Another walk in one of our favourite places – the Dee shore at Thurstaston. So close to the city, yet walking the river’s edge here felt far from the mad spending frenzy of the year’s busiest shopping day. Wild and windswept today, but with with everything sharply illuminated by shafts of brilliant low winter sun. Clouds raced overhead, while showers formed briefly on the Welsh shore opposite, though not a drop reached where we walked. A formation of geese flew above us, fighting the wind and uttering their lovely honking call.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
– ‘What We Need Is Here’, Wendell Berry
This is a place for birdwatchers: autumn brings tens of thousands of Shelduck, attracted by the marsh that reaches down the estuary from the shore at Heswall where the boats lie anchored. affording good shelter both for boats and birds. Heswall is renowned for its huge flocks of waders and duck and the largest roosting flock of Redshank in the country with numbers often greater than 4,000. The channel called Heswall Gutter runs from Thurstaston down to Parkgate, never more than 50 yards from the shore, and acting like a magnet for the birds like Curlew, Redshank, Teal and Blacktailed Godwit. I cannot put a name to the hundreds of birds that rose as one, a cloud that shifted and re-formed as we watched. But that moment alone made the walk worthwhile.
Amidst the predominant blue-grey, brown and dull-green tones, the brilliant gold splashes of gorse bushes that tumbled down the cliffs lifted the spirits. I asked Rita whether gorse normally flower are at this time of year. ‘When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season’, she replied, meaning that they stay in flower most of the year. So at least that’s one thing that’s not a sign of global warming after this warmest of autumns (the other morning, at 7:00 am, it was 13C, or 55F).
After one of the harshest and most desperate weeks for news, it was good to be here, resting in the grace of the world, absorbing the peace of wild things:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
– ‘The Peace of Wild Things’, Wendell Berry