We sometimes call this ‘Walking out beyond the edge of the known universe’ and it can feel a bit like that on some of the wintry and the cloudy days when we’ve done this walk before.
But today, on a blue and sunny mid-November Sunday, Hilbre and the two smaller islands out in the Dee Estuary didn’t look that far away from the shore at West Kirby. Distance and time are like that, not always the same.
I’m not going to talk much today though, just show you these beautiful pictures of a beautiful place. And like the other week, when we walked along the Shining Shore , these photographs are a mixture taken by both Sarah and me. And showing our separate tendencies. Sarah’s for fascination and detail. Mine for emotion and landscapes. But not always. Sometimes we take each other’s photos too and even we can’t tell whose camera it was.
Anyway, it’s just past 11am on a Sunday morning as we arrive in West Kirby. The morning is bright but the light will be going by mid-afternoon, so let’s get on with it.
We are not alone here. Lots of people and quite a lot of dogs are also walking to Hilbre this morning. It’s a Sunday, the tide times are good, so it’s a perfect day for this.
Before long Sarah’s marine biology knowledge breaks out. Words like ‘gastropod’ are heard and she shows me some of the thousands of creatures who live out here, including a tiny snail between her two thumbs up there.
‘Look at the way the wind is shaping the sand, see here’s how sandhills start- and oh, at last some seaweed, let’s have a look?’
Sarah sees volumes of information where you and I might see just sky and sand.
But I’ve been walking with Sarah for years now and I know full well that this salty landscape is full of all kinds if you take the time to look. It’s not flat either. The islands out here are merely the three parts of the sea-bed most often out of the water.
‘Middle-Eye’ and beyond (middle island, get it?) is a feast of periwinkles and barnacles. It’s also where we stop for a sunny picnic. Noticing no one else seems to be stopping much though, let alone to eat.
We can’t see the point of rushing. Ever really, but definitely not on such a day as this. A day for slow conversations, quiet stories and ‘Look at this, look at this heaven we’ve found?’
Reaching Hilbre we sit awhile on the warm sandstone while Sarah makes temporary sculptures of the mussel shells and I take this portrait of both of us.
Walking back Sarah finds this. It looks like a pea or a bean pod. But she says it might be from a skate, a fish, and it’s where it keeps its eggs.
She might want to add some more about this when she’s been and found more to say?
‘Yes I’ve done some searching now and found that this is actually a Lesser Spotted cat shark‘s egg sac.
According to the Shark Trust, dogfish are a deep sea species and have live young whereas catsharks lay eggs. You can also distinguish a dogfish by their lack of an anal fin. What was once the lesser spotted dogfish has been reclassified as the small spotted catshark by these identifying factors, but the dogfish name has been around for so long that it has stuck.
Just to complicate things further, the meat of some species of dogfish is sometimes referred to as rock salmon. Unfortunately, one of these species is the endangered spiny dogfish and the Shark Trust are urging people not to buy rock salmon from their local fish and chip shop. ‘
By 3pm the light is starting to fade. So the two chums wave goodbye to Hilbre and the Dee Estuary, and return to Liverpool in time to see the afternoon sun going down on the Mersey at Otterspool.
A good day.