Aberlady Bay is a Local Nature Reserve 14 miles east of my home. It's been about a year since I wandered its landscape, and so, on a cold and blustery day, Pauline and I decided it was the perfect destination on a Sunday afternoon.
As we approached I could see a large tanker ship off the coast, behind the dunes, and at first glance it looked so large that it might be on the actual beach.
Having walked across the long, weathered, wooden bridge that is the start of the walk, I could see large numbers of birds on the flats, picking away at the grubs left behind by the receding tide. One of the great sounds of the shore, and one of my favourite that I hear all the time living by the sea, is the screech of the curlew.
The walk to the sand dunes is mostly open land, but at one section it weaves its way through tunnels of Sea Buckthorn, enclosing the path in tunnels like something out of Narnia. The bright orange berries of the bush are quite striking at this time of year when most of the other colours have gone, and they looked magnificent with the late sun streaming through their branches. The blue sky was a perfect contrast to the dark shadows of the tunneled path, and little creatures were moving among the dried undergrowth, on the hunt for food or escaping the heavy footsteps of people walking by, most oblivious to this other world, with a background of music from the little birds using the buckthorn's dense branches to roost.
Half an hour in and we had reached the far side of the dunes and onto the wide, smooth beach, with various patterns in the sand created by the rippling shallow water. As I wandered further along in the freezing wind, the texture of the beach changed as underfoot became carpeted in whole and broken shells, at their first stage of being ground down into fine grains to become part of the sand. Off the coast was the large tanker ship, but now it looked much further away. Maybe it had been an optical illusion earlier.
It was time for coffee and we hunkered down out of the wind behind a large sand dune as the sun started to set and opened our flasks.
Coffee slurped and cookies eaten, half an hour later we were back at the start and the sun had dipped below the horizon, dropping the temperature a few degrees, and the wildlife of this nature reserve settled in for another night, as we returned to our cosy home, knowing we would one day return to Aberlady Bay.