An autumn visit to Spurn

An autumn visit to Spurn

(c) Daphne Pleace

Wellbeing Walk leader Daphne takes us on an autumnal visit to Spurn...

At last I am once again at the Trust’s Spurn Point reserve. Even without the travel restrictions of the last 18 months, Spurn is not the easiest reserve to get to for most Yorkshire folk, but it’s well worth those extra miles to ‘land’s end’.

Spurn has military and maritime history, landscape and geological delights, wild weather, amazing birdlife - especially during autumn and spring migration periods, and more. A rather good cafe too. I love my wild nature, but there’s nothing like a tasty brekkie beforehand, or coffee and cake after!

I lead Wellbeing Walks with the Trust, and we focus on the senses when we’re walking; I’m on my own today, but I do that anyway. Although standing still and simply focusing on breathing for a few moments is important too. So, after the practicalities of rucksack, sunglasses and scarf (all seasons in one day at Spurn!), I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, then have a look around. A look around to absorb what I see, rather than to look where to go, or to look for something.

Facing the point, the river - tide out - is to my right. Birds, birds and more birds feeding in the estuarine mud. Many I can’t see well enough, or know well enough, to name, but I can identify curlew and black-tailed godwits, and little egrets. And gulls, of course. The black-backed bully boys as I call them, strutting their stuff - one of them trailing something long and writhing across the mud. I shudder, and decide to close my eyes again to experience more fully the sounds of this narrow stretch of land, surrounded as it is by sea and river. 

Teasel at Spurn

(c) Daphne Pleace

It’s as if someone has suddenly turned up the volume. The black-backs are screaming at each other, fighting, no doubt, over the mud creature. Other bird calls too, and some human sounds - I’m not that far from the visitor centre. The sea, which can be frighteningly loud here, is relaxed today and offers a calm shrush-shrush noise. I feel pulled to go closer, to walk on the sand, to breathe the calmness in

The beach is wonderful for focusing on taste and smell. This combined ‘tell’ of the sea should have its own special word, like petrichor for example, meaning the earthy smell of rain after a dry spell. Less poetically, the sea’s smell comes from a sulfur compound, but we’ll not allow science to get in the way of a pleasant experience!

A sudden breeze sends the drier sand skimming along the beach. I sit down on a sea-worn tree trunk and watch the grains rushing over my feet. A dry bundle of vegetation comes along, like tumbleweed, and I grab it. This smells good too, like garlic salt, but now I’m tasting the sand - or perhaps feeling is a more accurate description as it scrunches between my teeth. This crunchy seafood is about four and half billion years past its sell-by date, so I spit it out.

Back near the small wetland area of the reserve, a last word for that autumn special: teasels. There are isolated individuals everywhere, but rafts of them are swaying beyond the reed beds. They are an architectural delight, but for the thousands of goldfinches (thousands? the bird recorders at the watchpoint say yes!) seen travelling through earlier that morning - too early for me - they were one vast feeding ground.

Cafe, here I come.