It is hard work climbing steeply up through soft, dough-like warm sand away from the seashore. Behind me there is the gentle swooshing of waves running up the shore and the chatter and shouts of high-spirited children enjoying beach-side freedom. Around me the breeze ripples though the dune grasses. The well-worn path dips away between the mounds of sand and within a few metres the sounds behind me disappear and I enter a place of complete calm - shielded from the noises from the beach and the grasses - I am in a different world. I follow the path inland and down though the dunes. There are people here, but not many. It is a gloriously sunny, warm August day, and the miles of sandy beach have only perhaps a hundred or so assorted people and dogs as far as I can see. My wife comments that a friend in Cornwall has commented on Facebook about a beach being rammed with people. Here, in early afternoon, the path in front of me to the beach is often empty with just a few tourists passing by every few minutes.
The wind catches in a few scattered sycamore bushes and the grasses. Ragwort, hawksbit, hairbells, rosebay willowherb, clover, common centaury, wild thyme, a solitary carline thistle, snowberry, a few varied butterflies - white and browns, grasshoppers, a pipit?, tiny sun-bleached snailshells, black ants and flies, thorny ground hugging bushes with bright red berries (sea buckthorn), hawthorn, some rather ragged orange fungi and a yellow and black striped cinnabar moth caterpillar on some ragwort. There is not a huge variety of colourful dune flowers here. I recall some dunes on the Gower coast that I am sure are carpeted in floral displays at this time of the year. White rosebay willowherb seedlings float past me in the wind. Clouds of them errupt from the plants down in a damp boggy patch. Occasional heads appear above the dunes as people walk the varied paths.
The dunes form an interesting barrier landscape between the beach on my left and its people and dogs and castle, car park and village on the right. It is this edgeland that draws me to itself today. A place to sit and rest for a while and take in something of the landsacpe.
As I approach the land side edge of the dunes the vegetation begins to change drammatically. I first notice it with the presence of blackberries, then nettles, knapweed, horsetail, more varied flora and a more dense covering of grasses and general land-ward plants. I could have spent ages looking and writing about the transition between the dunes and the landside vegetation. There was no point in doing so though, it was just good to observe the change in ecology and landscape and leave a scientific investigation for other places.