Sunday 13th January 2019. A buffeting wind gusted in from the west setting the reeds in the Oxley Marshes in a nonstop dance. It whined in machinery and wires; the Union Jacks flapped and snapped, their ropes tapping against the poles; and little plumes of spray blew from the top of waves on the incoming tide. The sky was streaked deep purply grey to blue, fissured occasionally as the sun tried to break through. Wispy low cloud floated by against a static backdrop.
Most houses looked silently shuttered for the winter. A few lights showed and one family sat by a picture window for Sunday lunch. Hunched figures trudged with crunching steps over the shingle ridges; dogs picked their way warily across the stones; and the voices of children collecting shells for the whelk line floated away in the wind – the line still ran from the Coastguard cottages to the shore. I sheltered in the porch of the German Ocean Mansion.
The shingle was bare and exposed. No summer colours of valerian, sea kale, horned poppy and hoary mullein now, instead their dried remains, brittle brown and grey stems bending, rustling and shedding fragments that skipped away in the wind through scant grass. Wood pigeons and a few gulls wheeled about, all ashy drabness.
The incoming tide lapped and sucked at the sinuous line of the spit – a sign at the car park warns against bathing due to dangerous currents – and a ridge of shingle offshore was slowly submerged. A solitary boat stood motionless out to sea.