At Beesands last evening, as sunset nudged its presence into the sky and into a slightly shocked awareness that summer’s long light really is waning. It was also a shock to see be reminded that most of the year Beesands beach remains quiet and peaceful. It’s somewhat harsh almost-urban car park with its massive storm defence is always a reminder that Beesands lives in the real world, and not in some idealised lala land of sea surf and sun. But over the past few weeks the camper vans have come, sailing (as it were) past the NO OVERNIGHT PARKING signs, and setting up overnight camps. These are not the high-flying London tourists that flock to Cornwall, but just folk coming to fish.
Now they’re gone. The strand is empty save for one or two local diehard late fishermen still hoping for a catch. And the sea seemed to be sighing with a relieved calm, presaging not the fierce winter to come, but a happy tiredness from a job-well-done summer as it entertained families and dogs and swimmers and kayaks and even water-skiers (is it part of our retro-60s revival that has caused this odd resurgence of the water ski?).
This new-found quietude is becalming. The sound of this still water was utterly bewitching, not really a sea at all, barely even a lake. At high tide here, the sea either attacks and wears away the beach, or, like this evening, it laps gently at the ridge caused by the regular flow of high tide. You can see where high high tides surge, and we were not quite there yet. But there is a mini-ridge just below this point that I watched the sea tickling and licking, occasionally over-flowing and breaching, gently, a little gap into the wall of the ridge. All with supreme gentleness, as though not to invade the privacy of the moment and the exultation in new-found peace.
It will not stay this way, of course. Rain is forecast – rain we desperately need. We have had barely any in the past month, and the land is beginning to take on a parched, desperate look particularly now that it is shaved and bare. Piles of hay line the edges of the field. Here, many farmers seem to make large square bales that are shipped out, either for sale far away or to their own barns, rather than the more common (now) round bales wrapped in plastic and left to winter in the corner of the field. Barns are largely redundant buildings now because tractors can no longer fit in them – so hay must sit in the field, wrapped in plastic made from oil, providing a useful and necessary protection from the weather, but ultimately useless and non-biodegrading.
Autumn is palpable.