Winter treasure 8: Shingle Street

Shingle Street16/2/2018 Shingle Street is the other place in Suffolk that I prefer in winter. Like Staverton Thicks, I first visited in December, on a misty and mysterious afternoon. This winter I took my Christmas visitors there for a Boxing Day walk before our picnic in the woods.

It is a remote, wild and deserted-feeling place, suited to the cold, wind, mist and lack of human activity in winter. It is also one of the few places I have found in Suffolk where, temperature aside, change is barely seasonal. A few colonies of flowering coastal plants live on the stable area of shingle near the Coastguard Cottages, but otherwise change happens on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, according to the tides and winds rather than the tilt of the earth.

Depending on the weather, you could look along the huge stretch of shingle desert, a landscape of hills, craters and lakes, and imagine that you are in autumn rather than spring, spring rather than winter; or fancy that you are standing on the surface of the moon, or beside a Scottish loch. But you could also observe how the shapes, craters, shingle banks and lakes have changed since the last time you visited, and imagine how they might disappear, reappear, or morph into something else entirely by the next time you are here. I would dearly love to see a time-lapse video of the graceful dance of the shingle.

Perhaps the only seemingly unchanging feature of Shingle Street is a line of white shells that reaches almost all the way from the Coastguard Cottages to the sea. Apparently it was first created around a decade ago, but there is more than one story about how it came about; and rightly so, as it has taken on a mythical quality. I love it most for what it represents: a communal and living work of art; the human instinct to put back displaced shells and mend the broken line after storms and tides, for no other reason than an unthinking delight in colours and forms. It is evidence that somewhere inside us, our creativity, sense of community and childlike delight in play are still alive and well.

These photos were taken on 14th February 2017.

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