One of the glories of Cumbria is the Solway coast. I never tire of walking on its largely empty beaches, seeing its mood change in different weathers and, most of all, watching the dramatic sunsets.
This time, though, we witnessed on of those spectacles of nature which are absolutely thrilling to watch.
We decided to drive up the coast and park at Wolsty Banks, then walk along the beach to Silloth. On a lovely fine day this was an exhilarating walk. Silloth itself is an odd survivor of a bygone age, its streets laid out to a grand plan. Once it was a holiday destination, with a promenade; charabancs would take Sunday schools there on their annual outings. Now it is somewhat diminished. In keeping with the seaside tradition, we bought a portion of chips to eat with our andwiches and followed this with an icecream before we set off to walk back down the coast.
The tide on the Solway is said to be faster than a galloping horse. We watched the incoming water flood round an exposed sandbar. On the sandbar a huge flock of oyster-catchers was gathering. As we watched more and more squadrons of birds beat up along the coast to join those already on the ground.
Soon there were thousands of oyster-catchers all together on the sandbar. At one end, a large flock of paler terns huddled together.
Suddenly we noticed flurries of birds beginning to rise. Someone holding a mobile phone had decided to walk out on to the sandbar, disturbing the flock. Soon many were in the air. We wished they had been left in peace, but the spectacle was exciting to see.
All at once the great mass of birds rose, leaving the bar empty.
The terns formed a lighter flurry at the further end.
We enjoyed watching this so much that, later in the week, we worked out when the incoming tide would allow us to see it all again.