gulls various ... and many others all breed on ledges, barren island spaces or bird reserves ...

Guillemot egg

... the guillemot lays a blotchily patterned egg which is suitably shaped for life on a ledge: it tapers ... and thus if it is blown about, or kicked ... it rolls around in a tight circle until it comes to rest ...

Sea Ivory: Ramalina Siliquosa
Lichens – specific ones will grow on coastal rocks ... seashore lichens include the grey-green tufts of Sea Ivory, which grows above the high-tide mark, but is still very tolerant of salt spray. 

Sea Ivory forms part of the diet of sheep on Shetland and on the coast of North Wales.

That is L for illuminating Lighthouses, a long Life on a Ledge and the dual plant (fungus and a plant of the algal group) of a Lichen ... from Aspects of British Coasts ...

Bob Scotney, also partaking of this delicious challenge! - wrote about lighthouses last July ... and included a couple of poems ... which some you may enjoy - found here.

Thanks so much everyone for checking and pushing me over the five century follower mark ... and for all your compliments - very much appreciated.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 12 April 2014

K is for Kelp Forests, ‘Kettles’ and ‘Kulture’ ...

K is for celebration day .. this is my 600th post .. and I sincerely hope someone somewhere, and a few!, will kick me over the 500 follower mark - I've been waiting oh so patiently ... now I'm impatient! ... 

Kelp forests are the holdfasts of the seas ... so called as their gnarled, root-like structures of large brown seaweeds hang on tightly to rock. 
Kelp covered rocks

Unlike true roots, the rootlets of a holdfast do not take up water or nutrients – these are absorbed through the whole surface of the seaweed.

The leathery fronds and tough holdfasts keep off the sun and lessen the force of waves and winds ... while numerous small plants and shore animals are protected by these great sheaves of waving kelp.  Kelp is also excellent for gardeners ... we used to bring home bucket-loads from the bays in St Ives for our grandmother's garden ... 

Depiction of a "Kettle"

“Kettles” or Fish Weirs used to catch fish since the early aeons of man and his habitat ... the monks and kitchen overseers to the early large properties would have created fish weirs as a fish larder on tap ... down at the shoreside ...

Remains of an ancient
Stone Fish Weir trap in the
Menai Straits, Wales

iphone shot of an illustration of Bathing Machines
- early 1800s on Newquay western beach, Conwall

Then we have K for Kulture ... how the pursuits of swimming have changed on our shorelines in the last few hundred years ...

Those early days when there were separate areas for women and men, where this was not possible ... bathing machines became de rigeur ... so some examples of what life could be like ...

Ilfracombe - with various sheltered coves

In 1810 a local Ilfracombe entrepreneur saw the potential of the two sheltered coves to be used separately by the ladies and gentlemen.


The "Mermaids" at Brighton swim behind their bathing machines - this engraving by William Heath, c 1829  

Family beach gathering

A family visiting the seaside with canvas beach tents for convenience - mid 1920s


Girls' Crystal Annual - the 1954 Kulture style .. 

Belly Boarding

Dressed to win the Belly Board Surfing Championships in 2009

The kelp ladies ... 

Getting 'kelped' up ... having fun down at the beach ... 

That is K for Kelp, Kelp Kouture, “Kettles” and Kulture changes ... keeping kitted out in the best fishy way possible ... from Aspects of British Coasts ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories