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Country diary: A harbour with history – and some characterful visitors | Environment

The low tide at Seaton Sluice has left strains within the hard-packed sand, indentations like a map of Norway, all inlets and fjords. With no water within the slender harbour, we will enter over a curving sandbank between excessive bladderwracked partitions. It was this propensity to silt up which led to native landowner Sir Ralph Delaval having sluice gates constructed within the seventeenth century. These closed with the incoming tide to be reopened at low water, flushing out the sand and giving the city its title.

The additional we get from the harbour mouth, the muddier it will get underfoot. Small boats have been left dry, their dank looped ropes hooked up to outdated tyres within the silty backside. Their names converse of individuals, and I ponder who they have been: Donna J, Elsie Eira, Wendy G, My Girl, Wor Ted.

The approach to the harbour at Seaton Sluice
The method to the harbour at Seaton Sluice. Photograph: Susie White

Inland, the Seaton Burn turns sharply northwards in direction of the harbour entrance. By 1764 a brand new channel had been blasted via the land, creating The Cut, a straighter path to the ocean. Each finish of The Cut could possibly be sealed to make a moist dock of as much as six metres in depth, the place ships could possibly be unloaded regardless of the tide.

This left a wedge of land generally known as Rocky Island, reached by a excessive footbridge. Once clustered with homes, it’s now a windy knoll the place yarrow, ragwort, coltsfoot and wormwood develop alongside white trumpets of bindweed and bristly burdock.

Below us, on the rocks, a thickly creamy wave dislodges a gathering of oystercatchers. They fly up with peeping calls, a flash of magpie feathers and purple beaks, and quiet down once more. Redshanks methodically work the shallows. A curlew wades a rock pool, sending out round ripples because it probes via the water with its slender arc of a invoice.

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Bobbing within the bay is a raft of eider geese, affectionately recognized right here as Cuddy’s geese for his or her affiliation with St Cuthbert, who provided them safety. Now, on the European purple record of threatened species, the standing of the frequent eider, Somateria mollissima, has just changed to endangered; this stunning, characterful duck is frequent not.

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