by Vivien Jones

Estuary tides
bring Mersey waters north
to the clean Solway

Clear Waters

I am a wave. I can feel the moon’s sucking, the backwards and sideways motion that carries me ever northwards, picking up the debris of human activity as I move. A storm of bright plastics, a current of river-born agricultural effluents, the overflows of drains and sewage systems – all travel inside me, riding like dangerous stowaways as I flow and ebb along the shore towards the Solway. I may disgorge them on any landfall in the 300 miles of the Dumfries and Galloway coast. I roll foam frills along the beaches, float sick fish shorewards and leave residues in the mud.   

There are people on the beach that pile stones, build sandcastles and gather pebbles but not many who enter my doubtful waters, and then, just up to their ankles – a mouthful of my faecal soup could make them very ill. Sometimes the people add to the mess with their post-picnic water bottles and chip trays, their dog and human faeces. They do not always connect their love of the beautiful places with the consequences of their treatment of it.

There are also people on the shore that frown and take notes, that take samples, that post warning notices. They come and go in their bright chequered vehicles, still frowning. They concoct wishful lists – they stand head to head with the farmers and landowners and run through their lists – no livestock close to river courses, no slurry-spreading within 10 metres of any burn or ditch, or if heavy rain is expected, and so on. Please comply, please comply say the underfunded officers in yellow jackets – There will be a cost – say the farmers and landowners, but no-one says who will pay.

Today I rush towards a rocky shore on the north Solway estuary, close to Ross Bay. I am lighter, cleaner, my transparency is enhanced, made visible, made beautiful in the sunlight shining on a not-much-visited shore, where i pour over sandstone rocks reaching for the height of my tide. A couple with cameras patrol my edges, admiring my clarity, snap-snapping amongst the wet rocks and pebbles, writing their notes, compiling the lecture that will fall upon the ears of the optimistic young in their schools and universities who will, in time, forge a manifesto for Clear Waters.


We are under a fierce rainstorm as I write with beautiful clear water streaming down the road, into the river and into the Solway estuary. So my pledge and solution is to the personal, the everyday, the mildly bothersome act of litter-picking along the river bank and beach, along with many others. We say, In Scotland, ‘many a mickle maks a muckle’ which sums it up well – meaning that if we all act well individually, good will prevail. 

Read Clare Jennings’s 26 Habitats coast/beach centena and essay.

Read John Simmons’s 26 Habitats coast/beach centena and essay.

2 thoughts on “Coast/beach

  1. What a great Scottish saying to end Vivien’s essay that embodies life as a wave, brilliant! And what I really like, is the gentle nudge to behave responsibly and comply with environmental regulations so that we all do our bit in this race to save our planet.

  2. Lovely illustration from Lydia Thornley on my piece – so horrified to learn that the Westminster government has failed to restrict the discharge of raw sewerage into England’s waterways (I’m resuming, hoping that in Scotland where the government runs the water companies, this is not so) The waves in the Solway this morning are full and sparkling – long may they stay that way.

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