Solway Firth

On the road to Wigtown
(book capital of Scotland)

Black quilled crow
on a dry stone wall in the rain.
Reeds fringing mudflats
stained sepia
creased like an old photo
left in a drawer.

I stop the car
get out and breathe
salt-soaked air
hear the lick and spit of water
through tissue layers of mist
riffling water and sky –

an open book
pressed flat
spine cracked
lines of furrowed words
blurred by the press of birds’ feet
by the endless turning of
furled water
curling the edges
of this strange place

traced by a passing glance
bookmarked then
slammed shut.

I drive on.

Behind me
in those wide margins
the Solway story
is written every day
whether I read it
or not.

Radipole Lake RSPB

In the middle of Weymouth is Radipole Lake surrounded by reed beds. It is an RSPB Wetland reserve where otters and water voles can be seen. It is the perfect habitat for many water birds and also marsh harriers and bearded tits. I visited on a sunny day in November – in fact the only sunny day this November.

Golden feathered reeds provide an appropriate backdrop for the birds of Radipole Lake. I was greeted by the excited applause of the Cettis warbler – as usual, heard but not seen. A few steps further on and a sparrow hawk flipped overhead, brindled breast feathers glowing in the low sun.

The water reflected the blue sky and swans posed for the camera. Black headed gulls (without their summer hoods) conversed raucously. A cluster of Canada geese kept themselves separate from the gulls, coots, mallards and moorhens circling in the centre. To one side a spring of Teal and in the distance a Little Egret in solitary stillness – a negative space.

A tall shape on a gate turned out to be a grey heron surveying the scene. At the North Hide someone said they’d seen a Marsh Harrier fly over as we approached – I was cross to have missed seeing it. A shelduck shimmered in Picasso blocks of colour. On a small island in the middle of the lake a cormorant spread its wings like the Angel of the North.

Alongside the footpaths the hedges were bright with the last of autumn’s fruits, varnished by the recent rain. Sloes, berries and ivy buds hung gaudily among the bare twigs tempting little birds like the goldfinch. Wrens darted and chirped juicily. Robins, blackbirds and dunnocks hopped around on the paths, unfazed by my presence.

I stood for a while gazing at the surface of the water hoping for the splash of an otter, but it was probably too late in the day. Surrounded by the feathered quills of the reeds, it was easy to forget that this haven for wildlife is in the middle of a seaside town.